Advice to businesses
All businesses should follow the Scottish Government’s latest guidance for employers and businesses on COVID-19 and other relevant guidance including Health Protection Scotland (HPS) COVID-19 information and guidance for general (non-healthcare) settings.
Working from home as a public health measure has been a crucial factor in mitigating the transmission of the virus in the general public and is an effort we must continue. Organisations and businesses 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.
- Follow the work from home guidance. Where working from home is not possible businesses and organisations are encouraged to manage travel demand through staggered start times and flexible working patterns.
- Ensure that there are only the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively and maintain their service/operations.
- Ensure 2 metres physical distancing, good ventilation, the wearing of face coverings and effective hand and respiratory hygiene should be maintained where possible - these are the most effective means of preventing transmission of the virus.
There is specific guidance for car sharing that should be followed: Advice on car and vehicle sharing (transport.gov.scot).
There is specific guidance for accommodation of workers that should be followed: Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on workers' accommodation.
The new more transmissible variants of COVID-19 mean that greater care is needed when delivering essential housing services. Given the higher transmissibility of the new strains of the virus, it continues to be important that these services are delivered in a manner that minimises the risk of transmission and looks to keep everyone safe.
Home moves are permitted, and associated activity in support of house moves can continue as part of essential housing services including within people’s homes (where this is unavoidable). Surveyors, tradespeople and removers can continue to go into someone else’s homes to support a home move. Where work is required to take place within a home all precautions should be taken to ensure this does not put you, your employees and other people at risk of COVID-19. When work is being carried out inside a house, workers and occupants should ensure the mitigation measures outlined in the Coronavirus (COVID-19): general guidance for safer workplaces - gov.scot (www.gov.scot) are adhered to.
Importantly, people must only work in someone else’s home if they are well and are not showing coronavirus symptoms and neither they nor any of their household are self –isolating. People must also adhere to the physical distancing regulations and guidance should wear a face covering and follow good hand and respiratory hygiene.
This is provided as guidance only and does not amount to legal advice. Businesses may wish to seek their own advice to ensure compliance with all legal requirements.
We are working with the UK Government to align our approach and guidance, where possible and on the basis of scientific evidence on the levels of infection in Scotland. This guidance is intended to work alongside UK Government guidance and aims to assist employers, businesses and their workforce ensure a safe working environment and readers will recognise consistent themes within this guidance with the UK Government’s Working Safely during COVID-19 publications.
Scottish Government has engaged with industry and trade unions on the basis that both have essential roles to play. Protecting the health of employees has been at the heart of this joint approach which is fundamental to establishing shared confidence around the safety of places of work and supporting a recovery.
Our minimum expectations across five key areas will need to be considered in 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;
- changing the workplace environment to protect your workforce;
- protecting your workforce and those who come on-site; and
- training, communication and compliance.
Businesses should ensure their health and safety professionals and representatives have the skills, training and knowledge to understand the risks associated with COVID-19. Where businesses and their workforce do not have access to these skills in-house, they should together explore external support options to put in place appropriate mitigation measures, for example through their trade association, health and safety consultancies or trade union health and safety representatives. All can help companies understand the risks associated with different activities and situations within individual companies and offer the support managers and workers may require.
It is important that businesses should undertake a robust and ongoing risk based assessment, and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that workplaces continue to feel, and be, safe. Each business is different and should consider how best to apply this guidance in their circumstances.
To help you decide which actions to take, you should carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment, just as you would for other health and safety related hazards. See also the risk assessment guidance and tool
HSE is a key regulator for the control of COVID-19. You can find further information on the HSE website to help you work safely (be COVID-secure) and manage the risk associated with running your business at this time. HSE has published guidance on making your workplace secure during the corinavirus pandemic .
Consideration of health circumstances and protected characteristics should be given as part of the risk assessment process. Permission should be sought from individuals before collecting any information on health conditions of those within their household.
