Things to consider
Prioritising groups to return
Through discussions with trade unions and business organisations it has become clear that there are a range of reasons why employers and employees would like to see a return to offices.
Each workplace will have its own unique circumstances but some of the issues that they may want to consider when prioritising staff to return include, but not limited to:
- those who would benefit from a return to work on mental health or disability grounds
- those who have less appropriate settings for working at home
- those who need to be in the workplace for priority business reasons
- those who are new to the organisation and require training/mentoring (and those required to support this)
- those who would benefit most from collaborative working in person
- sufficient provision of first aid and fire safety duty holders
Employers should also continue to discuss options with people on the highest risk list (who may have previously been asked to shield) who may benefit from continued home working.
These issues will not be the only elements taken into account when prioritising staff to return to offices but may be helpful in those considerations.
We would encourage all employers to work closely with staff to understand any issues and concerns around both continuing to work from home and returning to an office environment in line with regular and individual risk assessment.
Employees will want to be assured that their safety and welfare has been reflected in workplace plans which is why consultation with the workforce is important. Employers will want to remind staff about the employee wellbeing and support services available to them.
Safe occupancy levels
Physical distancing is a key measure alongside other mitigations such as appropriate ventilation in all indoor spaces, face coverings, effective hand and respiratory hygiene to help reduce transmission of the virus. It is the basis for determining maximum occupancy levels.
In preparation for offices re-opening, employers are required to calculate the maximum number of people who can safely physically distance within their premises using the Physical Distance Based Capacity guidance. This includes the requirement to calculate sufficient toilet provision in safe occupancy levels.
This is based on the appropriate level of physical distancing required at the time which is currently planned to be:
- 1m indoors from 19 July
- 0m indoors from 9 August
The removal of physical distancing in all indoor settings is subject to review ahead of the planned date for the change coming into effect.
The return to offices will have a significant impact on our transport system, including public transport. Public transport has been adjusting throughout the pandemic taking account of both demand and the most up to date guidance. Businesses should give consideration to introducing flexible start and finish times for all staff returning to offices to help transport providers plan for and manage the increased demand for travel, and allow travellers to return to public transport safely with confidence. The use of active travel (walking, wheeling and cycling) for all or part of an employee’s journey to and from work may help to manage the impact on the transport infrastructure.
Prior to the pandemic, employers would have been considering how they could contribute to the Scottish Government’s net-zero targets in response to the climate emergency. Working from home and replacing business travel with virtual methods where possible also supports Scotland’s shift to sustainable, zero emission mobility.
Transport Scotland contains a range of information which employers and employees can use for further advice and guidance.
Outbreak management and other levels
While the hope is that cases remain low and continue to decrease there is always the possibility that the reopening process results in an increase in cases. This may result in outbreak management measures taking hold which could require specific restrictions or higher levels of general protective measures to control any further outbreaks
To help control and mitigate outbreaks, employers should reflect outbreak management in their workplace plans.