The Government has published new guidance for businesses. The guidance applies from 19 July onwards – when all restrictions are lifted, including the instruction for employees to work at home if they can.


Offices, factories and labs


Guidance for people who work in or run offices, factories, plants, warehouses, labs and research facilities and similar indoor environments.

During this period of high prevalence, the government expects and recommends a gradual return over the summer.

You should discuss a return to the workplace with workers, and trade unions to make working arrangements that meet both business and individual needs.


Priority actions to take – what businesses should do to help protect staff and customers


Six steps are identified in the guidance as necessary to protect your business, your staff and your customers. (The guidance does not, however, supersede your existing legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment and equalities etc). The six steps are: 

  1. Complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes the risk from COVID-19 - The objective is to reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level, by taking preventative measures. Reasonable adjustments for staff and customers with disabilities should also be considered.  

  2. Provide adequate ventilation - You should make sure that there is a supply of fresh air to indoor spaces where there are people present.  

  3. Clean more often - Advise customers and staff to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser frequently, and ensure thorough cleaning of premises, especially surfaces that people touch a lot.

  4. Turn away people with COVID-19 symptoms or who should otherwise be self-isolating - Stop people physically coming to work, when they are obliged or advised to stay at home and self-isolate.

  5. Enable people to check in at your venue - Although you will no longer be legally required to collect customer contact details, by doing so you will support NHS Test and Trace to contact those who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

  6. Communicate and train - Keep all your staff, contractors and visitors up-to-date on how you’re using and updating safety measures.

The above are considered to be the priority actions to make businesses safer during coronavirus. Full details are set out in the guidance document which you can access here.



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.


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