Test and Protect
Organisations and businesses are to follow public health guidance and Test and Protect employers guidance if a worker becomes unwell with coronavirus symptoms at work. The person must leave work to self‑isolate straight away and, if possible, wear a face covering on route and avoid public transport.
You must take all reasonable measures to introduce work practices that ensure 2 metres of physical distancing between workers. Physical distancing requirements are set out in the schedules of The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 (legislation.gov.uk). A person who is responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service must take all reasonable measures to ensure:
- that the required distance is maintained between any persons either on or waiting to enter the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer),
- that they only admit people to its premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance,
- that the required distance (2 metres) is maintained between any person waiting to enter the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer).
- Where this is not possible and work is essential, your risk assessment should identify and use other measures to keep yourself and other workers safe. Examples include:
- assigning one person per work area;
- reducing the number of people in the work area;
- assigning and keeping people to shift teams (a cohort);
- keeping the number of people working less than 2 metres apart to a minimum;
- using screens to create a barrier between people;
- avoid people working face-to-face, for example working side-by-side; and
- providing additional PPE, see below.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Routine (business as usual) PPE must continue to be worn for health and safety where appropriate.
PPE is not expected to be needed outside of health care settings for purposes of controlling the risk of COVID-19. However, if a risk assessment indicates a higher level of contamination or transmission, then the need for additional PPE should be considered.
Health Protection Scotland guidance offers advice on the use of PPE, confirming workplaces should use PPE consistent with local policies and in line with measures justified by a risk assessment. This can be found here: COVID-19 information and guidance for general (non-healthcare) settings.
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:
- mitigate risks;
- address risks at source;
- adapt workplaces to individual needs;
- ensure adequate staff training around processes to manage the risk; and
- 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. Use of PPE is not a substitute for physical distancing practices, which must be maintained.
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.
People can travel for work. If not possible to walk or cycle to work, then ideally people should only travel in a car either alone or with members of their household. Wherever possible, workers from different households should not share vehicles. Please refer to transport Scotland’s advice on how to travel safely.
As an employer, you must protect people from harm. 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. You should also refer to the COVID-19 guidance for homeworking.
Given that there is some evidence which suggests that COVID-19 may impact disproportionately on some groups (Minority Ethnic communities), employers 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.
You must put safe systems of work in place and review them regularly. When the advice or guidance from the Scottish Government changes, you should quickly inform workers of the impact and change things accordingly in the workplace.
You must consult all your workers on health and safety. It is a two-way process, allowing workers to raise concerns and influence decisions on managing health and safety.
It is more important than ever to ensure workers are treated fairly. The Scottish Government and STUC have agreed a joint statement about this.
You should regularly provide workers with information, training, instruction and supervision so that they can work safely.
You should check the health status of each worker before they start work each day.
Health Protection Scotland (HPS) have provided COVID-19 information and guidance for general (non-healthcare) settings which reiterates that people should not travel if they exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms. HSE has produced guidance about talking with your workers about COVID-19.
As well as government guidance, we encourage all professionals to speak to their representative bodies and familiarise themselves with the guidance that these bodies have prepared for their specific sectors. These are listed in the related links section in this guidance. For public health and infection prevention and control, the HPS guidance (above) should be followed.
It is important that all businesses work together to ensure we minimise the spread of infection and we expect all sectors to consider how they can operate in a way which minimises the need for face to face contact.
We would also encourage businesses to ensure that customers and their staff are familiar with relevant guidance and what may be involved in marketing properties and moving home.
Property agents can continue to support clients in the marketing of properties and can keep their premises open for business that must be transacted in the office; every reasonable effort should be made 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. You should also follow the Scottish Government Guidance for businesses and employers and inform customers and staff about your safer working procedures, in order to minimise the public health risk as far as possible.
You might find it helpful to refer to our general guidance for safer workplaces . Although not aimed at the housing market per se, it sets out how physical distancing and good hygiene can be delivered in a range of circumstances. A link to guidance issued by Propertymark is also included in the related links page.
