Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): early learning and childcare services

Non-statutory guidance to support the continued safe operation of ELC settings.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): early learning and childcare services
Support for specific groups

Support for specific groups

Those at higher risk from COVID-19

This guidance applies to those who are at the highest clinical risk from coronavirus. We have published information on who is considered to be at highest risk, along with advice and support for this group, including attending work and education and childcare settings. Everyone in this cohort will have received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer advising them that they are on the highest risk list.

The Chief Medical Officer has written to everyone on this list in relation to the move to Level 0. His advice is that people at highest risk can continue to follow the same advice as the rest of the population in the context of precautionary measures that remain in place. This is because the vaccination programme is working well and as the number of people who have been vaccinated rises, everyone will benefit from greater protection, even the small number of people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. Evidence continues to emerge about how well the vaccine works for people who are immunosuppressed and on the highest risk list.

Over 94% of people at highest risk have now received both doses of the vaccine and nearly 96% have received their first dose. Due to some health conditions, some people cannot receive the vaccine. If anyone is not sure, we would advise that they speak with their clinician. Otherwise, we encourage anyone on the highest risk list and their family members who haven’t had the vaccine to do so as soon as possible.

The Chief Medical Officer’s advice to everyone on the list beyond Level 0, is that it is currently safe to go into work if you cannot work from home and that it is safe to use public transport. 

It is essential that everyone continues to follow the public health advice and remaining protection measures. Baseline measures are strongly encouraged for staff and pupils at highest risk. Mitigations which remain in place for now such as face coverings are not just to give added protection to the population as a whole, but also to give protection and assurance to those at highest clinical risk. It is important to protect each other through getting the vaccination, getting tested, and to keep following the remaining rules and measures.

It continues to be the employer’s responsibility to regularly carry out workplace risk assessments and put in place measures to make the workplace as safe as is reasonably practicable to try and minimise the risk to staff including contracting COVID-19. In carrying out risk assessments, employers should be mindful of their duties under the Equality Act 2010 at all times. Employees also have a responsibility to comply with safe working practices

It is essential that employers conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment which will help them to identity measures which can be implemented to reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace. Employers can be asked for copies of the risk assessments for the workplace.

It is advised that those who are at highest risk also carry out an individual risk assessment. This includes a COVID-age tool, which employees can use to highlight personal risk and support discussions with employers about any additional adjustments or arrangements that may be needed to make the workplace and duties safe for them. Read more advice about individual risk assessments.

Any concerns can be discussed with managers or employers. Further advice is also available from:

  • occupational health services provided by your employer, where available
  • a health and safety representative in your workplace
  • your workplace’s Human Resources (HR) department
  • your trade union or professional body
  • the Citizens Advice website or the free Citizens Advice Helpline on 0800 028 1456, (Monday to Friday, office hours)
  • the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)

We have published guidance for employers and employees on making the workplace safe for people at highest risk. This includes employer responsibilities to carry out regular workplace risk assessments, individual risk assessments, and additional steps people can take to keep themselves safe. 

Children and young people on the highest risk list

The Chief Medical Officer’s advice at Level 0 and beyond Level 0, is that children and young people on the highest risk list can follow the same advice as for the rest of the population. This includes attending childcare settings.

Household members of people who are on the highest risk list

Children and young people who live with a person who is at highest risk can attend childcare settings. All children attending ELC should comply with the arrangements for the reduction of risks of transmission of the virus within settings, including hand hygiene. 

Household and family members of people at highest risk can also go to work. It is the employers’ responsibility to make sure the workplace and duties are as safe as possible. Household members of people that are at highest risk should discuss their concerns with their employer.

The Chief Medical Officer has encouraged everyone on the highest risk list to ask members of their household over 12 years of age to use the free at-home lateral flow tests. We encourage all staff in ELC and childcare settings who live with someone at highest risk to use the offer of lateral flow testing as this will help to find people who don’t have symptoms and would not know they have coronavirus. This can then reduce the risk of passing on coronavirus to a family or household member who is at highest risk.

Considerations related to pregnancy

In line with the UK Government Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for pregnant employees, which applies in Scotland, pregnant staff of any gestation should only continue working if a risk assessment advises that it is safe to do so. 

ELC settings and local authorities should follow the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advice to try and keep the risk of exposure as low as is practically possible to pregnant employees, particularly in the third trimester. Normal pregnancy risk assessments should also be undertaken, and appropriate attention paid to mental health and wellbeing.

Additional UK-wide guidance on pregnancy is also available: Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for pregnant employees.

Individual risk assessment guidance

On 27 July 2020 we published COVID-19 occupational risk assessment guidance. This guidance includes an easy to use, individual risk assessment tool that takes into account ethnicity, age, gender, BMI and health conditions to give an overall COVID-19 risk age.

Staff and employers in all sectors now use this guidance to determine whether or not, the workplace is safe and it is safe for the individual to be at work. This guidance is relevant to staff who have an underlying health condition, or are anxious about risks in the workplace. The guidance is based on the latest clinical and scientific advice on COVID-19 and is updated on a regular basis.

The clarity this tool brings has been widely welcomed, as we now know that certain minority ethnic groups are more vulnerable to COVID-19 and that simply viewing medical conditions in isolation, does not accurately predict an individual’s vulnerability.

The most important part of the process is the conversation that takes places between a manager and a member of staff. It is essential that the outcome from these conversations is agreed by both parties. The conversation should take into consideration, workplace risks, and the control measures that can be put into place, to agree a course of action regarding work duties. The guidance also signposts to further medical advice and support for those with complex vulnerabilities

Support for children with Additional Support Needs

Every child will have different levels of required support. It will be important as part of the risk assessments carried out to consider the individual needs of a child or young person. Where there is a need to work in close proximity with adults and children the appropriate safety measures should be put in place based on that risk assessment. Guidance on supporting children and young people with additional support needs is published by the Scottish Government. 

Providers should have individual risk assessment processes in place to support individuals in the groups above. 


First published: 11 Aug 2021 Last updated: 11 Oct 2021 -