MPs query lack of clarity on Covid self-isolation rules

23 July 2021

A Parliamentary Select Committee has written to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to ask about its role enforcing Covid self-isolation rules amid what the MPs describe as a lack of clarity on the guidance issued to businesses.

The letter from the Work and Pensions Committee, which is available here, highlights the problems for businesses where a significant proportion of staff have been told to self-isolate after being “pinged” by the NHS Covid app.

For example, up to one in 10 workers in the meat production industry have been told to self-isolate.

Committee Chairman Stephen Timms said: “Despite a predictable increase in the number of people being told to self-isolate to keep others safe as Covid restrictions are lifted, both businesses and employees seem to have been left in the dark over the rules they need to follow”.

There needs to be much more clarity about the legal position when it comes to self-isolation and the role HSE is playing in ensuring that employers understand their responsibilities and in what circumstances they have discretion, he concluded.

The Committee had noted a radio interview with an employer in the meat production sector in which he said that he did not know whether he could tell staff to ignore the app, as he was unsure of the legal position with HSE.

The letter therefore asks HSE to clarify if it has an enforcement role in this area and, if not, who is responsible for taking any action against employers who require or encourage self-isolating employees to come into work.

The Committee also seeks to know, as a matter of urgency, whether HSE has any plans to strengthen or provide new guidance to employers about what is legally enforceable and what is not.