The government’s decision to no longer supply free lateral flow tests to employers has been labelled ‘barmy’ by Unite, the UK’s leading union, which has warned that the decision will lead to an increase in exposure to Covid-19 in the workplace.

Barmy decision

The final day for employers who were already registered to order lateral flow tests was yesterday (July 19), which coincided with the government’s so called ‘freedom day’, when all remaining restrictions end and all areas of the economy re-open.

The decision to stop providing employers with free tests comes at a time when the number of people infected with Covid-19 is rapidly increasing.

Limiting access

Unite is especially concerned that the decision to end free testing in sectors such as social care, construction and retail and hospitality – where workers may be reluctant or unable to access testing for themselves – will lead to a further significant increase in infections.

Increase in infections 

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “This is a barmy and reckless decision by the government.

 “Responsible employers who are ensuring that their workers are regularly undertaking lateral flow tests should be congratulated for their public spirited approach.

 “Instead they are now being told to source tests from a private provider, which will dramatically increase costs.

 “Unite fears some employers will simply stop testing due to the increased cost and the complications.

 “How on earth the government believes that it can get on top of surging levels of Covid-19 when it is discouraging testing is difficult, if not impossible, to explain.

“Not only should the government reverse its decision to end the supply of free tests to employers it should instead be encouraging many more employers to use the scheme to keep the virus in check and to reduce the number of workers who are becoming infected.”


During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web:

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.