Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): returning to offices

To help employers plan for a gradual return to offices when the country moves beyond Level 0 of the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): returning to offices


This guidance aims to support employers to plan for a gradual return to offices when the country moves beyond Level 0 of the COVID-19 protection levels. The guidance provides reference to a range of sources of support and guidance which will inform workplace plans.

Key changes

  • Scotland has five COVID-19 protection levels (0-4). Employers should support employees to work from home where possible in all levels
  • the latest update of the Strategic Framework indicated that a phased and limited return to offices could begin from Level 0, however this was indicative and subject to the data supporting this decision
  • following a review of the epidemic, the First Minister announced certain modifications to the indicative plans. This included the decision to postpone the return to offices until we move beyond Level 0
  • the updated strategic framework sets out the plan towards moving beyond level 0. This is conditional on all adults over 40 being protected with two doses of the vaccination and a review of the epidemic being carried out ahead of the date for that move. At which point almost all COVID restrictions are planned to be removed. However, baseline measures will continue to be necessary and businesses will be encouraged to continue to support staff to work from home where possible and appropriate
  • a gradual return to offices can begin when the country moves beyond level 0, however home working will continue to be an important mitigation for controlling the virus and we would ask that businesses still support employees to do this, where possible and in consultation with employees
  • a wide variety of models of working are already being explored by businesses in consultation with their workforce, such as hybrid models of home and office based working. These models should continue to be promoted beyond Level 0
  • employers to consider a number of principles agreed with business organisations and unions as part of their preparation for a return to offices to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers is central to decision making
  • planning must be based around appropriate risk assessments and safe systems of work, emphasising protective baseline measures such as effective hand and respiratory hygiene, robust cleaning, face coverings where appropriate, ensuring appropriate ventilation and outbreak management to manage and mitigate outbreaks in the workplace. Further guidance on baseline measures will be provided before the end July
  • refresher training on baseline measures may be required in preparation for re-opening and businesses should consider staggered start times to address travel and childcare needs of workers
  • employers should exercise caution as re-opening could result in an increase in cases which may result in outbreak management measures taking hold. This could require specific restrictions or higher levels of general protective measures to control any further outbreaks

Related information

This document is intended to be read alongside existing COVID-19 general guidance for safer workplaces guidance which many businesses have already been working to.

This document does not replace existing tools (such as COVID-19 risk assessments), but acts as a conduit to signpost businesses to sources of support and guidance.


A series of posters to help raise awareness of safety in the workplace (Dropbox link) is available to print off.

First published: 2 Jul 2021 Last updated: 15 Jul 2021 -