Workforce planning and support
- building trust in the workplace
- apprenticeships and training providers
- continue home working
- Test and Protect: workers who need to self-isolate
- Test and Protect – contact tracing app
- workplace testing
- employee health and wellbeing
Returning workers may have some level of apprehension about their safety. They may require reassurance and demonstrations of the recommended mitigation measures identified by risk assessments. Organisations should communicate with workers regularly. Multiple channels should be used to reinforce key messages. Visual material may be beneficial in demonstrating changes that have, or are being made. Especially where language barriers exists.
A clear message from organisation and trade unions is that building and maintaining worker confidence is vitally important and a challenge that should not be underestimated. Nobody should go to work if their workplace is closed under current government regulations.
Information about supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not. As a minimum we expect:
- working from home to continue, where possible
- new organisational arrangements to be tested and modified through collaboration between organisations and workers
- organisations to take travel to work, current schooling arrangements and childcare considerations into account in decisions around a phased restart, noting the disproportionate impact that these consideration have on women
- health factors to be considered in any phasing of who returns to work, with workers living in at risk or shielded households only expected to return when new safe working environment measures have been implemented and a return to the workplace is consistent with individual medical advice. Those identified as being at the highest risk from COVID-19 should follow the most up to date advice
- the health, including mental health, and well-being of workers to be considered
- home working to continue where this is possible - Full home working guidance provides more information for employers on this. Please also see the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice on home working for further information.
The following guides from the Health and Safety Executive provide useful sources of information:
- Working safely during the coronavirus outbreak – a short guide
- Talking with your workers about working safely during the coronavirus outbreak.
Apprentices can return to work at the same time as their co-workers. For specific concerns regarding the safe return to work for apprentices there is information and support and apprentices can speak to an advisor directly on 0800 917 8000.
It is important to ensure there is a functioning training infrastructure to support economic recovery and the sustainability of apprenticeship programmes. For those training providers and assessors that are providing continuity of contracted services for apprentices, learners and employers in the workplace during the pandemic must adhere to the applicable sectoral guidance.
The following guides from the Health and Safety Executive provide useful sources of information:
- working safely during the coronavirus outbreak - a short guide
- talking with your workers about working safely during the coronavirus outbreak
Home working should be the default, where possible. Minimising the spread of the virus is fundamental in ensuring the overall protection of public health. Organisations should plan for the minimum number of people in the workplace to operate safely and effectively. A phased return will be necessary for many organisations.
Home working will be new to many and may have been implemented at pace, without normal health and safety planning to ensure people have suitable working arrangements and equipment. Employers are responsible by law for the health, safety and welfare at work of their workers and these responsibilities apply wherever their staff are working. Arrangements for the welfare of employees must provide for homeworkers, as well as those who work in the employer’s workplace.
If an employer is asking their employees to work from home, consideration must be given to the type of environment they are being asked to work in. Caring responsibilities - which often are undertaken by women, multigenerational households - which may be a particular issue within certain minority ethnic groups, space constraints and noise levels are just some of the considerations that need to be taken into account. Assumptions should not be made that everyone has a suitable place from which to work at home, this should be explored with each employee.
Full home working guidance provides more information on this.
Please also see the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice on home working.
We are providing this information, to help you make choices about your day to day activities and interactions including work. Read the specific guidance for those on the shielding list.
Test and Protect, Scotland’s approach to implementing the 'test, trace, isolate, support' strategy is a public health measure designed to break chains of transmission of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community.
The NHS will test people who have symptoms, trace people who may have become infected by spending time in close contact with someone who tests positive, and then support those close contacts to self-isolate. That means if they have the virus they are less likely to pass it on to others. Organisations will play a vital role in ensuring that their workers are aware of and able to follow the public health advice.
Organisations are to follow public health guidance and Test and Protect employers guidance if a worker becomes unwell with coronavirus symptoms at work, see further information below. The person should leave work to self‑isolate straight away and, if possible, wear a face covering on route and avoid public transport.
Organisations should direct workers to NHS Inform or, if they can’t get online, call 0800 028 2816, to arrange to get tested.
Until they have been tested and told if it is safe to leave home, organisations should make sure that staff do not have to, or feel that they have to, come in to work. Workers can request an isolation note through NHS Inform.
Where Infection Prevention Control measures have been utilised such as protective screen or use of PPE the contact tracer will conduct a risk assessment to identify contacts at risk. The priority is to public health in order to break the chain of transmission of COVID-19.
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 in Scotland is focussed on settings with higher transmission rates and sites identified by local health board leads. Introduction of targeted testing aims to ensure that testing is more sustainable longer term as we support the economy to recover.
Targeted community testing in geographical areas with high levels of prevalence has been set up and it includes employers in the area where deemed appropriate by the relevant local authority. Targeted testing supports clinical care, protects the vulnerable, breaks chains of transmission and supports the operation of essential services. See Coronavirus (COVID-19) Testing Strategy for further information.
For businesses within sectors with a risk of increased rates of transmission the following asymptomatic testing routes are 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
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, follow FACTS and continue to align their approach with published guidance.
Individuals who received a vaccine should remain vigilant and adhere to all mitigations measures in place to ensure that all staff and visitors to workplace are afforded the same level of protection from transmission of the virus.
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. The pandemic has had an unequal impact across society. Groups, and individuals, will have been affected in diverse ways according to factors such as their job role, and demographic/personal circumstances.
Therefore, it is important organisations foster a fair and inclusive working environment that does not tolerate discrimination. There is also a risk of victimisation of those infected, suspected, or more at risk of catching COVID-19 which should be addressed.
Pay for workers who are shielding, self-isolating, sick or balancing care responsibilities, which is more likely to be undertaken by women, is likely to be a source of concern for workers. Organisations should 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 also 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 this 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. Further information
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Scotland can provide advice on a range of issues such as:
- reasonable adjustments for disabled people and communication with employees on equality issues
- support for pregnant employees or employees on maternity leave
- flexible working for those with caring responsibilities
- how to deal with harassment at work
They 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. The RNIB also provide information on employing partially sighted and blind workers during COVID, and a COVID risk assessment tool.