Workforce planning and support
Information about supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not.
- building trust
- continue home working
- Test and Protect: workers who need to self-isolate
- Test and Protect – Contact tracing app
- pilot measures
- employee health and wellbeing
- health and safety
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. Exceptions to this are for essential purposes such as necessary maintenance or conservation and preparation work for re-opening.
As a minimum we expect:
- working from home to continue, where possible
- health factors to be considered in any phasing of who returns to work, with workforce living in vulnerable or shielded households only expected to return when new safe working environment measures have been implemented and a return to onsite work 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
- new arrangements to be tested and modified through collaboration between organisations and their workforce and
- organisations to take travel to work and childcare considerations into account in decisions around a phased restart, noting the disproportionate impact that these consideration have on women
- the health, including mental health, and wellbeing of workers to be considered
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.
As an employer you may wish for small groups of workers to form work cohorts. As a worker, you may be already working or be asked to work in a cohort.
Organisations should make every reasonable effort to make working from home the default position as it has been throughout the pandemic. Where a worker can perform their work from home, they should continue to do so.
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, advice and tools to help you make choices about your day to day activities and interactions including work.
Specific guidance for those on the shielding list can be found at support for shielding on mygov.scot. This includes information on:
- working in current restrictions
- financial assistance
- Chief Medical Officer letters
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 employer’s 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.
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. Further information and guidance available at Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination.
In addition, the Coronavirus (COVID-19): fair work statement states: “Our success in managing the virus at this critical stage depends on employers supporting workers to self-isolate and attend for vaccination when advised to do so, without any financial detriment.
As implementing new enhanced safety measures may take time to embed it is good practice to pilot measures, either within part of a facility and / or with a proportion of the workforce at lower risk from the virus, before rolling out across the workplace as a whole. Travel to work and childcare considerations for individual employees should be taken into account by organisations, in discussion with trade unions or employee representatives, before deciding which individuals to involve in pilots and a phased restart. Employers should be aware that there is a gender dimension to these considerations, for example women are more likely to have caring responsibilities and be dependent upon public transport.
Employers should ensure the organisation culture is inclusive, with the aim that every member of the workforce should feel that they are returning to a supportive, caring and safe environment. The pandemic has had an unequal impact across the workforce, as different workforce 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 vulnerable to 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 Scottish Government’s commitment to advancing equality and 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 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.
Consideration should be given within the risk assessment as to whether sector restart might have greater impact on some groups than others depending on social circumstances, health conditions or legally protected characteristics. The Equality and Human Rights Commission can provide advice on a range of issues such as non-discrimination, communication with employees on equality issues, adjustments for disabled people, support for pregnant employees, flexible working for those with caring responsibilities, support for employees affected by domestic abuse, how to deal with harassment at work, and mental health issues.
For example given that there is some evidence which suggests that COVID-19 may impact disproportionately on some groups (Minority Ethnic communities), organisations should ensure that Occupational Health Service provide practical support to Minority Ethnic staff, particularly where they are anxious about protecting themselves and their families. All Minority Ethnic staff with underlying health conditions and disabilities, who are over 70, or who are pregnant should be individually risk assessed, and appropriate reasonable or workplace adjustments should be made following risk assessment.
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. Read further information about the impact.
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 about 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.
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.