Information about supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not.
- continue home working
- pilot measures
- employee health and wellbeing
- information for people who previously had to shield
- Test and Protect
- outbreak management
As a minimum we expect:
- working from home to continue, where possible
- health factors to be considered in any phasing of who returns to work, with employees living in vulnerable or shielded households only expected to return when new safe working environment measures have been implemented and a return to onsite work is consistent with individual medical advice
- new manufacturing arrangements to be tested and modified through collaboration between employers and employees
- companies to take travel to work and childcare considerations into account in decisions around a phased restart
Minimising the spread of the virus will remain important in ensuring the overall protection of public health. Therefore, a safe return to work should assume that those able to work from home will continue to do so. Only the minimum number of people needed should be on site to operate safely and effectively, with a phased return necessary for many businesses. Home-working should be the default, where possible.
As implementing new enhanced safety measures may take time to embed, it is good practice to pilot measures, either within part of a facility and / or with a proportion of the workforce at lower risk from the virus, before rolling out across the workplace as a whole. Travel to work and childcare considerations for individual employees should be taken into account by companies, in discussion with trade unions or employee representatives, before deciding which individuals to involve in pilots and/or a phased restart.
Employers should ensure the organisation culture is inclusive, with the aim that every employee should feel that they have returned to a supportive, caring and safe environment. The pandemic has had an unequal impact across the workforce, as different employee groups, and individuals, will have been affected in diverse ways according to factors such as their job role, and demographic/personal circumstances. Therefore, it is important organisations foster a fair and inclusive working environment that does not tolerate discrimination. There is also a risk of victimisation of those infected, suspected, or more vulnerable to COVID-19, which should be addressed. The following guides from the Health and Safety Executive provide useful sources of information:
- working safely during the coronavirus outbreak - a short guide
- talking with your workers about working safely during the coronavirus outbreak
There are other issues that employers need to consider to ensure workplaces are inclusive. The Equality and Human Rights Commission have updated their guidance for employers to make it more relevant to decisions about return to work. They can also provide advice on a range of issues such as non-discrimination, communication with employees on equality issues, adjustments for disabled people, support for pregnant employees, flexible working for those with caring responsibilities, support for employees 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, and a COVID risk assessment tool.
Individual health circumstances and protected characteristics should be an on-going consideration and discussion with employees after a return to work. This should recognise the protective measures required to minimise health risks to vulnerable or shielded workers or those living in vulnerable or shielded households, exploring whenever possible how these staff can work from home. Consideration of health circumstances and protected characteristics should be given to this as part of the risk assessment process. Permission should be sought from individuals before collecting any information on health conditions of those within their household.
Planning may have identified that ongoing physical distancing measures required to reduce the spread of the virus mean the number of employees able to be accommodated safely in the workplace is limited. The workforce may have questions or concerns after returning to work. Companies are encouraged to work with trade union or workforce representatives to enable individuals to work from home while self-isolating, if appropriate. If able to work from home, employees should continue to do so after a period of self-isolation has ended.
Pay for workers who are sheltering, self-isolating, sick or balancing care responsibilities is likely to be a source of concern for employees. Companies should work with trade union or workforce representatives to provide ongoing guidance to workforces on processes and support for individuals affected by these issues. Again opportunities to facilitate home working where feasible should be actively pursued and maintained.
Companies should also acknowledge the range of factors likely to cause stress or anxiety amongst employees, ranging from living with lockdown arrangements to concerns about travel, schools, caring responsibilities and relatives impacted by the virus, amongst others. This may have implications for mental health with managers encouraged to be conscious of how these factors may impact on the well-being of individual staff members. Companies and trade union or workforce representatives should be alert to this and direct anyone experiencing mental health issues towards available support.
As the number of cases of COVID-19 in Scotland have fallen significantly, from 31 July we have been able to amend our advice. We have paused the advice that those who were identified as being at highest risk of the virus should shield. This means those who were shielding can go back to workplaces where they cannot work from home. Their employer should support them to do so safely and ensure they can stringently follow public health guidance around physical distancing and hygiene.
