News & Insight

Pingdemic: which small businesses are exempt?

Jack Stratten

The industries in which self-isolation exemptions apply

The so-called pingdemic, where people have been 'pinged' by the NHS Covid app and instructed to self-isolate, has been a nightmare for thousands of employees and their employers.

With entire supply chains brought to a halt and some companies temporarily closing, the consequences have been severe. But the government has recently announced 16 sectors where small business employees could be exempt from self-isolation rules.

Here's a quick guide to which industries will be spared, and how it all might work:

Exemption for supermarket workers and suppliers

This might not be relevant for many small businesses, but supermarket depot workers and suppliers don’t have to self-isolate if pinged by the NHS app. In practice this exemption may also apply to smaller food companies and suppliers too.

The 16 sectors where exemptions apply

Beyond supermarkets, these are the 16 sectors where exemptions apply:

  • Energy
  • Civil nuclear
  • Digital infrastructure
  • Food production and supply
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Veterinary medicines
  • Chemicals
  • Transport
  • Medicines
  • Medical devices
  • Clinical consumable supplies
  • Emergency services
  • Border control
  • Defence
  • Local government

However, these are not 'blanket exemptions' as is the case with some supermarket workers - meaning there is a specific process that must be followed if you wish to receive an exemption for an employee.

How the exemptions work

Your small business must submit the name of each worker you want to exempt, and there's no guarantee it will be approved. You can also only apply once a relevant staff member has been pinged.

Applications must be made in writing to your industry's relevant government department. If approved, the exemption applies for seven days, for work purposes only. After seven days, you have to reapply.

When will this process become easier?

Many small businesses are frustrated by how limited these exemptions are, and how difficult the process is. However, from 16 August, anyone who is double-vaccinated will no longer have to self-isolate. This will inevitably go a long way towards ending the pingdemic.