Nissan sees 10% of workforce told to self-isolateon July 15, 2021 at 11:47 am

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Up to 900 workers are sent home from its Sunderland plant after being alerted by the NHS app.

Car worker at Nissan Sunderland

image copyrightPA Media

Production at Nissan’s Sunderland car plant has been hit by hundreds of staff being alerted and forced to isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app.

It is understood that up to 900 workers have been sent home from the plant, more than 10% of the total workforce.

Case numbers in the local area have been rising sharply, meaning that it has been difficult to avoid disruption, say sources within the firm.

The city had 955 Covid cases per 100,000 people in the week to 10 July.

In contrast, the average area in England had 287.

The problems at the Japanese carmaker come amid increasing evidence of widespread absenteeism at firms because of workers who have been “pinged” by the NHS app.

Anyone alerted who has come into contact with an infected person has to self-isolate for 10 days.

Earlier this week, lengthy queues built up at security in Heathrow airport because of the absence of more than 100 staff instructed to self-isolate by the app.

The problem is especially acute in restaurants and pubs, with UK Hospitality boss Kate Nicholls saying that in some cases, up to one-third of staff have been forced to stay at home.

Ms Nicholls has said testing could replace isolation for people who have been in contact with a Covid patient.

Nissan said: “Production in certain areas of the plant has been adjusted as we manage a number of staff being required to self-isolate following close contact with Covid-19.

“The well-being of our team is our number one priority and we remain confident in the rigorous safety controls we have on site.”

Make UK, which represents manufacturers, said an increasing number of companies had reported that self-isolation was impacting on production.

“For some companies up to 20% of the workforce is now isolating,” said boss Stephen Phipson. “Government must re-visit the August date as an immediate priority as the situation is likely to get far worse with the lifting of restrictions next week.”

Unite the union said management at the plant had “done brilliantly” so far in preventing production lines shutting by moving staff around, but things were on the limit now.

More widely, the union said that it had been told of many cases across industry where a big increase in the number of staff being advised to self-isolate by the NHS app was affecting production lines.

“The reports Unite is receiving from our members and their employers are extremely worrying. It is not an exaggeration to say factories are on the verge of shutting and that at some sites hundreds of staff are off work,” said Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner.

“One major engine supplier has said that so many people are absent and orders so far behind that work may be permanently relocated to China.

“The government absolutely must not wait until August 16 to come up with a solution to significantly reduce the amount of people self-isolating unnecessarily.”

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Currently, if you are required to self-isolate, your employer cannot force you to come into work, says Emma Bartlett, an employment lawyer at CM Murray.

Doing so would not only breach your rights but those of your fellow workers in terms of health and safety.

As you isolate you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, which is worth £96.35 a week, or more if your employer has a sick pay scheme.

A £500 grant is also available in England to people on low incomes who have to self-isolate. This includes parents who can’t work because their child has to self-isolate.

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