Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): general guidance for safer workplaces

Guidance on safer working during the coronavirus pandemic for businesses and organisations not covered by sectoral guidance, for example general offices.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): general guidance for safer workplaces
Workforce planning and support

Workforce planning and support

Test and Protect: workers who need to self-isolate

Advice for employers and employees on what to do should an individual(s) need to self-isolate, can be accessed below.

If a worker becomes unwell with coronavirus symptoms at work, the person should return home as soon as possible and follow the guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection. Where possible they should minimise contact with others, e.g. use a private vehicle to journey home, use of the public transport should be discouraged, however individuals who have no other option but to use public transport should adhere to mitigation measures such as:  

Please read Test and Protect employers guidance for further information.

Organisations should direct workers to NHS Inform or, if they can’t get online, call 0800 028 2816, to arrange to get tested.

Organisations should make sure that staff do not have to, or feel that they have to, come in to work if they are self-isolating. Workers can request an isolation note through NHS Inform.

Test and Protect – contact tracing app

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 customers is available.  

Workplace testing 

Workplace testing in Scotland will now be open to all Scottish businesses over 10 employees. This approach aims to support and protect Scottish businesses as they return to work, especially those with younger members of staff who may not be fully vaccinated and therefore more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections. Those businesses under 10 employees can freely access the universal testing programme. We will review our approach to workplace testing in September 2021.

Workplace testing aims to break chains of transmission and supports the operation of essential services.

For Scottish businesses over 10 employees the following asymptomatic testing routes are now available :

  • workplace Lateral Flow Device Asymptomatic Test Site (LFD ATS)
  • workplace Lateral Flow Device Testing Collect (LFD Collect)
  • private testing 
  • universal testing (available to all asymptomatic people in Scotland)

If a business is currently not eligible for workplace testing via the Scottish Government the testing routes available are:

  • companies can set up their own private testing arrangements  
  • universal testing for employees who are not participating in other schemes in an education or workplace settings. Employees can collect their own test kits from a local test site or order online for the tests to be sent via the post or also can collect from a registered community pharmacies across Scotland. 

The asymptomatic testing programme does not replace the current testing policy for those with symptoms (new continuous cough, fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste). Employees who experience symptoms of coronavirus must self-isolate immediately and arrange a PCR test. People with symptoms must not rely on a negative LFD result as a reason to continue to attend the workplace.

Our workplace testing strategy continues to evolve and adjust as more information and new technologies emerge. 


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 and continue to align their approach with published guidance. Individuals who received a vaccine should remain vigilant and continue to  adhere to all mitigations measures in place.

Further information and guidance available at Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination.

Employee health and wellbeing

Organisations should aim to create an inclusive environment. With the aim that every worker feels that they are returning to a supportive, caring and safe environment.

Organisations 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. 

Organisations should acknowledge the range of factors likely to cause stress or anxiety amongst employers and workers. 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 the potential for the pandemic to negatively impact on employee wellbeing. and direct anyone experiencing mental health issues towards available support. 

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.


In addition to the existing legal responsibilities under the Equality 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:

EHRC have also produced specific guidance for employers and  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, which overwhelming impacts women. The RNIB  also provide information on employing partially sighted and blind workers during COVID, and a COVID risk assessment tool.

Health and safety

Outbreak management

Organisations should suspect an outbreak if there is either:

  • two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the setting within 14 days


  • an increase in staff absence rates, in a setting, due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19

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 .

If possible and it is safe to do so, find a room or area where they can be isolated behind a closed door, such as a staff office or meeting room. If it is possible to open a window, do so for ventilation.

Arrangement should be made for the person experiencing symptoms to return home as soon as possible and follow the guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection. Where possible they should minimise contact with others, e.g. use a private vehicle to journey home, use of the public transport should be discouraged, however individuals who have no other option but to use public transport should adhere to mitigation measures such as:  

If an organisation suspects a COVID-19 outbreak, they should immediately inform their local NHS board Health Protection Team (HPT). Sometimes the first contact may be made by the local HPT to inform the organisation as the local HPT may get information from NHS Test & Protect or other sources.

In the event of an outbreak:

  • continue to follow the existing protection and control measures contained within this guidance
  • the local Health Protection Team will undertake a risk assessment and conduct a rapid investigation. They will advise on the most appropriate action to take.
  • staff who have had close contact with case(s) will be asked to self-isolate at home. In some cases, a larger number of other staff may be asked to self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure.
  • where settings are observing guidance on infection prevention and control, which will reduce risk of transmission, the local health protection team will take this into account in determining whether closure of the whole setting will be necessary.
  • depending on the risk assessment outcome, the Health Protection Team may establish an Incident Management Team (IMT) to help manage the situation
  • the IMTwill lead the Public Health response and investigations, and work with the organisation to put appropriate interventions in place 
  • to control an outbreak the Health Protection Team and Incident Management Team will work with the organisation to put appropriate interventions in place. These will generally include ensuring that the preventive measures described in this guidance are fully implemented.

Other measures may include:

  • cleaning in the setting - see guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings for maintaining hygiene and waste management
  • wider testing of affected population and staff
  • providing information - ensure that staff (and other relevant people) are aware of what has happened and the actions being taken
  • business closure - may be done following advice from the Health Protection Team and Incident Management Team or the business may make their own decision on closure ahead of this advice as a precaution or for business continuity reasons
  • the Health Protection Team or Incident Management Team will declare when the outbreak is over



First published: 8 Mar 2021 Last updated: 19 Jul 2021 -