There may 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 again. Those who previously had to shield will be kept informed of any relevant health advice if things do change. You can also keep up to date with the most recent advice at Coronavirus (COVID-19): shielding advice and support. This guidance contains a specific section on returning to work.
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.
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. Organisations will play a vital role in ensuring that their workers are aware of and able to follow the public health advice.
Organisations should follow public health guidance if a worker becomes unwell with coronavirus symptoms at work, see further information below. The person should leave work to self‑isolate straight away and, if possible, wear a face covering on route and avoid public transport.
Organisations should direct workers 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 if it is safe to leave home, organisations should make sure that staff do not have to, or feel that they have to, come in to work. Workers can request an isolation note through NHS Inform.
People who have tested positive for the virus will need to self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days. NHS contact tracers will interview them and get in touch with people they have been in close contact with, and tell them they must self-isolate for 14 days. If organisations are informed by a contact tracer that they should isolate, organisations should help them to do so straight away. They may feel well, as the virus could still be incubating when they are asked to isolate. Some people who are asked to isolate may not become unwell, but they must stay at home and self-isolate for the full 14 days. Organisations can ask them to work from home if they are able to and they are not unwell. Organisations should not ask someone isolating to come into work before their period of isolation is complete, in any circumstances.
In order to support Test and Protect, it is important that employers have clear and robust records of staff working on each shift, the make-up of teams and details of any visitors to the site, in case of need to contact trace. It is advisable for employers to identify a single point of contact to act as liaison with Health Protection Teams for any matters relating to Test and Protect, reporting potential outbreaks and seeking advice on matters relating to COVID-19 illness in the workforce.
Where Infection Prevention Control measures have been utilised such as protective screen or use of PPE the contact tracer will conduct a risk assessment to identify contacts at risk. The priority is to public health in order to break the chain of transmission of COVID-19.
See Scottish Test and Protect website and NHS Inform for further health advice and information including on duration of self-isolation.
Organisations should suspect an outbreak if there is either:
- two or more linked cases (confirmed or suspected) of COVID-19 in a setting within 14 days - where cross transmission has been identified
- an increase in staff absence rates, in a setting, due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19
If an organisation suspects a COVID-19 outbreak, they should immediately inform their local NHS board Health Protection Team (HPT). The organisation may be then contacted by them, as they may get information from NHS Test & Protect or other sources.
In the event of an outbreak:
- continue to follow 'General Guidelines' to reduce risk, as detailed above.
- the local Health Protection Team will undertake a risk assessment and conduct a rapid investigation. They will advise on the most appropriate action to take.
- staff who have had close contact with case(s) will be asked to self-isolate at home. In some cases, a larger number of other staff may be asked to self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure. Where settings are observing guidance on infection prevention and control, which will reduce risk of transmission, the local health protection team will take this into account in determining whether closure of the whole setting will be necessary.
- depending on the risk assessment outcome, the Health Protection Team may establish an Incident Management Team (IMT) to help manage the situation.
- the Incident Management Team will lead the Public Health response and investigations, and work with the organisation to put appropriate interventions in place.
To control an outbreak the Health Protection Team and Incident Management Team will work with the organisation to put appropriate interventions in place. These will generally include ensuring that the preventive measures described in 'General guidelines to prevent spread of COVID-19' (detailed above) are fully implemented. Other measures may include:
- cleaning in the setting: for cleaning and waste management, refer to guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings for maintaining hygiene
- consider wider testing of affected population and staff
- information: ensure that staff (and other relevant people) are aware of what has happened and the actions being taken
- closure: may be done following advice from the Health Protection Team and Incident Management Team or the business may make their own decision on closure ahead of this advice as a precaution or for business continuity reasons
The Health Protection Team or Incident Management Team will declare when the outbreak is over.
Advanced Manufacturing Policy Team