Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the technology sector

Guidance for the technology sector on safe re-opening during the coronavirus pandemic.

Contents
Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the technology sector
Overview

Overview

This guidance is for the technology sector and applies to companies where digital is a key component of the business, e.g. businesses involved in the development of software or hardware, and covers sub-sectors such as cyber, data, infrastructure, and software engineering.  It comes into effect immediately (21 August 2020) - and extends until further notice. Guidance will be reviewed on a regular basis in line with the regular three weekly review of lockdown requirements.

This document is provided as guidance only and does not amount to legal advice. Companies may wish to seek their own advice to ensure compliance with all legal requirements.

The Scottish Government is keen to build confidence and create the right environment for supporting safer work as we continue to live with COVID-19.

We have worked with employers and trade unions from the technology sector to ensure that this guidance is evidence-based, fair and ethical, clear and realistic. As each workplace is different it is for individual businesses to work with trade union or workforce representatives to determine how best to apply this guidance in their circumstances.

Read workplace guidance that has been developed for other sectors.

This guide is underpinned by a spirit of collaborative working between companies and their freelance, contract, and/or managed workforces. Throughout the term companies and trade union or workforce representatives is used in that context, recognising that companies have a legal responsibility to maintain workplace health and safety and must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there is not one, a representative chosen by workers. Companies cannot decide who the workforce representative will be. Where no trade union recognition exists, roving Health and Safety representatives will be available upon request to support the development of workplace risk assessments, as stated in a joint statement between Scottish Government and the STUC. These representatives can be contacted by emailing safety@stuc.org.uk

This document is one of a set of documents about how to work safely and with confidence in different types of workplaces. This guidance is for use by the technology sector in Scotland. It sets out our expectations on what businesses of all sizes and sub-sectors need to consider as part of their planning for return to workplaces. The guidance emphasises in particular the importance of undertaking a robust and ongoing risk based assessment with full input from trade union or workforce representatives, and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that workplaces continue to feel, and be, safe.

To judge whether and when restrictions can be changed we will consider a range of evidence on the progress of the pandemic in Scotland  using the principles set out in Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making and our long established commitment to fair work. As Scotland continues to ease lockdown restrictions, organisations including the Institute of Directors (IoD), SCDI, STUC, COSLA and SCVO have signed a fair work statement underlining the collaborative approach needed between employers, unions and workers to ensure workplaces can operate safely. This guidance is based on those principles.

The remainder of this guidance sets out our minimum expectations across five key areas companies should consider as part of their planning for return to the workplace and ongoing service delivery while minimising the transmission of the virus:

  • assessing risk - involving the workforce in a risk based approach to a safer workplace
  • workforce planning - 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 co-regulators for health and safety at work, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authority Environmental Health services, are constantly applying their expertise to ensure people at work are protected, utilising the powers at their disposal under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

HSE is treating COVID-19 as a workplace health issue with regard to the protection of workers from infection. Both regulators can and will use the Health and Safety Work Act to ensure hygiene and physical distancing measures are applied to safeguard health working environments for staff.

Where regulators identify employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health guidance to control COVID-19 health risks to workers, both regulators will consider a range of actions to improve the control of workplace risks including provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices. These actions will be taken under existing health and safety law (HSWA).

Workers can raise queries with Local Authority Environmental Health Officers and with HSE around working safely. HSE can be contacted by phone on 0300 003 1647 or online. A framework agreement between Police Scotland and local authorities supports the referral of complaints to the relevant Local authority about lack of reasonable physical distancing at work. Local authorities will ensure that those complaints relevant to HSE are referred quickly through the normal route.

The guidance has been published now to give employers and employees the time they need to plan and prepare.