Bosses will be able to offer free rapid coronavirus tests to staff to take at home as the government extends its workplace testing programme.
Home test kits will be provided to firms with more than 10 employees where it is not possible to set up on-site testing, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said on Sunday.
Some 60,000 businesses were said to have already registered for regular tests for key workers, but the scheme will be extended to home testing from April 6.
Widespread testing is seen as a key measure to keep Covid-19 under control as the lockdown is eased in England, with the “stay home” order ending on Monday.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Rapid testing is a vital part of our road map, helping us to cautiously lift restrictions on our economy and society.
“Around one in three people with coronavirus do not have any symptoms, so extending employee testing from the workplace to the home will help us identify more cases we otherwise wouldn’t find, prevent further transmission and save lives.”
The DHSC urged firms to register by April 12 to access free lateral flow tests until the end of June. It was not clear whether the tests will be paid for after that point.
The home tests are being targeted at firms unable to set up testing in the workplace, either because there is insufficient space or because they operate over multiple sites.
Employees will be told to inform their bosses of a positive test result, as well as the NHS, which will offer them a confirmatory PCR test.
British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson welcomed the move.
“This is something we have called for as the next step for smaller businesses and stores where the space for testing at work is limited. It is also supported by employees as a practical approach,” she said.