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Guidance on exemption to self-isolation for essential workers

Guidance on exemption to self-isolation for essential workers

When you can be exempt and what you should do.

In exceptional circumstances, fully vaccinated workers in certain sectors will become exempt from self-isolation rules if they have been identified as a close contact by NHS Test and Trace under a new scheme to: 

  • prevent serious disruption to vital public services
  • continue to offer provision of care
  • prevent food supply problems

They'll still need to:

  • have a negative PCR test result before they can enter the scheme
  • do daily lateral flow (rapid) tests and work only if these come back as negative
  • continue to self-isolate when not working

Critical worker

Critical workers can include railway signallers and air traffic controllers. 

Operators of critical services should get in touch with their relevant government department leads for further information on how to apply for exemptions. 

The government will issue letters to employers if they are covered by this process, detailing what steps they must take and providing information for critical workers to follow. 

Information on critical workers leaving self-isolation (GOV.UK).

Health and social care 

Health and social care staff who have been identified as a contact may be able to work rather than self-isolate if their absence is likely to create a significant risk to the health or safety of patients or service users.

Employers must complete thorough risk assessments and additional safety measures must be maintained. Read guidance on the management of staff in health and social care settings (GOV.UK).

Food workers

Sites for daily testing will be set up at supermarket distribution centres to allow staff to keep coming to work if they test negative.

The testing scheme does not include staff inside supermarkets yet, with the focus on distribution depots and manufacturing sites.

Read information on plans for daily contact testing for the food and drink industries (GOV.UK).