Advice on how to continue keeping your workforce and the public safe from COVID-19
While it may seem that things have returned to normal – or at least the ‘new normal’ – COVID-19 is still with us.
Indeed, the seven-day period of statistics for Scotland covering the week ending 23 August 2022 showed that one per 55 people in Scotland had the virus.
With COVID-19 still capable of affecting people in the workplace, it’s important to remain vigilant and aware of the responsibilities we need to take to protect ourselves, our colleagues, our families and the wider public on an ongoing basis.
Firstly, it’s important to highlight the changes in legislation that have taken place in a couple of areas:
COVID-19 legislation The legal requirement to implement COVID-19 measures has now ended. This means that the requirement to action measures in the workplace, such as masks and distancing, is no longer required, rather businesses are expected to act on government guidance.
High-risk employees These employees are no longer required to shield. It has been determined that compliance with the current Scottish Government regulations on safe practices, and keeping up to date with vaccination and booster programmes, is enough to prevent people of poor health becoming very ill with COVID-19.
Those employees who are immunosuppressed or have a weakened immune system should follow the advice set out by the government and the advice of their GP.
Employers are advised to hold regular catch-up meetings with these employees to discuss their concerns and to implement any requested measures that can reasonably be done without impacting their duties or effective business management.
During 2020 and 2021, the requirements for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) were amended. To encourage isolation when ill with COVID-19, the delay before SSP applies was removed, meaning that employees were paid SSP from day one of illness. This has now been revoked.
Employees are required to be incapable of work to claim SSP, as opposed to diagnosed with COVID-19 and mildly ill and/or asymptomatic. Waiting days have been reinstated, meaning that entitlement for SSP will start from day four of absence from work.
The Scottish Government continues to ask businesses to consider flexible and hybrid working patterns when possible. This can be implemented as a reasonable adjustment for an employee who is of a protected characteristic, who has a weakened immune system or is immunosuppressed.
At present, an employee can request flexible working after 26 weeks of employment and can do this twice a year. Such requests could include working from home or amended working patterns.
Each request should be assessed to determine if the duties and undertakings of the business can continue to function with this flexible working measure in place. An employer is not required to accept the suggested changes if they will detrimentally impact the business, but each request should be considered.
What are your responsibilities?
It is the responsibility of the employer to prevent people catching COVID-19 in the workplace. This was previously done through following COVID-19 legislation, i.e. the measures businesses had to take to ensure ventilation, distance, hygiene and wearing of masks was acknowledged and implemented. These are now guidance.
The preventative measures are guidance rather than law, but the onus is on the employer to protect employees from catching COVID-19, therefore it remains the best possible advice to consider ventilation, social distancing, enhanced hygiene practices and wearing of masks where possible in the workplace.
In line with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, you are required to provide welfare facilities and a workplace environment that is healthy and safe for all – this includes keeping people safe from infection. These measures not only prevent against COVID-19 spread but also against the spread of other infectious diseases.
How do you do this?
This is done effectively through risk assessment.
You must take steps to identify the risks present, establish if it is high-risk or low-risk, then take measures to reduce these risks.
The following examples show how good practice can be adapted to prevent the spread of COVID-19, or any other infectious disease, while in the workplace:
Example 1 – The desks in an office are set one metre apart and the windows are kept open while staff are in. Masks are available to staff and hand sanitiser is provided. There is low risk of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. No action to address the risk is required.
Example 2 – The administrative team in the office uses hot desks and will work at different workstations every day. The risk of passing COVID-19 or an infectious disease to a colleague is high. As a measure to reduce risk, the hot desks are put on a staggered timetable, with a cleaning schedule in place.
Putting measures into practice
When considering close working environments and contact with the public, the following measures could be taken:
Schedule operatives into static teams, meaning infection may not spread or result in an entire workforce falling ill at once.
Where vans are provided, assign vehicles and implement an end-of-shift cleaning regime.
Advise your staff to have windows open while travelling.
Provide staff with hand sanitiser, masks and antibacterial wipes.
Recommend operatives use masks when in the van.
Discourage tool sharing.
Hold regular catch-up meetings with your operatives and individual sessions with those who are concerned about their health.
Encourage staff to stay at home if they have symptoms of COVID-19.
Best practice when dealing with clients
The following measures should be undertaken before and during any work:
Communicate with clients by calling en route. Confirm that they have no symptoms of COVID-19 and that the operatives are well.
Operatives should wear masks when asked by clients, especially in domestic situations.
When visiting businesses, teams should confirm current COVID-19 measures are in place and follow them while on-site.
These should be developed to cover absence of people with COVID-19, and how your company intends to deal with potential cases. It is advised that you create a workplace illness policy which would include company information on:
What an operative should do if they believe they have contracted COVID-19 or another infectious disease
What the employee should expect in reference to time off, paid leave and SSP
Hygiene, and responsibilities towards employees, such as wearing of masks, opening windows, physical distancing and respect to others and their practices.
You could also include additional information on the Electrical Industries Charity (EIC) and the support that is available for all operatives when they need it.
Employment and Skills Adviser, SELECT
Current Scottish Government regulations on COVID-19
Get vaccinated when vaccinations and boosters are offered.
Stay at home if you’re feeling unwell.
If you’re feeling unwell but can’t access a test, stay at home until your temperature goes or you feel better.
If you’ve tested positive, you’re advised to stay at home for five days, longer if you still have a temperature or are poorly.
People under 18 who test positive should stay at home for three days, longer if they still have a temperature or are poorly.
Avoid people who have underlying health conditions.
Keep areas ventilated and open windows when socialising indoors.
Wear a mask when indoors or on public transport. Respect the decisions of others.
Wash your hands thoroughly and often – this protects against more than COVID-19!
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
High temperature, fever or chills
Loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
Shortness of breath
Unexplained tiredness and/or lack of energy
Not wanting to eat or not feeling hungry
Muscle aches or pains not due to exercise
Headache that’s unusual or lasts longer than normal
Sore throat and/or stuffy or runny nose
Feeling sick or being sick.
Safety during domestic work
Revised guidance on staying safe during domestic work has been produced by the Construction Industry Collective Voice (CICV), of which SELECT is a leading member.
The updated recommended operating procedures include key considerations, practical steps when working in the field, types of work considered essential and what to do before carrying out work.
Also included is a downloadable fact sheet to be given to householders before domestic work starts, outlining health and safety measures to be taken by both operatives and the public.
The guidance is open source and can be downloaded for free at www.cicvforum.co.uk/downloads