Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer businesses and workplaces

Guidance for businesses and workplaces on reducing the risk of COVID-19 and supporting staff and customers.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer businesses and workplaces
Test and Protect and self-isolation

Test and Protect and self-isolation

Test and Protect

Everyone should continue to follow Test and Protect rules and guidance which means you should stay at home if you have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, even if you have received two doses and a booster of the COVID-19 vaccination.

If an individual becomes unwell with possible COVID-19 symptoms, receives a positive COVID-19 test result, or is required to self-isolate while away from home (including while in the workplace), public transport should be avoided.

A PCR test should be arranged as soon as possible (for individuals displaying possible COVID-19 symptoms) and a well-ventilated place should be found where the individual can be separated from others while waiting to go home. Individuals should only drive if well enough to do so and follow Transport Scotland’s advice on advice on how to travel safely and the Scottish Government guidance on travel outwith Scotland (covers the UK and other countries).

Risks of transmission and ability to put in place full mitigations when making travel arrangements should be carefully considered:

  • individuals may be transported in a private vehicle by a friend or family member if they have already had significant contact with them, or if the friend or family member is aware of the possible COVID-19 diagnosis, and accepts the risk of transmission. Vaccination, face coverings, regular LFD testing and acting quickly on symptoms are all vitally important if supporting a friend or family member in this way
  • private commercial vehicles may potentially be used if they have mitigations in place and additional precautions are taken to minimise the risk of transmission, e.g. face coverings/masks, maximised ventilation, physical distancing, post-journey cleaning
  • in all vehicles, individuals should wear a face covering, or surgical face mask if available, and the vehicle should be well-ventilated with open windows and with all occupants following hand and respiratory hygiene i.e. hand sanitising regularly and coughing into a tissue and disposing of it safely

Self-isolation

Please refer to latest guidance on symptomatic people, positive tests, close contact guidance and self-isolation at Test and Protect.

Support for employees self-isolating

Employers are encouraged to 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. 

Further advice and guidance is available for employers and employees from:

Keeping employees safe if they've ended self-isolation

Even if someone is fully vaccinated, they can still get coronavirus and pass it on to others.

Close contacts who meet the criteria to end self-isolation should adhere to the same precautionary measures and follow guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread.

After a confirmed positive case amongst employees all the staff members should consider the following:

  • limiting close contact with colleagues and customers, especially in enclosed spaces
  • wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and where you cannot maintain physical distancing
  • limiting contact with anyone who is at highest risk
  • taking part in twice weekly lateral flow device (LFD) testing
  • If you are planning to visit people in care homes or hospitals after contact with a positive case follow the current guidance

If you work in health and social care, you should follow the guidance specific to these settings

Outbreak management

Employers should include outbreak management plans in their COVID-19 risk assessments and make sure employees are aware of these plans. This should include plans for employees who become ill at work with COVID-19 symptoms and have to travel home. These plans should also include protocols for communication with Test and Protect and local Health Protection teams.

All staff should be aware of organisation protocols to inform a member of staff, manager or responsible person if they develop symptoms of COVID-19 while at work.

An outbreak should be suspected if you are notified of two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in your setting within 14 days, particularly if there is a suspected link between the cases. Suspected outbreaks should:

  • be reported to your local Health Protection Team for surveillance, awareness and risk assessment purposes
  • trigger an internal review by management of the workplace’s assessment of risk and mitigation measures and any improvements made to their implementation

The level of response to the outbreak from the HPT will be based on the HPT’s risk assessment, taking into account the specific workplace setting, the number or proportion of employees or other attendees affected, and the potential public health impact of the incident. It is the role of the HPT to declare an outbreak, assess it, and declare it at an end, including whether a business should be closed or can remain open.

In order to protect public health, it is particularly important to respond quickly to potential outbreaks identified in businesses, where the conditions that prevail in environments (including cool temperatures, low UV and poor ventilation) can enable the virus to persist and spread quickly. Senior management/owners in these businesses should regularly engage with their managers to ensure that any case of COVID-19 reported to them is followed up to identify potential risk factors that could lead to the rapid spread of infection to other members of staff e.g. through shared accommodation or transport.

If there is any indication that an outbreak of COVID-19 may have occurred in the workforce (or that there may be an increased risk of one occurring-see above), the business must contact their local NHS Board Health Protection Team (HPT) at the earliest opportunity.

The health board, in line with the Management of Public Health Incidents Guidance, may call an Incident Management Team (IMT) who will investigate the cause, identify any actions that need to be taken and provide advice on how the outbreak and appropriate public health measures should be communicated externally to prevent the spread of infection.

To support the IMT, employers should record the measures they have implemented to demonstrate that they are taking appropriate action to protect their workforce from the risks of infection. As part of a risk assessment process, employers are expected to undertake internal audit, to review and record their COVID-19 prevention plans on an on-going basis, and can be used to provide evidence to the IMT of the actions they have taken.

All decisions on how to respond to an outbreak will be based on all the available evidence, balancing public health considerations, the local community, the welfare of employees, and the impact on the business.

In circumstances where the IMT needs to consider closing the business, it may be possible to restrict this to only certain parts of the workplace where there is evidence that the risk of spreading COVID-19 is confined to those areas or particular staff groups. Regardless of whether it is necessary to close the business either partially or in full, the IMT will work with the business to ensure it can reopen safely at the earliest opportunity, subject to public health concerns being addressed and there being sufficient staff available to safely carry out the work.

Recommendations for actions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace and amongst staff will be considered by the IMT, recorded in the minutes of the meetings and communicated formally by the chair of the IMT to the business. The IMT will also ensure that the appropriate regulators (HSE or Local Authority Environmental Health Department) are involved in these discussions.

Enforcement action will be taken when it is identified that a business is not adhering to public health guidance to control COVID-19 health risks to workers. The authority responsible for enforcing these requirements will be either the Local Authority Environmental Health Service or the HSE. Government Ministers are also able to direct the closure of a business.

Where a business is found to be non-compliant, the relevant enforcing authority will consider a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks including the provision of specific advice through to issuing enforcement notices or even prosecution.

The re-opening of a premise following a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak is a decision for the IMT, together with the appropriate regulatory body. Guidance on how to reopen will be provided as quickly as possible based on the following:

  • compliance with any recommendations or improvement notices regarding exclusions and the installation of cleaning facilities to promote good personal hygiene, including the adequate provision of hand sanitiser, toilets and hand washing facilities; and environmental cleaning to a satisfactory level
  • implementation of a COVID-19 safe environment to ensure that the risk of further spread in the workplace is reduced to a minimum

Contact

Email: DLECONPSWT@gov.scot

First published: 23 Dec 2021 Last updated: 20 Jan 2022 -