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Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for call centres and customer contact centre environments

Guidance for call centre or customer contact centre environments on safe operation during the coronavirus pandemic.

9 page PDF

234.4 kB

9 page PDF

234.4 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for call centres and customer contact centre environments
Operational guide and checklist

9 page PDF

234.4 kB

Operational guide and checklist

This is information about changing the workplace environment (this includes where work may take place in a home) to protect your workforce and customers.

As a minimum, we expect:

  • enhanced health and safety measures to be in place before staff are asked to return to work, including physical distancing guidance and enhanced hygiene and cleaning measures, generally and at bottleneck situations
  • safe travel to work arrangements to be considered as part of a risk assessment, with any relevant adjustments adopted

Safe workplace planning and communications

Regular and ongoing engagement between organisations and trade union or workforce representatives is vital to ensure a safe working environment and related workforce confidence. This engagement must start well before a planned restart, or ramping up of activity, to allow completion of the necessary risk assessment and then identification and implementation of the relevant mitigation measures.

It is important everyone understands the measures taken to establish the safe working environment, to improve workforce confidence and support a recovery in productivity levels.

Physical distancing

Physical Distancing remains one of the most effective methods to protect ourselves and others from getting COVID-19. However, it is only one tool in our toolkit to suppress COVID-19. Good hand and respiratory hygiene, the use of face coverings and enhanced ventilation in indoor spaces are also key for reducing the risk of infection. All of these things, together, form an extremely effective package of interventions in supressing COVID-19.

Physical distancing rules are set out in legislation at The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020. These regulations legally require people responsible for businesses to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that:

  • the required distance is applied to all parts of a workplace, including staff canteens, entrances and exits, break rooms, smoking areas, and similar settings
  • the required distance is maintained between any persons either on or waiting to enter the premises
  • they only admit people to the premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance

The required distance is at least 2 metres. Only transport and hospitality (if allowed to operate based on the level of protection in force) have a reduced distance of at least 1 metre. This reduced distance is conditional on additional mitigations being implemented, as the risk of transmission at 1 metre is higher.

Businesses operating from non-domestic premises may want to consider calculating what their maximum physical distance based capacity (PDBC) limits are for their premises in order to manage the capacity to avoid breaching appropriate physical distancing rules.

Failure to comply with this requirement is an offence, and may result in a Fixed Penalty Notice being issued.

Public Health Scotland (PHS) published guidance for general (non-healthcare) settings. In carrying out their regular risk assessments, workplaces should consult it and consider the list of measures suggested there, which are designed to ensure that physical distancing is maintained.

Some of the measures that businesses should be taking into account are as follows:

  • rearranging the layout of the premises to promote physical distancing
  • introducing signage with clear marking of physical distancing boundaries around the workplace and workstations and signage that reinforces expectations of workers at relevant points.
  • limiting access to parts of the workplace required by an individual to do their job as this will limit chances for interaction with others
  • staggering break times and adjusting canteen arrangements to reduce larger numbers of staff and to ensure at least 2-metre distancing between those interacting on a face to face basis
  • splitting the workforce into teams to avoid cross-team contamination and provide a level of operational resilience in case someone in one team develops COVID-19 symptoms
  • considering  language barriers that employees may have and ensuring translation is provided to all staff

Moving around buildings and workplaces

Physical distancing should be maintained where possible whilst moving around buildings and workplaces. The following measures should be considered:

  • discouraging non-essential trips within buildings and sites
  • reducing job rotation, equipment rotation and location rotation
  • implementing one-way systems on walkways
  • reducing maximum occupancy for lifts, providing hand sanitiser for the operation of lifts and encouraging use of stairs
  • making sure that people who are disabled are able to access lifts whilst maintaining physical distancing measures
  • regulating use of high traffic areas including corridors, lifts, turnstiles and walkways to maintain physical distancing
  • advice on wearing face coverings

Workplaces and workstations

Workstations should be assigned to an individual where possible. If they need to be shared, they should be shared by the smallest possible number of people and workstations should be cleaned between each user.

