Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): financial services sector guidance

Guidance for the financial services sector about safe re-opening during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): financial services sector guidance


This guidance is for the financial services sector. It comes into effect immediately (7 August 2020) and extends until further notice. Guidance will be reviewed on a regular basis in line with the regular three weekly review of lockdown requirements.

We have worked with employers and trade unions from the financial services sector to ensure that this guidance is evidence-based, fair and ethical, clear and realistic. As each workplace is different it is for individual businesses to work with trade union or workforce representatives to determine how best to apply this guidance in their circumstances.

This guide is underpinned by a spirit of collaborative working between companies and their workforce. Throughout the terms ‘companies’, and ‘trade union’ or ‘workforce representatives’ are used in that context, recognising that companies have a legal responsibility to maintain workplace health and safety and must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there is not one, a representative chosen by workers. Companies cannot decide who the workforce representative will be.

This document is one of a set of documents about how to work safely in different types of workplace. This guidance is for use by the financial services sector in Scotland. It should be applied at the local level. Each business will need to translate this into the specific actions it needs to take depending on the nature of their business (i.e. the size and type of business, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated) using this document as a guide. The guidance emphasises in particular the importance of undertaking a robust and ongoing risk based assessment with full input from trade union or workforce representatives, and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that workplaces continue to feel, and be, safe.

To judge whether and when restrictions can be changed we will consider a range of evidence on the progress of the pandemic in Scotland using the principles set out in Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making and our long established commitment to fair work. As Scotland continues to ease lockdown restrictions, organisations including the Institute of Directors (IoD), SCDI, STUC, COSLA and SCVO have signed a fair work statement underlining the collaborative approach needed between employers, unions and workers to ensure workplaces can operate safely.

Within the Scottish Government’s business and physical distancing guidance finance is designated as one of 13 Critical National Infrastructure sectors. Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sectors define those facilities, systems, sites and networks necessary for the functioning of the country and the delivery of the essential services upon which daily life in Scotland depends. Essential services are the fundamental services that underpin daily life and ensure the country continues to function.

Where businesses are in the CNI category and judge themselves to be exempt from closure of business premises, it is imperative that they apply physical distancing requirements. CNI businesses should keep open only those premises or parts of premises that are truly critical or essential to the national and international COVID-19 effort.

Some staff in the financial sector are performing critical activities that must be carried out in a workplace environment. Employers should clearly identify those roles, and establish the minimum on-site presence required to ensure stable delivery of essential services.

Businesses should identify job roles that can be undertaken from home and put plans in place to support homeworking (e.g. monitoring wellbeing of staff, provision of correct equipment, processes for keeping in touch and ensuring access to work systems).

The remainder of this guidance sets out our minimum expectations across five key areas companies will need to consider as part of their planning for a future return to workplaces and ongoing service delivery while minimising the transmission of the virus:

  • assessing risk - involving the workforce in a risk based approach to a safer workplace
  • workforce planning - supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not
  • operational guide and checklist - changing the workplace environment to protect your workforce
  • deliveries, distribution and visitors - protecting your workforce and those who come on-site
  • training and compliance

The guidance has been published now to give employers and employees the time they need to plan and prepare.

This is provided as guidance only and does not amount to legal advice. You may wish to seek your own advice to ensure compliance with all legal requirements.

If you can suggest ways we can improve the guidance please contact

Legislation and regulation

Physical distancing duties are set out in regulation 4(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020. A person who is responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service must take all reasonable measures:

  • to ensure that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between any persons on the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer)
  • to ensure that they only admit people to its premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance
  • to ensure that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between any person waiting to enter the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer)

The co-regulators for health and safety at work, the HSE and Local Authority Environmental Health services are constantly applying their expertise to ensure people at work are protected, utilising the powers at their disposal under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

HSE is treating COVID-19 as a workplace health issue with regard to the protection of workers from infection. Both regulators can and will use the Health and Safety Work Act to ensure physical distancing in the workplace in relation to workers.

Where regulators identify employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health guidance to control COVID-19 health risks to workers, both regulators will consider a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks including the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices. These actions will be taken under existing health and safety law.

A framework agreement between Police Scotland and local authorities supports the referral of complaints about lack of reasonable physical distancing at work to the relevant Local authority. Local authorities will ensure that those complaints relevant to HSE are referred quickly through the normal route.