Workforce planning and support
Information about supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not.
- home working
- worker health and wellbeing
- apprenticeships and training providers
- Check in Scotland
- Test and Protect
- support to self-isolate
- Protect Scotland app
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 workforce 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 arrangements to be tested and modified through collaboration between organisations and their workforce and
- organisations to take travel to work and childcare considerations into account in decisions around a phased restart, noting the disproportionate impact that these consideration have on women
- the health, including mental health, and wellbeing of workers to be considered
Minimising the spread of the virus will remain important in ensuring the overall protection of public health. Therefore, planning for a safe return to work should assume that those able to work from home will continue to do so. Organisations should plan for the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively, with a phased return necessary for many businesses. Home-working should be the default, where possible.
Businesses and organisations should 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 so managers should be conscious of how these factors may impact on the well-being of individual staff members. Business and trade union or workforce representatives should be alert to this and direct anyone experiencing mental health issues towards available support.
Employers should ensure the organisation culture is inclusive, with the aim that every worker should feel that they are returning to a supportive, caring and safe environment. The pandemic has had an unequal impact across the workforce, as different worker 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 at risk from COVID-19 which should be addressed.
Returning workforce and members of the public may have some level of apprehension about how safe they may be and they may require reassurance and demonstration that measures recommended in workplace risk assessments have been put in place to ensure safety. Organisations should recognise the need to have clear and regular communications with the workforce and the public, using multiple channels to reinforce key messages. Visual material has proven to be beneficial in demonstrating changes that have or are being made, especially where language barriers exist.
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.
A clear message from organisations and trade unions is that building and maintaining confidence of the workforce and of the public is vitally important and a challenge that should not be underestimated.
The following guides from the HSE 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
Organisations should also acknowledge the range of factors likely to cause stress or anxiety. These range 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. Organisations and trade union or workforce representatives should be alert to this and direct anyone experiencing mental health issues towards available support.
Pay for workers who are sheltering, self-isolating, sick or balancing care responsibilities is likely to be a source of concern for workers.
Businesses should work with trade union or workforce representatives to provide early guidance to workforces on processes and support for individuals affected by these issues and should follow the advice in the COVID-19: Fair work statement. It states that no worker should be financially penalised by their organisation for following medical advice, and any absence from work relating to COVID-19 should not affect future sick pay entitlement, result in disciplinary action or count towards any future sickness absence related action. This statement applies to workers who are sick or self-isolating under the Test and Protect strategy.
Businesses are encouraged to work with trade union or workforce representatives to enable individuals to work from home while self-isolating. Advice for organisations on helping staff who need to self-isolate is also available.
In addition to the existing legal responsibilities under the Equalities Act, there are other issues that employers need to consider to ensure workplaces are inclusive and are taking account of the impact of COVID-19 on particular groups, such as women, disabled people and people from ethnic minority communities.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Scotland can provide advice on a range of issues such as:
- reasonable adjustments for disabled people and communication with employees on equality issues
- support for pregnant employees or employees on maternity leave
- flexible working for those with caring responsibilities
- how to deal with harassment at work
EHRC have also produced guidance for public sector employers about equality impact assessments and having due regard to the Public Sector Equality Duty and Scottish Specific Duties during the pandemic.
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.
Apprentices can return to work at the same time as their co-workers. For specific concerns regarding the safe return to work for apprentices, there is information and support on the Skills Development Scotland website and apprentices can speak to an advisor directly on 0800 917 8000.
It is important to ensure there is a functioning training infrastructure to support economic recovery and the sustainability of apprenticeship programmes. For those Training Providers and assessors that are providing continuity of contracted services for apprentices, learners and employers in the workplace during the pandemic must adhere to the applicable sectoral guidance.
Creative studios and workplaces should encourage all people using them to download the Check In Scotland app, which allows individuals to check in and out of premises.
Test and Protect, Scotland’s approach to implementing the 'test, trace, isolate and support' strategy, is a public health measure designed to break chains of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community.
