Since midnight on the 4 January, mainland Scotland entered into lockdown. This was reviewed by Cabinet on 2 February and it was decided to extend the current restrictions, which will now remain in place across mainland Scotland and some island communities until at least the end of February.
On February 23, the First Minister announced that the updated Strategic Framework sets out how we will seek to accelerate the easing of restrictions to restore, on a phased basis, greater normality. If progress in suppressing the virus and vaccinating key groups remains on track, we will move fully back to a levels system from the last week in April.
This guidance sets out advice and guidance for customer contact and call centre employers and workers according to the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scotland's Strategic Framework and the Coronavirus (COVID-19): local protection levels.
In local protection level 1- 4 areas all offices and contact and call centres, public and private sector, even those in the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sector, are advised to work from home wherever that is practicable.
Offices and contact and call centres should plan to have the minimum levels of staff physically present to maintain production/services. Where those businesses can operate effectively through home working, that practice should be adopted.
Where working from home is not possible, businesses and organisations are encouraged to manage travel demand through staggered start times and flexible working patterns. Flexibility with working patterns will be even more critical in this level, should we face a scenario where local or national closure of formal childcare or schools is required due to rising transmission rates or local outbreaks.
In all levels at Level 1 and above we expect only essential offices to open and that working from home would be the norm. Even in the event of Level 0 we would advise working from home would remain the default position.
Given the current prevalence of the virus this guidance is unlikely to change any time in the near future, although there will continue to be regular reviews of this position.
This guidance also sets out our expectations for workplaces across five key areas. Organisations need to consider these to ensure workplaces are safe and the transmission of the virus is minimised:
- risk assessment - involving the workforce in a risk based approach to a safer workplace
- workforce planning and support - 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 emphasises the importance of undertaking robust and regular risk assessments with full input from trade unions or workforce representatives, and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that workplaces continue to feel, and be, safe.
After a workplace risk assessment has been undertaken and measures to reduce the risk of transmission have been put in place, staff and their managers should use the individual risk assessment tool to identify the individual’s vulnerability level. Staff should be active participants in this risk assessment which uses factors including age, ethnicity, in addition to underlying health conditions to stratify risk.
This guidance has been developed in collaboration with industry, trade unions, regulators, local authorities and others, including equality organisations. Protecting the health of workers is at the heart our approach. Partnership working is fundamental to establishing a shared confidence around the safety of returning to workplaces, protecting public health and supporting Scotland’s economic recovery.
Organisations should continue to make every reasonable effort to continue to support working from home. Where a worker can perform their work from home, they should continue to do so. Homeworking as a public health measure in response to the pandemic has been a crucial factor in mitigating the transmission of the virus amongst the general population.
Guidance will be reviewed on a regular basis in line with our priority to contain the spread of the virus, save lives and safeguard the NHS.
This document offers guidance only and does not amount to legal advice. Individual organisations may wish to seek their own advice to ensure compliance with all legal requirements.
As each workplace is different, individual organisations should work with trade union or workforce representatives to determine how best to apply this guidance in practice.