Agents should check whether any party is shielding, showing symptoms of COVID-19 or has been asked to self-isolate before going ahead with any visits to properties or offices. If they are, visits should be delayed.
Agents should consider delaying visits to properties in areas at protection level 4 and should operate using an appointment system for visits to their offices and when conducting viewings.
Agents should not carry out any open house viewings.
Agents should strongly encourage clients to view properties virtually in the first instance and then only physically visit properties which they have a serious interest in.
Agents can accompany clients on physical viewings but should seek to minimise contact with clients and home occupiers at all times and follow government guidelines on physical distancing and the use of face coverings.
Where agents are not required to accompany the client, they should make sure that both buyers and sellers clearly understand how the viewing should be conducted safely.
Agents should not drive clients to appointments.
All parties viewing a property should wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol based hand rub (hand sanitiser) before entering the properties, with internal doors opened and surfaces also having been wiped down before they enter. If agents or clients need to wash their hands in the property, separate towels or paper towels should be used if possible and washed or disposed of safely after use.
Housebuilders can continue with sales during this period but should ensure that they follow the latest Scottish Government and construction industry guidance, and refer to industry guidance including on sales and marketing, see the related links page.
Housebuilders can continue to take online reservations during this period and can work with their customers to line up sales for completion in the future. Sales teams should follow the Scottish Government and industry guidance. Housebuilders should inform consumers and their own staff about their procedures, so that they are safe throughout the sales process.
Where possible, housebuilders should promote virtual viewings. Physical viewings should only be conducted where people are seriously considering making an offer on a property, or where a virtual viewing is not possible. In areas in protection Level 4 it is advisable to postpone viewings of properties or delay a home move, where this is possible.
Where physical viewings do take place, including visits to show homes, these should be by appointment with one household visiting one property at a time.
Housebuilders should clean surfaces between viewings.
For new reservations and sales, developers should work with solicitors to ensure contracts take account of the risks posed by COVID-19, including building in flexibility in case move dates need to change as a result of someone shielding, falling ill with COVID-19 or needing to self-isolate.
Housebuilders should do what they can to support anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, self-isolating or shielding, and those they are in chain with, to agree a new date.
Tradespeople should follow the latest Scottish Government guidance on physical distancing and hygiene and refer to the general guidance for safer workplaces. Please also see the work in other people’s homes Frequently Asked Questions .
Non- essential work carried out in people’s homes can go ahead, as long as the guidance on business and physical distancing is followed and, importantly, provided the tradesperson is well and is not showing coronavirus symptoms and neither they nor any of their household are self-isolating. All precautions should be taken to ensure occupants and workforce are not put at risk of Covid-19. When work is being carried out inside a house, workers and occupants should ensure the mitigation measures outlined in the Coronavirus (COVID-19): general guidance for safer workplaces - gov.scot (www.gov.scot).
In areas at level 4, tradespeople can continue to work in other people’s homes, but should only provide essential services including urgent repairs and maintenance and work to support a home move, for example furniture removal. Companies should ensure employees understand how to operate safely and communicate this to customers.
Solicitors can continue to take on new instructions. They should make sure their clients are aware of the differences in completing transactions during this period, particularly where any documentation requires to be physically signed (and/or witnessed), including dispositions and standard securities. Solicitors should refer to the Guidance and Practice notes issued by the Law Society of Scotland and the Keeper’s up-to-date guidance on registration.
Solicitors should consider how and when to open their premises and take into account the most up to date Scottish Government guidance on safer working. Home working should be the default and we are asking all business to make sure that every single function that can be done by people working at home, is being done in that way. They should inform clients and their own staff about their safer working procedures, in order to minimise the public health risk as far as possible.
Solicitors should aim to conduct as much of their business remotely as possible.
Where face to face meetings with clients are required, steps will need to be taken to continue to prevent transmission of COVID-19. This includes keeping a physical distance of at least 2 metres from other people wherever possible and ensuring that any surfaces you and your clients come into contact with are cleaned and disinfected regularly.
