The concept of the NHS test and trace has been around for some time. Similarly named, the track and trace system refers to the process of determining current and past locations of items, property and, more recently, people. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, track and trace has taken on a whole new premis. When the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced the easing of restrictions relating to COVID-19, allowing businesses to start re-opening, he asked that they help the government in their efforts to track and trace infected individuals.
The increase in surveillance does not come as a complete surprise. A hard focus of the UK Government has been to avoid a second wave of COVID-19. By keeping track of everyone who has been in a particular place at a particular time, it allows all of those individuals to be traced if one of them tests positive for the disease. The NHS test and trace system works by ensuring that anyone who develops symptoms of the coronavirus can very quickly be tested for it and then individuals who have been in close contact with that person can be contacted if a positive test is confirmed. Such tracking of sick or even asymptomatic people is a proven way of curbing pandemics and is a practice known as “contact tracing”, as shown during the SARS and Ebola outbreaks. The ultimate goal of this method is to keep the R0 (the transmission or spread rate), below 1, and to help get the economy, which includes businesses, education and social networks, back on their feet in as safe a way as possible.
The Government has joined forces with Google and Apple to create this new contact tracing app. Some businesses have already taken it into their own hands and are taking details of anyone who has been on the premises, most obviously in many pubs and restaurants across the country. Whilst we all wait to hear more about the app, there are things that businesses can be doing to keep track of who has been on-site. In all instances where face-to-face contact occurs within a business, it is essential to collect details of who has been on-site, whether that’s customers, clients or colleagues. Such tracking can be a huge challenge, especially with the need to comply with the requirements of data protection law.
This is where a time and attendance system comes into its own. Whilst such systems are predominantly used for tracking and optimising the hours that employees spend at work, and on keeping records of wages and salaries, they can also be used to determine who has been on site and between what hours. Ultimately, time and attendance systems can help the process of tracking and tracing.
By recording all “clock ins” and “clock outs”, a business can have a complete overview of all individuals who have been on the premises at a given time. In addition, a time and attendance system can also be integrated with access control systems, giving a business visibility into not only who has been in on a given day, but also exactly which areas they have been in, when, and who was also there at the same time. If there is then notification of an occurrence of COVID-19 amongst staff, it is easy to find out who was also on-site at the same time as the person identified with the virus, and so advise accordingly.
With concerns that the test and trace programme may break GDPR data law, use of a time and attendance system to ensure your staff remain safe and informed is more important than ever. With such a software solution, there is no issue with GDPR, as the practice of time tracking presents legitimate interest in processing such data. Time and attendance systems, like the cloud-based RotaOne solution from Thinking Software, makes data processing record keeping easy, whilst also complying with the GDPR requirement for increased record keeping of employees and how personal data is stored and processed. Whilst the benefits of implementing a time and attendance to comply with the law are considerable, particularly given the current situation, there are many other advantages that a business can gain from having such a system installed. These range from keeping within budgets to reducing time spent on admin; increasing employee trust to reducing the cost of absenteeism, and preventing fraud or payroll abuse to complete integration with other applications.
With the gradual return to work in the UK already underway, it should be the prerogative of every business to ensure the safety of their staff. It’s time to review how safety is managed within every setting worldwide. These unprecedented times have proved to us all that nobody can predict what disasters can occur, be they local, national or global. Whether you are a small business or a multi-national company, it is time to take ownership of the safety of your staff.
Consider using a Time & Attendance solution to meet not only the needs of keeping track of who has been on-site with regards to containing the spread of the pandemic, but also to save time and money managing your workforce.