If it is not possible to physically distance workstations, and those workstations are business critical, then extra attention needs to be paid to equipment, cleaning and hygiene to reduce risk:

  • reviewing layouts to allow workers to work further apart
  • using floor tape or paint to mark areas to aid physical distancing
  • using screens to create a physical barrier between people
  • using a consistent pairing system if people have to work in close proximity

Common areas

It is important to maintain physical distancing in common areas by:

  • staggering break times to reduce pressure on break/eating areas
  • using safe outside areas for breaks
  • encouraging workers to bring their own food
  • providing packaged meals to avoid opening staff canteens
  • using workplace areas that have been freed up by home working
  • reconfiguring seating and tables to maintain physical distancing spacing
  • using protective screening for staff in public facing areas
  • regulating use of locker rooms, changing areas and other facility areas to reduce concurrent usage
  • encouraging storage of personal items and clothing in personal storage spaces, for example lockers, during working hours
  • considering use of physical distance marking for areas such as toilets, showers, lockers and changing rooms and in any other areas where queues typically form
  • minimising crowding in congested areas in your premises such as narrow corridors, staircases, doorways and storage areas by introducing one way systems


To reduce or eliminate transmission due to face-to-face meetings:

  • using remote working tools to avoid in-person meetings
  • only absolutely necessary participants should attend meetings and should maintain physical distancing throughout
  • avoiding sharing pens or other objects
  • providing hand sanitiser in meeting rooms
  • holding meetings outdoors or in well ventilated rooms
  • using floor signage to help people maintain physical distancing

Where the physical distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue. If so, they should take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission. A risk assessment should be conducted and documented. Further mitigating actions include:

  • increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
  • good ventilation in workplaces
  • maximising the distance between people as much as possible
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)
  • if people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, then you will need to assess whether the activity can safely go ahead. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment
  • those who are deemed high risk, for example those who have been shielding, should not be asked to work in areas where mitigation measures identified in the risk assessment are compromised

Two metre physical distancing applies to all parts of a business, not just the place where people spend most of their time, but also entrances and exits, break rooms, smoking areas, canteens and similar settings. These are often the most challenging areas to maintain physical distancing in and may require clear communication and supervision to ensure mitigation measures are followed.


In the case of staff canteens the physical distancing requirements vary based on the restriction level your business is in at the time - the following physical distancing should then apply:

Level 3 and 4: 2 metre distancing will apply

Level 1 and 2: 1 metre distancing will apply

This variation is reflective of the reduced restrictions that apply as we move through the levels and therefore in levels 1 and 2 a staff canteen is considered within Regulations as a “reduced distance premises” ( as is the case with café’s)

Employers should continue to ensure that the key mitigations below are implemented and followed to ensure continued risk is reduced within all workplace environments.

Find out the level and rules for an area using the postcode checker.  

Following the physical distancing guidance will mitigate against the risk of staff  being identified as a ‘close contact’ of a colleague who tests positive for coronavirus, and would have to self-isolate at home.

Travel to work and work-related travel

Public Health Scotland has provided COVID-19 information and guidance for general (non-healthcare) settings stating people should not travel if they exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms. The PHS  advice and any subsequent safe travelling advice should be factored into company decisions on planned returns to work. Transport Scotland have produced guidance to assist the public to travel safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It is important that the latest version is read.

Transport Scotland have produced guidance to assist the public to travel safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It is important that the latest version is read. 

The advice is to avoid unnecessary work-related travel with an emphasis on keeping people safe when they do need to travel between locations:

  • minimise non-essential travel – consider remote options first
  • minimise the number of people travelling together in any one vehicle, using fixed travel partners, increasing ventilation when possible and avoiding sitting face-to-face
  • ensure drivers and passengers maintain good hygiene and wash their hands regularly
  • clean shared vehicles between shifts or on handover
  • where workers are required to stay away from home, centrally logging the stay and making sure any overnight accommodation meets physical distancing guidelines

The Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scotland’s Strategic Framework includes travel and transport arrangements. Employers and employees should note what applies to their areas, including any differentiation across different relevant areas.
Please refer to   COVID-19 Protection Levels for up to date guidance in your area.

