COVID-19 testing: Employer advice for testing staff

Some employers have experienced good business continuity results by asking staff to take a COVID-19 test before entering the workplace. Some of the benefits include maintaining usual business operations and safely managing interactions with contractors.

With no government guidance around testing employees the decision to introduce COVID-19 testing is at the discretion of the employer. Organisations must also bear in mind that there is no government subsidy or financial support for carrying out workplace testing and tests are therefore carried out at the employer’s cost.

What can I do if one of my employees refuses to take a test?

As it stands, no individual can lawfully be forced to take a COVID-19 test. Forcing an employee to do so could even be considered assault.

Article: Should Irish employers require staff to take a COVID-19 vaccine?

Employees who don’t display symptoms may query the legal basis of being required to take a COVID-19 test before entering the workplace. In this scenario, it’s best to explain the purpose of the test to the employee. If they refuse the test regardless, you must tread carefully to avoid employee relations issues.

Before considering disciplinary procedures, it’s important to first engage with the employee. You must be able to demonstrate that taking a COVID-19 test prior to entering the workplace is actually a reasonable management instruction before taking any further action. You also need to remember that employees may have personal reasons for not wanting to take a test. So, what’s your best option?

Well, outlining why tests are necessary is a good place to start. In communicating this, remind those who refuse a test that they may be prevented from entering the workplace. Also, if the alternative is a reduction in work capacity, employees may be more inclined to volunteer for COVID-19 testing.

What should I do if an employee tests positive?

All staff should by now be familiar with your protocols for dealing with an employee who either displays symptoms or returns a positive test. If an employee does test positive, they shouldn’t enter the workplace, they should be sent home to self-isolate in line with your Work Safely Protocols and current government guidelines.

Managing the vaccine rollout in your business

Software such as VaccTrak allows you to log who’s had the COVID-19 vaccine in your business.

VaccTrak allows you to:

  • Update your employee profiles to easily record who’s had the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Download regular reports to see exactly who’s been vaccinated, so you can keep your people safe during the vaccine roll-out.
  • Download professional letter templates to encourage your staff to have the vaccine.
  • Access our exclusive vaccine awareness course. Share it with your staff to educate them on the vaccine and answer any complex questions.

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Nora Cashe


Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

Nora has extensive experience representing clients at Employment Tribunal hearings, Conciliation / Mediation meetings before both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. 

Nóra is a member of the Irish Employment Law Association and engages with the WRC Adjudication Service as part of their stakeholder engagement forum.

Deiric McCann

Genos International Europe

Deiric McCann leads Genos International Europe – The EU division of a world-leading provider of emotional intelligence solutions. 

With over two decades experience at the highest levels of management, Deiric supports clients to develop the resilience, emotional intelligence, psychological safety and engagements of their employees.

Rhiannon Coyne

Graphite HRM

Rhiannon Coyne is a Senior HR Consultant at Graphite HRM and will be providing an overview of best practice on how to deal with complaints of bullying and harassment in the workplace. 

With a number of recent updates to employment laws, Rhiannon will take a closer look at employment equality and how it is interlinked to Health & Safety and what employers can learn from recent case laws.

David Begg

Workplace Relations Commission

David Begg was appointed Chairperson of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in January 2021.

David is also a professor at Maynooth University Institute of Social Sciences. Mr Begg’s extensive history in the trade union movement included leading the ESB Officers Association and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, stepping away from the latter in 2001 to chair international aid agency Concern.

David Begg was also previously a director of the Central Bank of Ireland between 1995 and 2010.