Can employees refuse COVID testing?

| Written by Mercury Labs Collaborator

Regular COVID testing is crucial for our roadmap out of lockdown — it’s how we can minimise the spread of COVID-19, and get back to business as safely as possible.

But can companies make coronavirus testing mandatory, or can employees refuse to be tested?

Can employees refuse COVID testing?

In short, yes, UK employees can refuse to be tested for coronavirus. It’s an employee’s right to decide whether or not they take a COVID test, not their employer’s. Some companies may have the right to take disciplinary action if an employee refuses to take a reasonably and proportionately required COVID test. Defining when that’s the case, however, isn’t always easy. It will depend on:

  • An organisation’s specific circumstances, in terms of their industry and work premises
  • How significantly testing will contribute to a safe working environment
  • Whether alternative safety measures could be just as effective to minimise risk

And even if mandatory COVID testing is seen as a reasonable requirement, whether an employer can legally sanction employees who refuse to take a test is a different question. That’ll depend on specific contracts and employment terms.

In short, yes, UK employees can refuse to be tested for coronavirus. It’s an employee’s right to decide whether or not they take a COVID test, not their employer’s. Some companies may have the right to take disciplinary action if an employee refuses to take a reasonably and proportionately required COVID test. Defining when that’s the case, however, isn’t always easy. It will depend on: