What the law says
The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 places a duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to minimise the spread of coronavirus. If you are responsible for carrying on a business or proving a service you must, by law:
- take measures which are reasonably practicable to minimise the risk of the incidence and spread of coronavirus on your premises, including for example controlling the use of, or access to, your premises
- have regard to guidance issued by the Scottish Government about such measures, including this guidance
As explained earlier in this guidance, supporting staff to work from home for those roles that can be undertaken remotely is a way to comply with this duty.
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.
Failure to have regard to these duties can result in enforcement actions under public health regulations.
Under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA), local authority Environmental Health Services will usually be the relevant enforcing authority for how you control the risk of coronavirus in your area. In some cases, it may be the Health & Safety Executive, but in any case, enforcing authorities will apply the same requirements.
Local authorities also have powers under public health legislation, for example, covering whether businesses should be operating physical distancing requirements, or to ensure workers in the shielded category can follow the NHS advice to self-isolate for the period specified.
Where the enforcing authority identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with public health guidance to control COVID-19 health risks to workers, they will consider a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks, including the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices or even prosecution.
Although the requirement for people to stay at home in parts of Scotland is no longer in force, you should work from home if it is practicable for you to do so.
As stated in the employer section above, your employer has a legal duty to take all measures which are reasonably practicable to minimise the risk of the incidence and spread of coronavirus. If you feel your role can be done by working from home and you are currently attending your workplace, you should discuss arrangements with your employer.
If you are seeking support or looking to take things further, you may find the following sources useful:
- if you have a union representative, you may wish to contact them in the first instance for advice and support.
- The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) website: Further advice from ACAS can also be given by telephone on 0300 123 1100.
- workers can also raise enquiries about working safely with the Health and Safety Executive and with Local Authority Environmental Health Officers who are responsible for office environments.
- Scottish Hazards provide a free and confidential service for workers seeking workplace health and safety advice and support. This phone line is open Monday to Friday: call 0800 0015 022 for support, or see their website for other ways to get in touch.
- Scottish Mediation offers a Covid-19 mediation service to resolve conflicts with workers. The service is free for organisations with up to 5 workers.
- please see furlough guidance at Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.