Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for colleges

Published: 9 Jul 2020
Last updated: 9 Jul 2020 - see all updates

Guidance for colleges in helping to minimise the risk of transmission of coronavirus.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for colleges
Workforce planning and student support

Workforce planning and student support


Returning staff and students may have some level of apprehension about how safe they may be and they may require reassurance and evidence that measures recommended in workplace risk assessments have been implemented. 

Communication with staff, students and unions is crucial at each stage of the phased return. By following this guidance and a risk assessment approach, college management, trade unions and student associations will send a clear message that the college is safe - maintaining staff and student confidence is vitally important. 

Colleges should ensure that the organisation’s culture is inclusive, with the aim that every employee and student should feel that they are returning to a supportive, caring and safe environment. 

Through implementing this guidance and following consultation with staff, student associations and trade unions, communications should be carefully considered. This will ensure confidence in the revised arrangements. Colleges will also:

  • implement  clear and effective communication of the arrangements and policies in place via a range of media to ensure high levels of awareness among students, staff and visitors, including external contractors
  • remind staff and students of the symptoms to look for and clear advice will be provided on how to respond should symptoms become apparent while in college premises
  • make clear the channels of communication through which staff, students and trade unions can raise concerns about the implementation of safety measures in individual settings

Work from home and public transport

Scotland’s route map highlights that remote working remains the default position for those who can from lockdown to and including Phase 3. In Phase 4, it states that remote and flexible working remains encouraged.

In Phase 2, consistent with the reopening of workplaces, where home working is not possible, businesses and organisations are encouraged to manage travel demand through staggered start times and flexible working patterns.

Although by  Phase 3 public transport is expected to be operating full services, physical distancing will be applied. It is estimated that the capacity with physical distancing in place on public transport could be between 10% and 25% of ‘normal’ capacity. Transport Scotland has stated that where staff need to be present at the workplace, employers should be as flexible as possible and allow earlier or later start and finish times to spread people’s use of the transport system. 

Colleges are committed to following Scottish Government and public health guidance through each phase of the route map. Remote working will be supported, where possible and appropriate, and staff will begin to return to campus where government guidance allows for it and roles require it.

Colleges will consider the guidance on transport and other guidance both in planning for staff and student travel to campuses and as transport providers themselves. Colleges should communicate public health guidance to staff and students on keeping public transport safe. This includes that wearing of face coverings on public transport is now mandatory. Colleges should encourage staff and students to cycle or walk to college where possible.

Colleges will also take into account Health Protection Scotland’s advice which re-iterates that people should not travel if they exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms.

College vehicles should be driven by the same person where possible in order to minimise the risk of infection. Where this is not possible – and subject to specific risk assessment - the vehicle should be disinfected after use.

Special consideration for people who are clinically vulnerable or shielding

When planning on extending/resuming activities, colleges should consider the needs of those who are shielding, or people who have household members who are shielding.

People who are shielding fall under the extremely clinically vulnerable category and require a different set of measures from above to keep them safe. The most up-to-date guidance and list of underlying health conditions that necessitate shielding should be checked on the NHS Inform website under the shielding section.

All colleges should follow the latest guidance for students and staff who are shielding or who live with individuals who are shielding.

People who are clinically vulnerable are those with pre-existing conditions who are being advised to stringently follow the physical (social distancing) guidance and should work from home where possible. If they cannot work from home, consideration should be given to whether they might undertake alternative work or working hours to enable them to stay away from others wherever possible.

If people who have household members who require shielding attend college premises they should be advised to adhere to stringent physical distancing.

Colleges will adjust their approach accordingly if new public health advice emerges, following due risk assessment processes. 

Test and Protect and self-isolating

Test and Protect, Scotland’s approach to implementing the 'test, trace, isolate, support' strategy, is a public health measure designed to break chains of transmission of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community. More about Test and Protect can be found on the NHS Inform website.

As part of the risk-based approach colleges will follow the guidance aimed at employers in helping staff who self-isolate.

All staff and students have a responsibility to ensure they adhere to overall COVID-19 advice for Individuals who are self-isolating. This states  that people must stay at home and self-isolate if they have symptoms, are waiting for a coronavirus test result, tested positive for coronavirus, live with someone who has symptoms or are waiting for a test result or has tested positive.

Fair and inclusive work environment

The pandemic has had an unequal impact across Scotland as different employee groups, students  and other individuals have been affected in diverse ways. There is also a risk of victimisation of those who have been infected by, are suspected of being infected by, or are more vulnerable to COVID-19 which should be addressed.

The following guides from the Health and Safety Executive provide useful sources of information:

Individual health circumstances and protected characteristics should be considered and discussed with employees, staff and students before prioritising who is asked to return to work and participate in on-campus studies. Consideration of health circumstances and protected characteristics should be given to this as part of the risk assessment process.

It is important to take into account the particular circumstances of those with different protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010. This could include involving and communicating appropriately with staff/students whose protected characteristics might either expose them to a different degree of risk, or any steps taken may be inappropriate or challenging for them. 

Consideration should be given as to whether any particular measures or reasonable adjustments are required to fulfil duties under the Equality Act 2010.  Reasonable adjustments should be made to avoid disabled workers being put at a disadvantage, and the health and safety risks for new or expectant mothers should be assessed.

It is important to make sure the steps implemented do not have an unjustifiably negative impact on some groups compared to others, for example, those with caring responsibilities or those with religious commitments.

All staff and students with underlying health conditions and disabilities, who are over 70, or who are pregnant should be individually risk-assessed, and appropriate reasonable or workplace adjustments should be made following risk assessment.

There are other issues that colleges need to consider to ensure workplaces are inclusive. The Equality and Human Rights Commission can provide advice on a range of issues such as non-discrimination, communication with employees and students on equality issues, adjustments for disabled people, support for pregnant employees and students, flexible working for those with caring responsibilities, support for employees and students affected by domestic abuse, how to deal with harassment at work and mental health issues.



First published: 9 Jul 2020 Last updated: 9 Jul 2020 -