Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): sport and leisure facilities

Guidance for the opening of indoor and outdoor sport and leisure facilities with physical distancing and hygiene measures.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): sport and leisure facilities


This guidance is for the sport and leisure sector. It came into effect from 26 April 2021 and extends until further notice. Guidance will be reviewed on a regular basis as our priority remains containing the spread of the virus, saving lives and safeguarding the NHS. Therefore, restrictions may be reintroduced, and approval may be withdrawn if circumstances change either nationally or locally. 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, facility operators and trade unions from the sport and leisure 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.

This guide is underpinned by a spirit of collaborative working between sport and gym/leisure facility operators, clubs, community organisations, companies, charities or clubs and other sport and gym/leisure facility operators and their workforce. Throughout this guidance the term facility operators, trade union or workforce representatives is used in that context, recognising that operators 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. Facility operators cannot decide who the workforce representative will be.

This document is one of a set of documents about how to work safely in different types of workplace. It offers guidance on how to work, operate and participate in sport and gym/leisure facilities in Scotland. It sets out our expectations on what operators of all sizes and sub-sectors need to consider as part of their planning for restart. The guidance emphasises 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.

Publication of this guidance does not signal an immediate change in Scotland’s lockdown policy.  A surge in infection would cause further harm to our health, society and economy. 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, which was set in the context of the current crisis in a joint statement with the STUC (which we have taken into account when developing this guidance).

The remainder of this guidance sets out our minimum expectations across three key areas employers and facility operators will need to consider as part of their planning for a restart of facilities while minimising the transmission of the virus:

  • assessing risk - involving the workforce in a risk-based approach to a safer workplace for both staff, customers and participants
  • workforce planning - supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not
  • operational guide and checklist - changing the environment to protect your workforce, customers and participants

The regulator for health and safety at work is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who will utilise the powers under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure people at work or possibly enforcement of this legislation is undertaken by Environmental Health and Trading Standards local authority staff in agreement with Police Scotland.

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

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

Page last updated:  8 October 2020

First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 12 May 2021 -