Solicitors should do what they can to promote flexibility making provisions for the risks presented by COVID-19.
Solicitors should continue to prioritise support for anyone who is clinically vulnerable or shielding, or with symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating to agree a new date to move.
Warranty assessments and building standards
All new home require a completion certificate to be accepted by the Building Standards Verifier at the local authority prior to occupation. An alternative would be to obtain a temporary occupation certificate, although this will be valid for a limited period of time. A final inspection is normally required by verifiers before the completion certificate is accepted. However, guidance has been produced to allow alternative evidence or remote inspections to be used as an alternative for a site inspection when the circumstances allow and during the period affected by COVID-19. Building owners and developers should contact the relevant local authority building standards verifier to discuss options.
Inspectors can carry out warranty assessments on new build properties. Inspectors should follow the latest Scottish Government guidance on physical distancing. Businesses should also ensure employees understand how to operate safely and communicate this to customers.
New build warranty providers can provide a normal service to homebuilders and consumers, including site visits and inspections as required. Any site inspections should be undertaken only in accordance with the industry’s physical distancing and hygiene guidance.
No inspection work should be carried out by a person who has COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, or anyone who has been asked to self-isolate.
Where residents are making a claim against their new build warranty, in the first instance they should speak with the warranty provider. Where possible the warranty providers should investigate claims remotely using video or photo evidence. If this is not possible and an inspector needs to visit an occupied property, this should be done by appointment and measures put in place to ensure physical contact is minimised, for example with residents staying in another room during the visit.
Inspectors should contact the household in advance to check that no member of the household is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating. If they are, works should be delayed.
Surveyors are free to visit properties to carry out the Home Report and any additional survey reports that may be required. Surveyors should follow the latest the Scottish Government’s guidance for employers and businesses on COVID-19
- Surveyors should contact the household in advance to check that no member of the household is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating. If they are, surveys should be delayed. Surveyors should also consider delaying visits to properties in areas at protection level 4 . Surveyors should make sure property occupiers understand which areas will be surveyed, including external areas, and ensure that all doors and access panels are open and surfaces have been cleaned with household cleaning products in line with public health advice.
- Surveyors should disinfect their equipment between visits. They should also encourage households to ensure all internal doors are open and surfaces have been cleaned with standard household cleaning products prior to them entering the property.
- Work must not be carried out by a person who has COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, or by anyone who has been asked to self-isolate.
- During a visit, members of the household should vacate the property where possible. If not, surveyors and home occupiers should follow government guidelines on physical distancing and the use of face coverings.
- Surveyors should wash their hands using soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitiser) before entering the property. If surveyors need to wash their hands in the property, separate towels or paper towels should be provided at the property and washed or disposed of safely after use.
- Surveyors should be clear in any reports about areas which they weren’t able to inspect due to public health limitations.
Removal firms are able to operate and should follow the latest Scottish Government guidance on physical distancing and for businesses and employers on COVID-19. Reference should also be made to industry guidance (see related links). Businesses should ensure employees understand how to operate safely and communicate this to customers. (For people moving their belongings themselves, similar considerations apply.)
- Removers should contact the household in advance to check that no member of the household is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating. If they are, works should be delayed. In areas in protection level 4 it is advisable for people to delay a home move, if this is possible.
- They should also encourage households to ensure all internal doors are open and surfaces and possessions have been cleaned with standard household cleaning products prior to them entering the property.
- Work must not be carried out by a person who has COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, or by anyone who is self-isolating.
- Removers should wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitiser) before entering the property. If removers need to wash their hands in the property, separate towels or paper towels should be provided at the property and washed or disposed of safely after use.
- Removers should seek to minimise contact with home occupiers at all times and follow government guidelines on physical distancing and the use of face coverings.
- Removers should implement a buddy system and ensure that the same people work together when moving bulky items and furniture.
- Removal equipment and vehicles should be cleaned between each removal.
- Removers should bring their own refreshments.
See also the specific advice on transport (above).