Free COVID-19 testing for permanent and seasonal workers in agriculture

Lee Thomas

The government's workplace testing programme has been expanded to offer rapid home testing for businesses that cannot offer on-site testing. The government has also announced in an open letter to the agricultural sector from minister Victoria Prentis that it has put it place bespoke provisions for testing seasonal agricultural workers in edible horticulture after they arrive in the UK. These bespoke arrangements apply from 6 April 2021.

NB: Prior to 6 April, a temporary exemption is in place which means that edible horticulture seasonal workers are not required to undertake in country testing after arrival. This temporary exemption was put in place while government consulted industry on how to apply testing in a feasible and practical manner.

More information on the bespoke provisions is available on GOV.UK's pages and are also set out in our COVID-19 FAQ page. In summary, the bespoke testing regime requires an Lateral flow device (LFD) test for edible seasonal horticultural workers to be carried out on or before days 2, 5 and 8 after arrival.

Importantly, the bespoke arrangements allow employers of seasonal agricultural workers who register for a range of free government testing schemes to use this free testing to ensure workers meet the testing requirement. In relation to this, governments clear preference is for businesses using these bespoke arrangements to use the free on site business testing.

Government are strongly encouraging grower businesses to continue with workplace testing beyond day 8, that is, to use the free testing to carry out twice weekly regular tests for potentially asymptomatic workers.

The bespoke arrangements are a considerable win for the industry, both in terms of securing the continued option for seasonal edible horticulture workers to quarantine on farm and in ensuring that more costly PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are not mandated.  

To access free LFD tests either on site or via the new rapid home testing scheme, it is critical that businesses register by 12 April 2021.

Find out about:

Free COVID-19 on site testing

The government has been offering businesses access to free on site testing to enable businesses to carry out testing in the workplace.

Businesses registered at Companies House can register interest on GOV.UK's Coronavirus testing pages.

Partnerships and sole traders without Companies House registration can send an email to cC1hbmQtcHNlY3RvckBkaHNjLmdvdi51aw== with the following information:

  • Organisation name
  • Number of employees
  • Contact name and email address
  • Industry/sector

Free COVID-19 home testing for workers

For businesses of over 10 people and those who cannot provide testing in the workplace, employers can register with the government for a free supply of Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests to give out to staff to take at home.

Staff will be able to pick up the self-test kits – which include clear instructions on how to use them - from their employer. They can then complete the home test and report the result to the NHS via the provided email address.

Important things you need to know:

  • Test kits are free
  • Test kits are available to all businesses with 10 or more employees and those who cannot provide testing in the workplace
  • Interest in using the scheme must be registered by 12 April 2021.

Businesses registered at Companies House can register interest on GOV.UK's Coronavirus testing pages.

Partnerships and sole traders without Companies House registration can send an email to cC1hbmQtcHNlY3RvckBkaHNjLmdvdi51aw== with the following information:

  • Organisation name
  • Number of employees
  • Contact name and email address
  • Industry/sector

Tom Bradshaw_56093

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said:

“I’m pleased to see the government once again recognise the importance of our seasonal workforce and the crucial role they play in the planting, picking and packing of iconic British produce.

“Given public health considerations, the current temporary exemption from testing requirements is being replaced by a practical solution that ensures fruit and veg businesses are able to run effectively, in the safest way possible. The supply of lateral flow tests free of charge to businesses employing seasonal workers means that testing can be carried out without excessive cost burdens being added.

“Given the tight window for registering for lateral flow tests, I would urge members to register as soon as possible to ensure they are prepared for the arrival of seasonal workers this year.”




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