Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on college, university and purpose built student accommodation

Guidance on safe re-opening during the coronavirus pandemic for college, university and purpose built student accommodation (PBSA).

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on college, university and purpose built student accommodation
Workforce planning and student support

Workforce planning and student support

Workforce planning and student support

This guidance aims to support providers in communicating with and involving staff, students, trade unions and student associations,  ensuring that employees and students feel that they are returning to an inclusive, supportive, caring and safe environment.

Through implementing this guidance and following consultation with staff and students and their representatives, including trade unions, and student associations, communications should be carefully considered. This will ensure confidence in the revised arrangements. Providers should consider:

  • communication of the arrangements and policies via a range of media to ensure high levels of awareness among students, staff and visitors, including external contractors
  • reminding staff and students of the symptoms to look for and providing clear advice on how to respond should symptoms become apparent while in university and college halls of residence and PBSA
  • making clear the channels of communication through which staff, students and their representatives 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.

Providers should highlight to students and staff the Transport Scotland guidance for travel and the use of public transport and consider its implications for travel to and from accommodation.

Providers 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.

Providers’ 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 each use.

Support for those working in student accommodation

The Scottish Government has published the Coronavirus (COVID-19): tourism and hospitality sector guidance and providers should give similar considerations to those working in student accommodation to reduce risk of: (a)  transmission between residential blocks; and (b) from a residential ‘household’ to the wider local community.

Special considerations for people at high clinical risk

From 1 August 2020 those who were shielding can go back to workplaces where they cannot work from home. Their employer/education provider? should support them to do so safely and ensure they can stringently follow public health guidance around physical distancing and hygiene.  There may, however, be the requirement to revert back to some level of shielding in the future at either a national or local level if the number of cases rise. Those who previously had to shield will be kept informed of any relevant health advice if things do change. Providers can also keep up to date with the most recent advice at Coronavirus (COVID-19): shielding advice and support.

In order to support this, an individual risk assessment guidance and tool has been developed to help staff and managers consider the specific risk of COVID-19 in the workplace. It is relevant to all staff, but will be particularly relevant to those who are returning to work after shielding, those who are returning to normal duties after COVID-19 related restrictions, those who are returning to the workplace after working from home or anyone who has a concern about a particular vulnerability to COVID-19.

When planning on extending/resuming activities, including the formation of households, providers should consider that some students may be required to shield should the guidance on people at high clinical risk change. Providers should consider that some students and staff may need to self-isolate in an unfamiliar area, and should consider if additional information on local amenities, such as shops offering delivery services, can be provided.

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 COVID-19 in the community. More about Test and Protect can be found on the NHS Inform website.

The NHS will test people who have symptoms, trace people who may have become infected by spending time in close contact with someone who tests positive, and then support those close contacts to self-isolate. That means if they have the virus they are less likely to pass it on to others. Providers will play a vital role in ensuring that their workers and student residents are aware of and able to follow the public health advice.

Providers should follow public health guidance if a staff member or student becomes unwell with COVID-19 symptoms. The person should self-isolate straight away and, if possible, wear a face covering and avoid public transport.

Providers should direct staff and students to NHS Inform, or if they can’t get online, call 0800 028 2816, to arrange to get tested.

Until they have been tested and told it is safe to leave home, providers should make sure that staff do not have to, or feel they have to, come in to work. Staff can request an isolation note through NHS Inform. Providers should also provide appropriate support to staff and students, giving particular consideration to students who may be self-isolating within student accommodation without access to support networks.

As part of the risk-based approach providers will follow the guidance aimed at employers in helping staff who need to self-isolate. All staff and students have a responsibility to ensure they adhere to overall COVID-19 advice. If any individual in the accommodation setting develops symptoms of COVID-19, the latest Scottish Government and NHS guidance on self-isolation must be followed.

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:

Reference to protected characteristics within this guidance, refers to the characteristics that are protected under the Equality Act 2010, as set out below:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage or civil partnership (in employment only)
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

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. Health and social circumstances and legally protected characteristics should be considered as part of the risk assessment process to ensure that sector restart does not have a greater impact on some groups than others.

Providers should consider the particular circumstances of those with different protected characteristics, as set out 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 find measures taken to be challenging for them.

Accommodation providers should consider 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.

There are other issues that providers need to consider to ensure workplaces are inclusive. The Equality and Human Rights Commission have published guidance for employers and 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.

Close the Gap, through their Think Business Think Equality toolkit, have produced guidance on employers supporting employees affected by domestic abuse during the pandemic and a more general online self-assessment resource for employers on domestic abuse. The  RNIB  also provide information on employing partially sighted and blind workers during COVID-19, and a COVID risk assessment tool.

Page last updated: 5 August 2020

First published: 31 Jul 2020 Last updated: 5 Aug 2020 -