Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): manufacturing sector guidance

Guidance for the manufacturing sector including procedures to plan for and maintain a safe place for all during the coronavirus pandemic.

34.3 kB

34.3 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): manufacturing sector guidance
Workforce planning

34.3 kB

Workforce planning

Information about supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not. 

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 employees 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
  • new manufacturing arrangements to be tested and modified through collaboration between employers and employees
  • companies to take travel to work and childcare considerations into account in decisions around a phased restart

Working from home

Anyone who is able to work from home must do so

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 we must continue to work from home where at all possible.

Our current position is that anyone who is able to work from home, must do so. Under the new lockdown laws, it will only be a reasonable excuse to leave your home to go to work, if that work cannot be done from home. 

We are asking that every business works 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. Only the minimum number of people needed should be on site to operate safely and effectively.

For for information on working from home, read the Coronavirus Guidance on Working from Home.

Pilot measures 

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 companies, in discussion with trade unions or employee representatives, before deciding which individuals to involve in pilots and/or a phased restart.

Employee health and wellbeing 

Employers should ensure the organisation culture is inclusive, with the aim that every employee should feel that they have returned to a supportive, caring and safe environment. The pandemic has had an unequal impact across the workforce, as different employee 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. The following guides from the Health and Safety Executive provide useful sources of information:

There are other issues that employers need to consider to ensure workplaces are inclusive.  The Equality and Human Rights Commission have updated their guidance for employers to make it more relevant to decisions about return to work. They can also 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. 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.

Individual health circumstances and protected characteristics should be an on-going consideration and discussion with employees after a return to work. This should recognise the protective measures required to minimise health risks to vulnerable or shielded workers or those living in vulnerable or shielded households, exploring whenever possible how these staff can work from home. Consideration of health circumstances and protected characteristics should be given to this 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.

Planning may have identified that ongoing physical distancing measures required to reduce the spread of the virus mean the number of employees able to be accommodated safely in the workplace is limited. The workforce may have questions or concerns after returning to work. Companies are encouraged to work with trade union or workforce representatives to enable individuals to work from home while self-isolating, if appropriate. If able to work from home, employees should continue to do so after a period of self-isolation has ended.

Pay for workers who are sheltering, self-isolating, sick or balancing care responsibilities is likely to be a source of concern for employees. Companies should work with trade union or workforce representatives to provide ongoing guidance to workforces on processes and support for individuals affected by these issues. Again opportunities to facilitate home working where feasible should be actively pursued and maintained. 

Mental health

The main message employers should give to employees is: if you need help, help is available.  It is important that everyone holds onto the reality that this is temporary, and things will get better. 

It is important that companies realise that the change and uncertainty arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and employment are impacting on people’s mental health and wellbeing, and that changing circumstances, including the rapid change to home working and furloughing, may create new challenges and demand for mental health support.

It can be challenging for workers to raise concerns about mental health when working remotely, especially if their living arrangements are not conducive to working from home.  Some workers may find that working from home, additional caring responsibilities brings additional stress. The anxieties that some may feel about continuing to attend work or returning to workplaces is also likely to be a factor.

Companies and trade union or workforce representatives should be alert to this and direct anyone experiencing mental health issues towards available support. 

In October, Scottish Government launched the Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan, which outlines our response to the mental health impacts of COVID-19.  In this plan, we recognise the economic and employment impacts that COVID-19 will have on the public’s mental health.

We would encourage employers and employees to use the resources available in the Scottish Government’s Clear Your Head campaign, which provides practical advice for maintaining good mental health and wellbeing throughout the pandemic, and directs those who need extra support to helplines operated by NHS 24, Breathing Space and Samaritans.

If someone you know is struggling with persistently poor mental health, we would  encourage them to speak to their local GP.  Alternatively, out of hours support can be provided by Breathing Space, Scotland’s national helpline for those experiencing low mood, depression, or anxiety, on 0800 83 85 87 - or NHS24 on shortcode 111.

Companies should also acknowledge the range of factors likely to cause stress or anxiety amongst employees, ranging 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. Companies and trade union or workforce representatives should be alert to this and direct anyone experiencing mental health issues towards available support. 

Companies should also acknowledge the range of factors likely to cause stress or anxiety amongst employees, ranging 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. Companies and trade union or workforce representatives should be alert to this and direct anyone experiencing mental health issues towards available support. 


