Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): tourism and hospitality sector

Guidance for the tourism and hospitality sector, including procedures for staff and customer safety and an operations checklist.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): tourism and hospitality sector
Workforce planning

Workforce planning

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

As a minimum it is expected that:

  • working from home should continue, where possible. It is recognised that this is not going to be feasible for many tourism and hospitality employees but may be possible for back office / management functions
  • health factors must be considered in any phasing of returns to work. Employees living in vulnerable or previously shielded households are only expected to return when new safe working environment measures have been fully tested and a return to onsite work is consistent with individual medical advice
  • it should be noted that the vaccination programme may be yet to reach some or all of the staff complement
  • new business practices should be assessed and modified in agreement between employers and employees. Employers should be aware of other regulatory compliance measures and any impacts these may have
  • employers should also take account of travel-to-work considerations in phasing a restart, particularly those who may rely on public transport – see Transport Scotland advice pages.
  • employers should take account of childcare arrangements, in the case of nurseries and schools not being fully operational.

Building confidence and supporting wellbeing

Returning workers may have some level of apprehension about how safe they may be and they may require reassurance and evidence that measures recommended in workplace risk assessments have been implemented.

Employers should recognise the need to have clear and regular communications with employees, using multiple channels to reinforce key messages. Visual materials have proven to be beneficial in demonstrating changes that have been, or are being, made. This is particularly important where language barriers exist.

Employers and trade unions should send a clear message that the workplace is safe - maintaining employee confidence is vitally important.

Employers should ensure that the organisation’s 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. These may relate to factors such as their job role, and demographic/personal circumstances. Consequently, it is important that 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.

Individual health circumstances and protected characteristics should be considered and discussed with employees before prioritising who is asked to return to work and when. This should recognise the protective measures required to minimise health risks to vulnerable or previously shielded workers or those living in vulnerable or previously shielded households, exploring if any staff should not be at work or how any staff in these categories can work from home. Read information on high risk groups.

Consideration of health circumstances and protected characteristics should be undertaken 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.  

Where it is necessary to undertake an individual risk assessment due to staff being in a high risk or vulnerable group, this should also consider wider factors such as whether being from a minority ethnic community may present yet higher risks from COVID-19. This is still an evolving area of research and evidence is not yet conclusive so employers should continue to refer to public health advice for the most up do date information.

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:

EHRC have also produced guidance for public sector employers about equality impact assessments and having due regard to the Public Sector Equality Duty and Scottish Specific Duties during the pandemic

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.

In line with Test and Protect everyone should follow the NHS Inform guidance on self-isolation if they or anyone in their household shows coronavirus symptoms.

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 are informed by a contact tracer that they should isolate, you should help them to do so straight away.

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

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.

Employers can utilise this further information on Test and Protect

Guidance has been published on the role of businesses to collect the contact details of customers and visitors to their premises.


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


Businesses 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 so managers should be conscious of how these factors may impact on the well-being of individual staff members. Business and trade union or workforce representatives should be alert to this and direct anyone experiencing mental health issues towards available support.

Shift patterns

If you have a large workforce and previous shift models have resulted in crowding at entry and exit points you may wish to develop plans to change shift patterns to protect the workforce and to optimise productive capacity. This will reduce the risk of transmission by keeping pinch-points to a minimum. Such an approach would however require proper consultation with trade unions or employees if it involved a change in employee terms and conditions. 

Travel to work

Health Protection Scotland (HPS) has provided COVID-19 information and guidance for general (non-healthcare) settings which reiterates that people should not travel if they exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms. The HPS advice, and any subsequent safe travelling advice, such as that provided by Transport Scotland, should be factored into decisions on planned returns to work.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and face coverings

The HPS guidance also offers advice on the use of PPE, confirming that workplaces should only use PPE which is consistent with local policies and in line with measures justified by a risk assessment.

A risk-based approach focused on a hierarchy of control which seeks to eliminate risks is recommended. This is achieved by combatting risks at source, adapting workplaces to individual needs, ensuring adequate staff training around processes to manage the risk and use PPE - where required. Where PPE is deemed necessary, an adequate supply of the correct materials and items must be maintained and provided free of charge to workers who need it. Any PPE provided must fit properly.

Consult the up to date advice on wearing face coverings as this may change with each review stage.


The interpretation and use of any guidance should be considered in line with normal protective security operations and practices where they exist. Where necessary, organisations should consult with and involve their security departments in the interpretation and implementation of this guidance. In particular, security should be considered in any revised risk assessment.

We do not advise the removal or alteration of, or reduction in, existing protective security measures without providing clear recommendations (e. g. from the National Technical Authority/Police Counter Terrorism specialists) on how to maintain effective protective security.  

This should extend to measures that are not primarily intended to provide a protective security benefit, but which do anyway. For example, removing street furniture could make moving or queueing pedestrians more vulnerable to vehicle-as-a-weapon attacks.  

Security staff should remain focused on security duties. Where COVID-19 creates additional staffing requirements, e. g. for queue management, employers should ensure additional suitable staff resource is made available. Employers should ensure that security staff feel safe, e. g. having access to appropriate PPE and hand-washing facilities, and the confidence to raise any concerns. Further detailed guidance can be found on the Centre for the Protection of National Industry - staying secure during COVID-19 and the UKG National Counter Terrorism Security Office webpages.  



Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

First published: 16 Apr 2021 Last updated: 28 Jul 2021 -