This comes as over 500,000 people in England and Wales were informed by the NHS Track and Trace app to self-isolate, leading to shortages in staff.

Many bodies including the CIPD and CBI have urged for changes to be made to self-isolation rules in order to prevent mass staff shortages.

Businesses such as Iceland and Greene King reported having to shut several stores after thousands of workers were “pinged” by the Track and Trace app.

Currently, anyone that comes into close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus is “pinged” by the app, informing them to self-isolate for 10 days.

Although many restrictions were lifted in England yesterday (19th July), such as the legal requirement to wear masks and social distance, self-isolation rules are not set to change until the 16th August.

However, this is having serious implications for companies and the Government is coming under mounting pressure to imminently change their policy.

A poll conducted by the CIPD in July found that close to three in five employers (57 per cent) faced staff shortages as a result of the self-isolation rules.

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the CIPD, stated that the Government should consider implementing a ‘test and release’ system instead:

The review should consider the merits of changes such as ‘test and release’ whereby staff who have been asked to self-isolate could return to work if they subsequently have two negative PCR tests over five days. This could potentially continue to protect the public while being more flexible to the needs of business.

In addition, to companies which are facing staff shortages as a result of the current policy, Mr. Willmott offered the following advice:

In the meantime, employers will have to be flexible to cope with absent workers and mitigate against staff shortages by freeing up staff from less business-critical areas and using temporary workers where possible. Inevitably, businesses may have to compromise service at times to ensure guidance is followed.

Similarly, CBI President, Lord Karan Bilimoria, also called for the system to be altered:

With restrictions being lifted and cases rapidly increasing, we urgently need a surefooted approach from government, creating confidence to secure the recovery.

This starts by immediately ending the self-isolation period of ten days for people who are double-jabbed and providing a route out of isolation for those not yet fully vaccinated through daily lateral flow tests. Against the backdrop of crippling staff shortages, speed is of the essence.

Mask wearing in enclosed spaces, especially transport, will help create confidence for both staff and customers, as will clarity around the future availability of free testing for employees.

However, in a recent news briefing, the Prime Minister confirmed that self-isolation rules would only be changing for a “very small number of named, fully-vaccinated critical workers”.

Currently, this is only permitted for work purposes and these workers are expected to continue to self-isolate at all other times.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.