Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): public libraries guidance

Information and advice to help public libraries re-open safely.

41 page PDF

509.5 kB

41 page PDF

509.5 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): public libraries guidance
Workforce planning and support

41 page PDF

509.5 kB

Workforce planning and support

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

Planning should be based around risk assessments and safe systems of work, emphasising physical distancing, hand washing and surface and equipment cleaning and fair work principles. Plans should aim to allow organisations to restart whilst protecting worker health and wellbeing.

There are other issues that employers need to consider to ensure workplaces are inclusive. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Scotland can provide advice on a range of issues such as:

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.

Adjustments may need to be made for people deemed to be of higher clinical vulnerability. For more information refer to the section below on employee health and wellbeing.

Supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not 

As a minimum we expect:

  • working from home to continue or to be offered to employees, where possible
  • employers must not ask or direct an employee to commit an offence by requiring travel for work that it is possible to be done from home.   Nor should employers encourage, authorise or make arrangements that would allow or put pressure on their employees to break the law.
  • health factors to be considered in any phasing of who returns to work, with employees living in high risk 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. Those identified as being at the highest risk from Covid-19 should follow the most up to date advice; From 2 April, the 'stay at home' requirement in Level 4 areas was replaced with a “stay local” requirement.
  • employees who are not shielding but identified as at increased risk from COVID-19 are able to attend work in person but should strictly follow physical measures
  • new public library arrangements to be tested and modified through collaboration between employers and employees
  • public libraries to take travel to work and childcare considerations into account in decisions around a phased restart, noting the disproportionate impact that these consideration have on women
  • the health, including mental health, and well-being of workers to be considered

Continue home working

Minimising the spread of the virus will remain important in ensuring the overall protection of public health. Therefore planning for a safe return to work should assume that those able to work from home will continue to do so. Public libraries should plan for the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively, with a phased return necessary for many businesses. Home-working is the default where possible and people are advised to work from home wherever that is practicable. It will only be a reasonable excuse to leave home to go to work, if that work cannot be done from home. 

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. We now need every business and organization 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.

Full home working guidance provides more information on this.

Please also see the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice on home working for further information.

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

Each time you make any changes or when you intend to open your business more widely, you should re-visit you initial analysis to identify what further/new changes are required. In other words, repeat the process above for the changes you have made.

Mandatory face coverings

Physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene are the most important and effective things we can all do to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The wearing of face coverings must not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions.

People must by law wear a face covering in shops, on public transport and public transport premises such as railway and bus stations and airports, and in certain other indoor public places such as shops, restaurants/cafes including workplace canteens (when not seated), libraries and places of worship, except where an exemption applies.

A face covering must also be worn by all people when in indoor communal areas, where people mingle or gather to, for example, socialise or transit such as passageways, stairs, lifts, staff rooms, training rooms, changing rooms and entrances, except where an exemption applies, or where there is a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to wear a face covering such as eating or drinking. Exemptions also apply if you have a health condition or you are disabled, including hidden disabilities such as autism, dementia or a learning disability.

It is important to note the difference between face masks and face coverings. Where HPS guidance refers to face masks this means surgical or other medical grade masks that are used in certain health and social care situations. Face coverings are made from cloth or other textiles that cover the mouth and nose, and through which you can breathe (e.g. a scarf). It is recommended that it be made of cloth or other textiles and should be two, and preferably three, layers thick and fit snugly while allowing you to breathe easily.

Face shields may be used, but only if they are worn in addition to a face covering underneath, as the evidence shows that they do not provide adequate protection on their own.

Face covering exemption cards

Where an exemption applies you may find that some individuals have an exemption card. Find out more about exemption cards and how to request a card.

Employee health and wellbeing 

Employers should ensure the organisation culture is inclusive, with the aim that every employee should feel that they are returning 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:

Individual health circumstances should be considered and discussed with employees and volunteers before prioritising who is asked to return to work and when. This should recognise the protective measures required to minimise health risks to high risk or shielded workers. Employees in the shielding category should not be expected to physically attend work and every effort must be made to explore how they can work from home.

Pay for workers who are sheltering, self-isolating, sick or balancing care responsibilities is likely to be a source of concern for employees. Public library services should work with trade union or workforce representatives to provide early 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. 

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


We are providing this information, advice and tools to help you make choices about your day to day activities and interactions including work.

Specific guidance for those on the shielding list can be found at support for shielding on This includes information on:

  • working in current restrictions
  • financial assistance
  • Chief Medical Officer letters

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.

Test and Protect – contact tracing app

Protect Scotland is an entirely voluntary app that is an additional part of NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect service. Having the app should never be a requirement for any workplace. The app complements but does not replace manual contact tracing. It enhances contact tracing and quickly alerts app users that are at risk as they have come into close contact (less than 2m for 15 minutes or more) with an app user that has since tested positive for COVID-19. Further information about the contact tracing app for employers, workers and customers is available.

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.

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 your employees or volunteers are informed by a contact tracer that they should isolate, you 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.

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.

A close contact is defined as:

  • those that are living in the same household as a case
  • face to face contact with a case for any length of time within 1 metre of a case
  • extended close contact within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes with a case

Planning should recognise that ongoing physical distancing measures required to reduce the spread of the virus may mean that the number of employees and volunteers able to be accommodated safely in the workplace is limited. The workforce may have questions or concerns about returning to work. Public library services 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.  

We do not recommend the use of temperature checking employees as a means of testing for COVID-19 due to limitations of this method.

Apprentices can return to work at the same time as their co-workers. For specific concerns regarding the safe return to work for Apprentices there is information and support and Apprentices can speak to an advisor directly on 0800 917 8000.

It is important to ensure there is a functioning training infrastructure to support economic recovery and the sustainability of apprenticeship programmes. For those training providers and assessors that are providing continuity of contracted services for apprentices, learners and employers in the workplace during the pandemic must adhere to the applicable sectoral guidance.


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. Read further information and guidance on vaccination

Travel guidance

From 5 April:  to minimise the risk of spreading the virus, we must all stay local as much as possible and avoid unnecessary travel. Read what you can and cannot do in your area.

It is important that sectoral guidance is consistent with the travel rules in place across Scotland. All of the travel restrictions are subject to limited exemptions for example travelling for work, education or health reasons is allowed. 



First published: 5 Mar 2021 Last updated: 7 Apr 2021 -