Where schools and childcare facilities are closed, workers may experience difficulties attending work due to being unable to secure appropriate child care. 

This will affect working parents with children at home and we encourage employers to be flexible and provide support to employees during this time. 

There are already some good examples within the sector.  Some companies have successfully trialled and implemented flexible working practices, and additional support measures.

Where a worker is unable to attend work as a result of school or childcare facilities closing, and home working or flexible working is not an option, check whether you are entitled to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Definitions of key workers that were agreed with local authorities during the previous wave of the pandemic will continue to apply. The definitions of key workers and support for children of keyworkers can be found in the Scottish Government Coronavirus guidance for schools, local authorities and parents which sets out plans for a phased start to the 2021 spring term.  Any queries regarding key worker status should be directed to the appropriate local authority. 


Information for people who previously had to shield

Shielding was paused on 1 August 2020. Since then, advice for those who are at highest risk should they contract coronavirus, including those who were formerly asked to shield, was to follow the same guidance as the rest of the population stringently and with extra care.

While Level 4 restrictions across mainland Scotland increased protection for those who are at most clinical risk, we have considered what additional measures we can advise to reduce the increased risk of transmission of the new strain of coronavirus and further reduce opportunities for infection. One of the key areas we can focus on is the workplace.

We have added additional advice which is specific to going to work from 5 January 2021. Due to what we now know about the higher transmissibility of the new variant, the CMO has written to everyone on the shielding list to advise that that if you cannot work from home, you should not attend work for as long as these additional lockdown protective measures are in place in the area where you live or work. 

This additional advice on going to work does not apply to areas that remain at Level 3.  If you live or work in a Level 3 area, you can continue to go to work if the workplace can be made safe.

If you are not attending your workplace due to the advice from the Chief Medical Officer, your employer, at their discretion, may be able to furlough you through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which has now been extended until April 2021. If you are furloughed, HMRC will give a grant to your employer to cover 80% of your normal salary, and your employer will need to pay National Insurance and pension contributions. I would encourage you to discuss this directly with your employer.

Otherwise you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, Universal Credit, or other benefits, during this period. To find out further information about what benefits you may be entitled to, speak to your employer, or visit or contact Citizens Advice Scotland.  Some employers may offer additional financial support for employees who are off work for coronavirus-related reasons which may be set out in your terms and conditions of employment.  To find out what financial support you will get, you should contact your employer.  

The Job Retention Scheme does not apply if you are self-employed or to any income from self-employment. However, you may qualify for support under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme

Our additional advice to those who had previously shielded has not changed. Please consider all of the advice in the table and think about what is right for you

Test and Protect

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 should follow public health 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.

From 14 December people who have tested positive for the virus will need to self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days. NHS contact tracers will interview them and get in touch with people they have been in close contact with, and tell them they must self-isolate for 10 days. If organisations are informed by a contact tracer that they should isolate, organisations should help them to do so straight away. They may feel well, as the virus could still be incubating when they are asked to isolate. Some people who are asked to isolate may not become unwell, but they must stay at home and self-isolate for the full 10 days. Organisations can ask them to work from home if they are able to and they are not unwell. Organisations should not ask someone isolating to come into work before their period of isolation is complete, in any circumstances.

In order to support Test and Protect, it is important that employers have clear and robust records of staff working on each shift, the make-up of teams and details of any visitors to the site, in case of need to contact trace. It is advisable for employers to identify a single point of contact to act as liaison with Health Protection Teams for any matters relating to Test and Protect, reporting potential outbreaks and seeking advice on matters relating to COVID-19 illness in the workforce.

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.

See Scottish Test and Protect website and NHS Inform for further health advice and information including on duration of self-isolation.

Outbreak management

Organisations should suspect an outbreak if there is either:

  • two or more linked cases (confirmed or suspected) of COVID-19 in a setting within 14 days - where cross transmission has been identified


  • 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). The organisation may be then contacted by them, as they may get information from NHS Test & Protect or other sources.

In the event of an outbreak:

  • continue to follow 'General Guidelines' to reduce risk, as detailed above
  • 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 'General guidelines to prevent spread of COVID-19' (detailed above) 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.

For more information on what to expect during an investigation of an outbreak in a manufacturing business, read the Coronavirus (COVID-19): investigation of outbreaks in manufacturing businesses – guidance for employers.


Advanced Manufacturing Policy Team


First published: 20 Jan 2021 Last updated: 20 Jan 2021 -