Test and Protect tests people, both those with and without symptoms, contact traces people who may have become infected by spending time in close contact with someone who tests positive, and then supports positive cases and their close contacts to self-isolate.
That means if they have the virus they are less likely to pass it on to others.
Accessing twice weekly tests for people without symptoms is now available for those who are not participating in a workplace or education testing programme. If a person wishes to participate in weekly testing then they can pick up test kits from a local Test Site or order online for postal delivery via this website or by phoning 119. If a person tests positive using these tests (LFD home tests) they will be advised to isolate and book a PCR test to confirm the result.
Test and Protect: collecting contact details
Organisations will play a vital role in ensuring that their workers are aware of and able to follow the public health advice. Organisations should keep a record of name, date, time and a mobile number or email address for all staff, customers and contractors and of those who have been in close physical contact, including details of who is working in fixed teams, for a period of 21 days. This will ensure that in the event of an outbreak or cluster of cases, it will be possible for public health officers, as part of Test and Protect, to get in touch with anyone present at the same time as an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 and will help to break chains of transmission.
In line with data protection rules, you must ensure the data is only used for its stated purpose (i.e. to support NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect system), visitors to settings know why data is being collected, and this is stored confidentially and securely and only retained as long as is justifiable and necessary. This may include updating any privacy notices. Read updated guidance on on collection of customer contact details, including on how to implement the Check In Scotland service to securely enable straightforward compliance with the collecting of contact details.
Organisations should follow public health guidance and Test and Protect employer guidance if a worker becomes unwell with coronavirus symptoms at work. 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 119, 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.
In line with Test and Protect everyone should follow the NHS Inform guidance on self-isolation if they or anyone in their household shows coronavirus symptoms. NHS contact tracers will interview people who test positive and get in touch with people they have been in close contact with, and ask them to self-isolate for 10 days. If organisations are informed by a contact tracer that an employee or volunteer 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 10 days. Where a contact has been advised to isolate for 10 days, a negative test during this period does not mean that they can stop isolating.
Organisations can ask someone who is self-isolating 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.
Where Infection Prevention Control measures have been utilised such as protective screen or use of PPE, contact tracers will conduct a risk assessment to identify contacts at risk, and issue public health advice following the outcome of the risk assessment. The priority is to public health in order to break the chain of transmission of COVID-19.
See NHS Inform for further health advice and information including on duration of self-isolation.
Employers should refer to the Pay section of this guidance for details on supporting employees whilst they need to self-isolate. There is also a suite of support run by Scottish Government, delivered through local authorities, to support people who are self-isolating. These include:
- the Coronavirus National Assistance Helpline is open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm to people who need support through the pandemic. Callers can ask for support and advice around Coronavirus and can access support delivered by local authorities, including food and essential medicine deliveries. The helpline number is 0800 111 4000.
- the Local Self-Isolation Assistance Service is available to people who have been contact-traced. At the point of being traced, people are offered support calls from local authorities at different stages of their isolation. When someone receives one of these calls they can request support, such as help with food deliveries.
- the Self-Isolation Support Grant is open to those who are self-isolating and cannot work from home. It is a one-off payment of £500 to those who are self-isolating and who earn less than the real living wage. As a result, it may not be available to many employees who earn over this threshold.
- isolation accommodation is available to people who wish to self-isolate outwith their home or usual household. This can be accessed through the Coronavirus National Assistance Helpline or directly contacting the individual’s local authority.
Protect Scotland is an entirely voluntary app that is an additional part of NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect service. Having the app should never be a requirement for any workplace. The app complements but does not replace manual contact tracing. It enhances contact tracing and quickly alerts app users that are at risk as they have come into close contact (less than 2m for 15 minutes or more) with an app user that has since tested positive for COVID-19. Further information about the Protect Scotland app for employers, workers and customers is available.
The vaccine represents an important step in our progress towards a safer return to workplaces. Evidence to date shows it will reduce both mortality and morbidity, however we do not know the extent to which the vaccine reduces transmission of the virus from an infected person to others. That is why it is important for businesses and employees to act responsibly, follow FACTS and continue to align their approach with published guidance.