Coming to work and leaving work

The following measures should be considered:  

  • if you are travelling in a vehicle (or other forms of transport) as part of your job or business, safe operation of workplaces applies, therefore please refer to advice on car and vehicle sharing and  advice on how to travel safely and your employer. 
  • staggering arrival and departure times to reduce crowding into and out of the workplace, taking account of impacts on those with protected characteristics and caring responsibilities for example noting the staggered school and nursery start and finishing times 
  • defining process alternatives for entry/exit points where appropriate, for example, deactivating pass readers or keypads at turnstiles in favour of showing a pass to security personnel at a distance
  • reducing congestion, for example, by increasing entry/exit points
  • providing handwashing facilities, or hand sanitiser where not possible, at entry and exit points
  • using markings and introducing one-way flow at entrances/exits
  • providing additional parking or facilities such as bike racks to help people walk, run, or cycle to work where possible
  • limiting passengers in corporate vehicles
  • providing more storage for workers’ clothes and bags

Enhanced hygiene

Enhanced hygiene measures are key workplace-specific measures to create a safe working environment. These include:

  • sanitiser and hand wash facilities at key points, including on entry and exit points
  • additional sanitiser and handwash facilities at communal areas
  • regular cleaning of work equipment, chairs and work stations including considering how often and where deep cleans may be required (especially where work stations are shared facilities)
  • regular cleaning and sanitising of break out areas, including chairs and tables and other welfare facilities e.g. fridges, kettles, vending machines etc.
  • composition of chairs in staff breakout areas should be reviewed to ensure they can be effectively cleaned.
  • minimising the use of touchpoints throughout buildings, including exploring where possible how digital processes or systems may replace the need for face-to-face discussion 

Hygiene – handwashing, sanitation facilities and toilets

To help everyone keep good hygiene through the working day:

  • providing regular reminders and signage to uphold hygiene standards
  • providing hand sanitiser at multiple points, in addition to washrooms
  • setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets to ensure they are kept clean and physical distancing is achieved where possible
  • enhancing cleaning of touch points in busy areas
  • special care should be taken for cleaning of portable toilets
  • providing more waste facilities and frequent rubbish collection
  • providing either paper towels or electrical driers for drying hands

Keeping the workplace clean and disinfecting

To keep the workplace clean and prevent transmission:

  • frequent, for example at least twice a day, cleaning and sanitising work areas and equipment between uses. Ensure regular detergent cleaning schedules and procedures are in place using a product which is active against bacteria and viruses
  • frequent cleaning and sanitising objects and surfaces that are touched regularly and making sure there are adequate disposal arrangements
  • clearing workspaces and removing waste and belongings from the work area at the end of a shift or between use of desk/area
  • wedging doors open, where appropriate, to reduce touchpoints. This does not apply to fire doors
  • if you are cleaning and disinfecting after a known or suspected case of COVID-19 then refer to the guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings, this includes guidance on when PPE might be appropriate and how to dispose of waste.

Cleaning and disinfecting the workplace before reopening

To ensure workplaces that were closed or partially operated are clean and ready to restart, including:

  • an assessment for all sites, or parts of sites, that have been closed, before restarting work
  • cleaning and disinfecting procedures and providing hand sanitiser, before restarting work, in line with any requirements for reopening after prolonged closure
  • checking whether you need to service or adjust ventilation systems. Advice can be sought from your heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineers or advisers. See HSE guidance on Air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus outbreak
  • opening windows and doors frequently to encourage ventilation, where possible. This does not apply to fire doors

Legionella testing

Water systems may become stagnant when not in use, increasing the risk of legionella within water supplies. To mitigate this risk ahead of re-opening public buildings or offices that may have been closed for an extended period during lockdown:

