How to Manage Staff During the “Pingdemic”

By Deborah Manktelow
23 Jul 2021

Since restrictions eased on 19th July, hundreds of thousands of staff have received pings from the NHS test and trace app forcing them to isolate. This has been dubbed the “pingdemic”.

Pandemic to Pingdemic

So, why has this happened?

With cases rises and restrictions gone, many of us are coming into contact with infected individuals. The NHS test and trace app will notify you if you have been in close contact and advise you to self-isolate for 10 days.

The effects of this are already being felt, as many are experiencing staff shortages. In some cases, businesses are closed entirely as all employees are isolating.

Last week, over 600,000 people were told to self-isolate – the highest weekly figure so far. As a result, businesses are having to find alternative means of managing their workforce. For example, the managing director of Iceland has expressed that the supermarket chain has bee forced to hire 2,000 temporary workers.

Managing an unexpected period of self-isolation can be gruelling. One easy fix, if possible, is to allow staff to work from home. In some cases, staff may be exempt from the need to isolate.

The government has updated their guidance, first issues in May 2020. This is due to calls from many business groups affected by staff shortages. The revised version now includes information about self-isolation for workers in critical services.

It states: “In the small number of situations where the self-isolation of close contacts would result in serious disruption to critical services, a limited number of named workers may be able to leave self-isolation under specific controls for the purpose of undertaking critical work only.”

This process is only intended to run until 16 August 2021. This is when fully vaccinated close contacts will be exempt from self-isolation. If you believe self-isolation of certain employees will result in serious disruption to critical services, contact the relevant government department.

Which sectors are covered?

The sectors to which the new rules apply are:

  • Energy
  • Civil nuclear
  • Digital infrastructure
  • Food production and supply
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Veterinary medicines
  • Essential chemicals
  • Essential transport
  • Medicines
  • Medical devices
  • Clinical consumable supplies
  • Emergency services
  • Border control
  • Essential defence outputs
  • and local government

In some exceptional cases there may be critical roles in sectors not listed above which meet the criteria. These will be agreed on a case-by-case basis. If you think this applies to a staff member, contact the government department with responsibility for your sector.

Information required

If you wish to pursue the above course, then you need to provide the following details:

  • the number of people who it is proposed would leave self-isolation
  • the roles those individuals need to perform
  • the impact failure to do this would have
  • When this impact is likely to materialise (for example, is it already an issue or likely to materialise in the coming days)

Exceptional process for specific circumstances

The government has made it clear that this policy applies name workers who are:

  • In specifically approved workplace
  • Fully vaccinated

A fully vaccinated individual is defined as someone who is 14 days post-final dose.

Permission to attend work is, it emphasises, contingent on following certain controls. These are agreed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), to mitigate the risk of increased infection.

This is not, it insists, a blanket exemption for all workers in a sector.

The process will not cover all or in most cases even the majority of workers in critical sectors. The example given is this:

“The exception may be suitable in the case of absences in critical railway signalling roles essential for the functioning of parts of the network but is less likely to be suitable for individual train drivers.”

Expert support

Have you got multiple staff isolating? Do you want to prevent a mini pingdemic in your workplace? Whatever your issue, we’re here to help. Our advisers can help you manage staffing issues such as sick leave, flexible working, isolation and furlough.

We also offer software solutions which will help you better manage the following:

  • Staff vaccinations
  • Annual leave
  • Sick leave
  • Shift patterns
  • And more

Keep your workplace running efficiently throughout the pandemic (and pingdemic) by speaking to an adviser today on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Headshot of Deborah Mantkelow

Deborah Manktelow is a CIPD Qualified HR professional with over 7 years’ experience in generalist HR management working within the Construction Industry.

Working for a National provider of Insulation provided Deborah with the opportunity to strategically support Operations across the UK, supporting HR functions and the wider business.

Deborah is Croner’s Advice Manager, taking responsibility for overseeing the provision of advice to all Croner clients, bringing together our Corporate, Simplify and Association service provisions.

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