Where we are now
Due to the sharp increase in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Scotland, and the significant risk which the increased transmissibility of the new virus variant poses, the First Minister announced that, from 5 January 2021, mainland Scotland would be moving from Level 4 to a temporary lockdown, with a requirement to stay at home except for essential purposes. Some islands will remain at Level 3. Under law, the Scottish Government must review that lockdown at least every three weeks.
All manufacturers can remain open and operational during this lockdown. This decision was made based on a balanced consideration of the four harms, and evidence around the effectiveness of the measures in place to allow safe operation of manufacturing sites.
However, this position relies on the continued excellent employer and employee compliance that has allowed manufacturing to operate during this pandemic.It is vital that employers and employees continue to ensure compliance with all guidance, both within and outwith the workplace, to avoid business closures.
The lockdown has introduced new measures, and tightened existing measures, including:
- a legal requirement to stay at home unless someone has a reasonable excuse to leave
- a legal requirement to work from home where possible
- schools moving to remote learning model for most children
- that people can meet no more than one person over the age of 12 from outwith their (extended) household outdoors or in the few indoor public places that remain open
- that no-one is allowed in or out of Scotland unless it is for an essential purpose
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. Our current position is that anyone who is able to work from home, must do so. It will only be a reasonable excuse to leave your home to go to work, if that work cannot be done from home. We now need every business to work with their workforce to look again at their operations, and to make sure that every single function that can be done by people working at home, is being done in that way.
Additional advice on shielding has been published, and the Chief Medical Officer issued letters to those on the shielding list on 6 January 2021. Further information on shielding can be found in the workforce planning section.
The manufacturing sector has continued to operate under the 2 metre physical distancing rule throughout the pandemic. Businesses must ensure that at least 2 metre physical distancing is applied to all parts of a workplace, including staff canteens, and all communal areas including entrances, exits, break rooms, smoking areas.
Physical distancing duties are set out in regulation 4(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020. A person who is responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service must take all reasonable measures:
- to ensure that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between any persons on the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer)
- to ensure that they only admit people to its premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance
- to ensure that a distance of 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)
On 16 October 2020, regulations were introduced requiring anybody in a workplace canteen to wear a face covering when they are not seated at a table - for example if they are queueing, or are entering or leaving the canteen or going to the bathroom. These regulations were extended on Monday 19 October, requiring face coverings to be worn in communal areas (in general terms, any area where a person is not at their workspace and may mix with others), such as corridors.
On 2 November the Strategic Framework sets out our approach to suppressing the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible. This approach to outbreak management is based on five levels of protection (the Protection Levels Framework) and the ability to impose restrictions nationally or locally. The five protection levels consist of four levels above the Route Map Phase 3 baseline (or 'Level 0'). The manufacturing sector can remain open at all levels of protection.
Manufacturing is vital to the Scottish economy, accounting for over 180,000 jobs and contributing over half of Scottish exports and business expenditure on research and development. The work of Scotland's manufacturers and their workforces that are, and have been, involved in supporting essential sectors throughout this COVID-19 crises demonstrates the sector's innovation, skills and expertise. Manufacturing's commitment to keeping the country running is hugely appreciated, with particular praise due to companies who have scaled-up or repurposed to manufacture vital supplies for the health sector.
We want a strong manufacturing sector to help drive Scotland's economic recovery and future prosperity. Companies should therefore use this guidance to continue to inform engagement with trade union or workforce representatives to further develop and maintain workplace specific plans as the sector moves into restarting, allowing sufficient time for that joint work. Plans should be fully developed, with measures put in place and tested where possible. They should have been implemented upon restart. Decisions on the phasing of a sector wide return for manufacturing have been made in line with the Route Map.
The Scottish Government has initiated a broad collaborative process to develop sectoral guidance which will underpin that managed transition and provide clarity and confidence to industry, employees and local communities, protect public health and concurrently optimise economic recovery. Aligned with that we continue to review and enhance testing and enforcement arrangements, and ensuring that the guidance is coherent and connected, recognising for example transport and other inter-dependencies.
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.
This guidance should be read in conjunction with the Scottish Government’s business and physical distancing guidance, which still applies.
There has been an unprecedented package of support announced from both the Scottish and UK Governments to support businesses which includes retailers. This support should help many employers preserve their business, maintain jobs and pay their workers throughout this crisis. Information on this support is available through findbusinesssupport.gov.scot. We urge all businesses to make use of this. In the event of closures for manufacturing premises all available support measures must be utilised to protect the jobs and incomes of workers.
Advanced Manufacturing Policy Team