Workforce planning and support
Information about supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not.
- home working
- employee health and wellbeing
- Test and Protect
- Test and Protect – contact tracing 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 employees living in high risk 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 employers and employees
- to take travel to work and childcare considerations into account in decisions around a phased restart
From midnight on 4 January 2021, working from home as a public health measure has been a crucial factor in mitigating the transmission of the virus in the general public and is an effort we must continue.
The current position is that anyone who is able to work from home, must do so. It will only be a reasonable excuse to leave your home to go to work, if that work cannot be done from home.
We now need every business to work with their workforce to look again at their operations, and to make sure that every single function that can be done by people working at home, is being done in that way.
Home working will be new to many and may have been implemented at pace, without normal health and safety planning to ensure people have suitable working arrangements and equipment. Businesses should consider that, and how best to support working from home (for example, provision of laptops, mobile phones, video conferencing services). Further information can be found at Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance for homeworking.
However, given the nature of events we understand that a significant amount of work must take place in person on site, with appropriate safeguards in place to reduce risk, where practicable. Where this is not practicable new ways of working will need to be adopted.
Returning workers may have some level of apprehension about how safe they may be and may require reassurance and demonstration that measures recommended in workplace risk assessments have been put in place to ensure safety. Event organisers should recognise the need to have clear and regular communications with their workforce, 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.
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 event organisers foster a fair and inclusive working environment that does not tolerate discrimination with the aim that members of the workforce should feel that they are returning to a supportive, caring and safe environment. 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
Individual health circumstances and protected characteristics should be considered, along with consideration of their specific roles, and discussed with the workforce before prioritising who is asked to return to work and when. This should recognise the protective measures required to minimise health risks to high risk or those living in high risk 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. Read information on high risk groups and changes to shielding.
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. Working from home and working flexibly where possible should remain the best option for people who had been shielding. Employers should support people to safely return to work and ensure they can stringently follow public health guidance around physical distancing and hygiene. An individual risk assessment guidance and tool has been developed help staff and managers consider the specific risk of COVID-19 in the workplace
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.
It is important to take into account the particular circumstances of those with different protected characteristics. This could include involving and communicating appropriately with workers whose protected characteristics might either expose them to a different degree of risk, or any steps taken may be inappropriate or challenging for them.
From 4 January 2021, due to what we now know about the higher transmissibility of the new variant, the Chief Medical Officer has written to everyone on the shielding list to advise if they cannot work from home, they should not attend work for as long as these additional protective measures are in place in the area where they live or work.
This additional advice on going to work does not apply to areas that remain at Level 3. If you live or work in a Level 3 area, you can continue to go to work if the workplace can be made safe.
If employees are not attending the workplace due to the advice from the Chief Medical Officer, employers, at their discretion, may be able to furlough employees through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which has now been extended until April 2021. If furloughed, HMRC will give a grant to employers to cover 80% of normal salary, and employers will need to pay National Insurance and pension contributions. Employees are encouraged to discuss this directly with their employer.
Otherwise employees may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, Universal Credit, or other benefits, during this period. To find out further information about what benefits you may be entitled to, speak to your employer, or visit the gov.uk website or contact Citizens Advice Scotland. Some employers may offer additional financial support for employees who are off work for coronavirus-related reasons which may be set out in their terms and conditions of employment. To find out what financial support you will get, you should contact your employer.
The Job Retention Scheme does not apply if you are self-employed or to any income from self-employment. However, employees may qualify for support under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.
Consideration should be given as to whether any particular measures or adjustments are required to fulfil duties under the equalities legislation. 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.
For example, given that there is some evidence which suggests that COVID-19 may impact disproportionately on some groups (Minority Ethnic communities), employers should ensure that Occupational Health Service provide practical support to Minority Ethnic staff, particularly where they are anxious about protecting themselves and their families. All Minority Ethnic staff 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 employers need to consider to ensure workplaces are inclusive. 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.
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.
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 them and get in touch with people they have been in close contact with, and tell them they must self-isolate for 10 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 10 days. Where a contact has been advised to isolate for 10 days, a negative test during this period does not remove the need to fulfil the full period of isolation.
Event organisers can ask someone who is self-isolating to work from home if they are able to and they are not unwell. Event organisers 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 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.
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 contact tracing app for employers, workers and attendees is available.
Pay for workers who are sheltering, self-isolating, sick or balancing care responsibilities is likely to be a source of concern for employees. Businesses should work with trade union or workforce representatives to provide early guidance on relevant 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.
A clear message from employers and trade unions is that building and maintaining employee confidence is vitally important and a challenge that should not be underestimated.
Page last updated: 7 January 2021