Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): public libraries guidance

Published: 24 Aug 2020
Last updated: 9 Sep 2020 - see all updates

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

23 page PDF

389.8 kB

23 page PDF

389.8 kB

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

23 page PDF

389.8 kB

Workforce planning and support

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

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.

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

Nobody should go to work if their workplace is closed under current government regulations.

As a minimum we expect:

  • working from home to continue or to be offered to employees, where possible
  • 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
  • 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 and
  • public libraries to take travel to work and childcare considerations into account in decisions around a phased restart

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.

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.

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. 

Consideration should be given within the risk assessment as to whether sector restart might have greater impact on some groups than others depending on social circumstances, health conditions or legally protected characteristics. The Equality and Human Rights Commission can 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. 

The shielding category consists of those who have been identified as being at the highest risk from severe illness from COVID-19. 

See NHS Inform for further information.  People who live with someone who is shielding are not advised to stay away from work; however, they should be supported to stringently follow physical distancing guidance.  Companies should explore measures such as suspending the normal application of sickness or disciplinary procedures related to attendance in these cases.  

As the number of cases of Covid-19 in Scotland have fallen significantly, from 31 July we have been able to amend our advice. We have paused the advice that those who were identified as being at highest risk of the virus should shield. This means those who were shielding can go back to workplaces where they cannot work from home. Working from home and working flexibly where possible should remain the best option for people who had been shielding. Employer’s should support people to safely return to work and ensure they can stringently follow public health guidance around physical distancing and hygiene. An individual risk assessment guidance and tool has been developed help staff and managers consider the specific risk of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Those identified as being at increased risk from COVID-19 are those following physical distancing advice more stringently. As they are at higher risk of severe illness (for example, people with some pre-existing conditions) they have been asked to take extra care in observing physical (social) distancing. People who live with someone who is at increased risk are not advised to stay away from work, but as above, should be supported to stringently follow physical distancing guidance. 

As the number of cases of Covid-19 in Scotland have fallen significantly, from 31 July we have been able to amend our advice. We have paused the advice that those who were identified as being at highest risk of the virus should shield. This means those who were shielding can go back to workplaces where they cannot work from home. Working from home and working flexibly where possible should remain the best option for people who had been shielding. Employer’s should support people to safely return to work and ensure they can stringently follow public health guidance around physical distancing and hygiene. An individual risk assessment guidance and tool has been developed help staff and managers consider the specific risk of COVID-19 in the workplace. 

There may be the requirement to revert back to some level of shielding in the future at either a national or local level if the number of cases rise again. Those who previously had to shield will be kept informed of any relevant health advice if things do change. You can also keep up to date with the most recent advice at Coronavirus (COVID-19): shielding advice and support 

If those at increased risk cannot work from home, they should be offered the option of the safest available on-site roles, enabling them to maintain physical distancing. Workplace activities should be carefully assessed to identify if they involve an unacceptable level of risk.

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.

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 14 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 14 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.  

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.

As of 8 June, residents and visitors entering Scotland from outside the Common Travel Area are subject to new measures due to coronavirus.

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. 


Contact

Email: chedcovid19@gov.scot.

First published: 24 Aug 2020 Last updated: 9 Sep 2020 -