Changing facilities

To minimise the risk of transmission in changing rooms and showers:

  • setting clear use and cleaning guidance for showers, lockers and changing rooms to ensure they are kept clean and clear of personal items and that physical distancing is achieved as much as possible
  • restrict number of people within the changing areas at any time
  • enhance cleaning and sanitising of facilities regularly throughout the day

Handling goods, merchandise and other materials, and onsite vehicles

To reduce transmission from objects and vehicles at the workplace:

  • Implement cleaning and sanitising procedures for goods and merchandise entering the site. This should include hand sanitisation before and after handling goods, good ventilation, cleaning of surfaces and any other mitigating actions
  • cleaning and sanitising procedures for vehicles
  • regular cleaning and sanitising of reusable delivery boxes
  • restricting non-business deliveries
  • ensuring physical distancing is followed when supplies etc. are delivered
  • collecting items in bulk to reduce the frequency of collections
  • removing waste in bulk if possible
  • enhanced handling procedures of laundry to prevent contamination of surrounding surfaces (do not shake linen on removal, do not place used linen on the floor or any other surfaces)

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

PPE protects users against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes face masks and respiratory protective equipment, such as respirators.

HPS guidance for general (non-healthcare) settings offers advice on the use of PPE, confirming organisations should continue to use any PPE required as per local policies (business as usual) and in line with measures justified by a risk assessment. Both the Scottish Government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend a risk based approach focused on a hierarchy of control which seeks to eliminate risks, combat risks at source, adapt workplaces to individual needs, ensure adequate staff training around processes to manage the risk and then use PPE where required.

Where PPE is deemed necessary, an adequate supply and quality must be maintained which is provided free of charge to workers and which must fit properly. Note that face coverings are not considered PPE.

Face coverings

It is important to note the difference between face masks and face coverings. Face coverings are not classified as PPE such as surgical masks which are used in some settings such as hospitals to protect wearers against hazards and risks. Face coverings are instead largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.

We have issued guidance on the personal use of face coverings. 

The guidance relates to use of face coverings by members of the public in specific circumstances. This advice is not intended as an infection prevention and control measure for the workplace where there are other health and safety considerations and measures in place such as physical distancing and hygiene controls. Physical distancing, environmental cleaning along with good hand washing and respiratory hygiene, are the most important and effective measures we can all adopt to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The wearing of facial coverings must not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions. The Scottish Government also encourages use of re-usable, washable face coverings, rather than single use masks to minimise plastic waste.

You are legally obliged to wear a face covering in indoor communal areas for face coverings in schools except where an exemption applies (as defined in the legislation), or where there is a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to wear a face covering such as exercising/ undertaking a physical activity or eating and drinking in certain hospitality premises with table service such as cafes and restaurants. (This would apply to workplace canteens). A face covering must be worn whenever you move away from a seated position.

Consult the up to date advice on wearing face coverings which includes  exemption cards This may change with each review stage.

Face coverings are only one of the measures to suppress COVID-19 and these should not be used to substitute the other measures needed to contain the virus. Therefore, when wearing a face covering, good hand and respiratory hygiene and physical distancing should still be enforced. These measures together are extremely effective in suppressing COVID-19.

Temperature checks

We do not recommend the use of temperature checking employees as a means of testing for COVID-19 due to the low efficacy rate of this method. Further information about the reliability of temperature checking as a test for COVID-19 can be found on the MHRA website:

COVID-19 symptoms in the workplace

Workers have a responsibility to ensure they adhere to overall COVID-19 advice which says people with symptoms should remain at home and self-isolate or if members of their household has symptoms then follow the household isolation guidance (stay at home). Organisations, workers and those identified through other means as having contact or being a COVID case (even if asymptomatic) should remain in regular communication throughout any period of self-isolation. Organisations are encouraged to work with trade union or workforce representatives to enable individuals to work from home while self-isolating if appropriate.

