Lockdown and shielding employees

In line with Scottish Government guidance, from Tuesday 05 January 2021 mainland Scotland moved from Level 4 to a temporary Lockdown, with new guidance to stay at home except for essential purposes.

As such, employees who are able to work from home should continue to do so. If employees have returned to work but can work from home, they should arrange to work from home immediately.

Employees in receipt of a shielding letter should work from home, or if this is not possible, they should be granted special leave. Individual Coronavirus (COVID-19) risk assessments should be updated and any associated letter should be uploaded to MyView. Leave should be recorded on MyView under the "shielding category".

At the end of the lockdown period, the Individual Covid-19 Risk Assessment should be reviewed again in line with the guidance below. This should be used to determine how the employee can safely return to work.


Individual Coronavirus (COVID-19) risk assessment

Managers are responsible for ensuring that an individual Coronavirus (COVID-19) risk assessment is carried out for all employees in the following groups prior to any return to the workplace:

  • Employees with underlying health conditions / who have been shielding / who are aged 70 years and over
  • Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic employees
  • Pregnant employees

An individual risk assessment may also be carried out for any employee who doesn't fall into these categories but is concerned about a Coronavirus (COVID-19) risk within the workplace.

The employee should use the Scottish Government's occupational risk assessment tool to assess employee risk from Coronavirus (COVID-19).

This information should then be used by the line manager to form the basis for a discussion on:

  • general measures which will be, or have been, put in place in the workplace to ensure the safety of all employees considering Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • any issues from the Government tool and how these could be addressed (including, for example, any concerns the employee may have about returning to work, whether a referral to OH may be required)
  • application of the guidance linked to the current protection level both in the Falkirk area and in the employee's home area (if different)
  • any specific arrangements needed to support a return to the workplace at an appropriate time.

This information should then be recorded on the Individual COVID-19 risk assessment form and implemented as appropriate.

COVID-19 Individual risk assessment

Managers should aim to complete individual risk assessments for employees working from home, so they are available to refer to when employees eventually return to the workplace. However, if there is any significant delay between the completion of the risk assessment and the employee's return, the assessment should be reviewed and updated as required prior to a return to the workplace. The review should also take account of any subsequent change in the protection level within the Falkirk area or the employee’s home area.

No employee with an underlying health condition should physically return to the workplace until a risk assessment has been completed. In all cases, where employees do return to work or their status changes, managers should ensure that MyView is updated accordingly.

Employees in receipt of a shielding letter: for the period covered by that letter should work from home, or if this is not possible, they should be granted special leave. Risk Assessments should be updated and any associated letter should be uploaded to MyView.


Risk assessment outcome

The Scottish Government guidance indicates that the majority of workplaces can be made safe for employees who are at highest risk. It advises any employee who has a concern to discuss this with their employer.

Returning to Work

All employees should work from home where this is possible. If this is not possible and where after a Risk Assessment, an employee is identified as being at moderate or low risk from coronavirus (COVID-19) it is anticipated that they will be able to return to work in some capacity unless their GP considers them unfit to do so.

If the outcome of their Individual Coronavirus (COVID-19) risk assessment is that the employee CAN safely return to work, arrangements should be made to support them to return as soon as possible. If an employee remains concerned about returning, then the following steps should be taken as appropriate.

  • If an employee is a member of a Trade Union, offer a further meeting with their TU representative present and suggest they also seek support from their union to help them work through their concerns, with a view to agreeing a return to work. Where an employee is not a trade union member, another meeting may still be beneficial in allowing the employee to discuss their concerns further.
  • Seek OH advice on the employee's concerns and review the risk assessment as appropriate in consultation with the employee (and their TU representative where appropriate).
  • Encourage the employee to seek support from their GP. This may be particularly helpful in cases where the employee advises the situation is causing them to feel stressed or anxious or if there appear to be multiple factors causing them to be concerned about returning to work. In such circumstances the employee should check if their GP considers them to be fit to work and if not, they should be asked to self-certificate/ provide a fit note to cover their absence. If the employee has difficulty obtaining a fit note, seek advice from your Service HR adviser.
  • HR/Health & Safety advice should be taken if the employee feels the workplace is unsafe to return to.
  • In line with OH advice, determine if a temporary redeployment opportunity exists which would address the employee's concerns. Any such arrangement would need to be kept under review to take account of changing service needs and the outcome of reviews of the employee's Individual Coronavirus (COVID-19) risk assessment.

If the outcome of their Individual Coronavirus (COVID-19) risk assessment is that the employee CANNOT safely return to work in their own post, or to alternative duties:

  • Shielding employees should be granted special leave for the full period in which they are required to shield in line with Scottish Government advice.

  • Non-Shielding employees should be granted special leave for a maximum of 4 weeks. If, at the end of this special leave period, the employee remains unable to return, they would move to sickness absence in line with the Managing Sickness Absence Policy.

In all cases, the risk assessment should however be kept under review as noted below and action taken as appropriate. Myview should also be updated as required.


Review of Individual risk assessments

Managers should ensure that all Individual risk assessments are kept under review in consultation with employees and updated as required. This may, for example, take account of the following:

  • Changes to the Government's occupational risk assessment tool: The tool has changed on several occasions since it was first launched. This link should be used to ensure that the current version of the tool is being used.

  • Changes in COVID-19 protection levels: Employees should notify their manager if the COVID-19 protection level within their home area changes. Similarly, if the COVID-19 protection level within the Falkirk area changes the risk assessment may need to be reviewed (as noted at Risk Assessment Outcome above).

  • Changes in operations or lessons learned: from implementing revised arrangements within the workplace.

  • Return to workplace: if there has been a delay in the completion of the risk assessment to the return to work date, then the risk assessment should be reviewed.

All completed Individual risk assessments should be uploaded to MyView for future reference. These should be saved under the "Absence – COVID-19 Risk Assessment" category with the name RA (date).


Casual workers

It is also important to ensure that an Individual risk assessment is undertaken for any casual worker who falls into one of the higher risk groups. The way in which this is to be managed needs to take account of how particular groups of casual workers are coordinated and supported across the Council.

  • There are some areas where the allocation of casual workers is coordinated by a central individual, or a particular manager is responsible for groups of casual workers. In such cases, that person will be responsible for checking whether any of the casual workers on their list falls within any of the higher risk groups. They should ensure that an individual Coronavirus (COVID-19) risk assessment is completed in conjunction with relevant employees before an initial offer of casual engagement is made. Each employee should be given a copy of their completed assessment and a copy uploaded to MyView.
  • There are areas where there is no central coordination of casual workers. In such cases, any manager contacting a casual worker regarding an offer of work should check with that person whether they fall into one of the higher risk groups. Where no risk assessment has been completed for the casual worker, the manager should complete one with them. They should also ensure that appropriate arrangements to address the outcome of the assessment can be put in place before the employee is offered any work.
  • In all cases, when a casual employee falls into one of the categories outlined above, they should not be offered work unless an individual risk assessment has been completed and reviewed by the relevant manager. That manager will be responsible for ensuring that any necessary adjustments and measures can be put in place within the area the individual will be working. If they cannot then it may not be possible for an offer of work to be made.
  • It may be the case that a casual worker has more than one individual risk assessment, taking account of variations in work locations. The manager who did each risk assessment should ensure that a mechanism is in place to review these on a regular basis with the employee, a copy provided to the employee and uploaded to MyView.

Please be aware that this situation is changing frequently, and this process will be kept under constant review.

If you have any queries about any of the above, please speak to your service's HR contact.