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Self-isolation exemption for critical workers – July 2021 

The Government has confirmed that ‘fully-vaccinated’ (14 days post a second dose) workers carrying out a ‘critical role’ may in exceptional circumstances be able to leave self-isolation to attend work if they are deemed to be a close contact.   

Exceptional circumstances include ‘where there would otherwise be a major detrimental impact on essential services’ and will only cover a limited number of named workers.   

Employers covered by this process will not have a blanket or automatic exemption, they will receive a letter from a government department setting out the designated critical workers and telling employers what steps they and those critical workers must follow.  



Where employers believe the self-isolation of certain key employees would result in serious disruption to critical services, they should contact the relevant government department for a decision and guidance.  The individual will need to take a PCR test as soon as possible followed by daily LFD tests before attending work each day of their self-isolation period. If they test positive or start to show symptoms, they must immediately self-isolate and will no longer be able to attend work. 

The exemption is solely so employees can attend work and they must otherwise continue to self-isolate as directed by NHS Test and Trace.   

This process is only intended to run until 16 August 2021, when fully vaccinated close contacts will be exempt from self-isolation. The Government has stated that exemptions will be highly limited and focused to prevent public harm from disruption to critical services. It will only apply to named individuals from a specific set of industries: 

  • Energy
  • Civil nuclear 
  • Digital infrastructure
  • Food production 
  • Waste
  • Water 
  • Veterinary medicines
  • Essential chemicals 
  • Essential transport
  • Medicines 
  • Medical devices
  • Clinical consumable supplies 
  • Emergency services
  • Border control 
  • Essential defence outputs
  • Local government 
  • Separate arrangements are in place for frontline health and care staff

Full details can be found here NHS Test and Trace in the workplace – GOV.UK ( under the heading ‘Critical Workers’ and this includes contact details for each industry.  


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