If an individual develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19, you should help them arrange to be tested by directing them to NHS Inform or having them call 0800 028 2816.

As part of risk assessments organisations should explore with trade union or workforce representatives how to respond should anyone develop symptoms while at work, including whether it is possible to identify any particular parts of the site the individual may have accessed or equipment used while symptomatic. Consideration should be given to how best to monitor health of all individuals in a workplace.

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

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 Incident Management Team will 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 - for cleaning and waste management, refer to guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings for maintaining hygiene
  • consider wider testing of affected population and staff
  • information - ensure that staff (and other relevant people) are aware of what has happened and the actions being taken
  • 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.

Dealing with emergencies

Emergency, evacuation and accident response processes need to be considered to ensure effective arrangements, which meet physical distancing requirements, are in place. Everyone onsite should be familiar with new processes.


The interpretation and use of guidance should be considered in line with normal protective security operations and practices. Organisations should involve their security departments in the interpretation and implementation of the guidance. In particular, security should be considered in any revised risk assessment.

Under no circumstances do we advise the removal or alteration of, or reduction in, existing protective security measures without providing clear recommendations (e.g. from the National Technical Authority/police CT specialists) on how to maintain effective protective security. 

This should extend to measures not primarily intended to provide a protective security benefit, but nonetheless doing so. For example removal of street furniture that could make moving or queueing pedestrians more at risk of vehicle-as-a-weapon attacks. Security staff should remain focused on security duties. Where COVID-19 creates additional staffing requirements, e.g. for queue management, organisations should ensure additional suitable staff resource is made available. Organisations should ensure security staff feel safe, e.g. having access to appropriate PPE and hand-washing facilities, and that they are able and confident to raise any concerns.

Read further detailed CPNI and UK Government guidance on security.

Deliveries, distribution and contractors

As a minimum, we expect organisations to:

  • provide early clarity to supply chain about honouring orders in the system
  • treat all site visitors as if they were workers, providing the same protections and expecting them to follow the same rules

Site visitors 

Many sites, especially larger sites, may normally have a number of contractors and visitors not employed by the company running the site. This presents increased risk of virus transmission if people do not adhere to the same interpretation of rules. To address this risk companies should consider limiting site access to those who need to be there for safe operation. Do so by ensuring safe working practices and production related activities and implementing a permit to work system for contractors and external visitors who still need to access the site. This would set out requirements for how everyone behaves on a site including entering and leaving the site, clarifying responsibilities for all around maintaining good hygiene and physical distancing.

Employers should consider the following steps to minimise unnecessary visits to offices:

  • encouraging visits via remote connection/working where this is an option
  • determining if schedules for essential services and contractor visits can be revised to reduce interaction and overlap between people, for example, carrying out services at night

Where visits continue, employers should consider the following steps:

  • provide handwashing and hand sanitiser and encourage visitors to wash their hands regularly
  • provide clear guidance on physical distancing and hygiene to people on arrival, for example, signage, and visual aids and before arrival, such as by phone, on the website or by email
  • regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded; add placing markers on the floor to maintain Scottish Government physical distancing recommendations inside the premises
  • determine whether schedules for essential services and contractor visits can be revised to reduce interaction and overlap between people.
  • maintain a record of all visitors, to support test and trace if required
  • revise visitor arrangements to ensure physical distancing and hygiene, for example, where someone physically signs in with the same pen

Easing restrictions will not mean returning to how things were before the virus. Physical distancing, hand hygiene, and other critical behaviours will be essential in each area to ensure public and workforce confidence.

This guidance will be updated and reviewed as required in consultation with the sector’s organisations and unions. Please ensure you use the latest version. 


We have produced a checklist to support organisations to implement this guidance. The checklist reflects the minimum expectations outlined in this guidance document.

Organisations who wish to increase workforce or public confidence are encouraged to display the checklist to help to communicate actions being implemented or undertaken.



First published: 26 Nov 2020 Last updated: 3 Jun 2021 -