Unvaccinated workers will have to declare their vaccination status to their bosses for the first time, as new rules mean they cannot test themselves daily to avoid self-isolation.
All close contacts of Covid cases must take lateral flow tests for seven days to avoid quarantine under measures that come into place on Tuesday in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
However, adults who have not been vaccinated with two doses must still self-isolate for 10 days if they are identified as a close contact of someone who has the virus.
This could lead to employees in offices and factories being “shamed” when they have to disclose that they have chosen not to have a vaccine.
The testing and isolation rules will apply regardless of whether the case is the omicron variant or the delta variant.
One Conservative MP said that the change in the rules would mean that staff now have to lay bare their vaccination status, even if they might not want to.
The MP told the Telegraph: “The measure means only if you are vaccinated can you take a test. If you are not vaccinated, you have to be isolated for 10 days. It is a way of telling your boss.”
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said that the omicron variant was “quickly gaining ground” and is on course to become dominant in Britain by the middle of December.
“We are taking this proportionate and more practical measure to limit the impact on people’s day to day lives while helping to reduce the spread of omicron,” he said.
“Vaccines remain our best defence and I urge anyone yet to get a first and second jab to come forward and those eligible for a booster to get boosted as soon as possible.”
Fully vaccinated contacts who are testing negative are still “strongly advised” by the Department of Health and Social Care to limit close contact with people outside their household, especially in crowded spaces or around those who are more vulnerable.
The Department said that the change to the rules was intended to “reduce pressures on people’s everyday lives” by replacing the previous requirement for all contacts of a positive omicron case to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of whether they had the virus themselves.
“If you are identified as a contact of someone with Covid-19, taking a rapid daily test – and only needing to isolate if it is positive – will help reduce the spread of the virus and minimise its impact on our everyday lives over the coming weeks and months,” said Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency.
“If you haven’t had any vaccine, a first and second dose still gives you protection against becoming seriously unwell. Don’t worry about stepping forwards now. You will be warmly welcomed by our vaccination staff and I would strongly advise you to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Almost nine in 10 Britons, 89.1 per cent, over the age of 12 have now had a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 81.3 per cent have had two doses.
This means about 6.4 million people have not yet received any doses of a vaccine, almost a quarter of whom are aged between 12 and 15.
The new rules come after Boris Johnson said last week that it was time for a “national conversation” about “ways in which we deal with this pandemic”.
“I don’t think we can keep going indefinitely with non-pharmaceutical interventions. I mean restrictions on people’s way of life, just because a substantial proportion of the population still sadly has not got vaccinated,” the Prime Minister said on Wednesday.
However, Downing Street has insisted that the Government does not favour mandatory vaccination, an idea described on Sunday by Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary and former vaccines minister, as “divisive”.