Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer businesses and workplaces

Guidance for businesses and workplaces on reducing the risk of COVID-19 and supporting staff and customers.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer businesses and workplaces
Protection measures

Protection measures

Protection measures are either mandatory legal requirements to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 or advisory measures included in guidance which businesses, staff and visitors are asked to follow. The protection measures are summarised below as either mandatory or advisory:

Mandatory protection measures:

Protection measure

How to protect yourself and others

Wear a face covering

Face coverings are mandatory in most indoor public places, indoor communal spaces including retail, restaurants, cafes, bars and public houses, and in workplaces and on public transport, unless you are exempt or in specific circumstances.

Please refer to the specific face covering guidance to see the full list of the areas it is required and exemptions that apply.

Take reasonable measures to minimise the incidence and spread of coronavirus

You must assess what protection measures you should put in place in your premises to reduce the risk of transmission such as:

  • changing the layout of premises including the location of furniture and workstations to maximise physical distancing
  • controlling the use of entrances, passageways, stairs and lifts
  • controlling the use of shared facilities such as toilets and kitchens
  • installing barriers or screens
  • providing personal protective equipment
  • providing information on minimisation of transmission risk to those working in or visiting the workplace

Advisory protection measures:

Protection measure

How to protect yourself and others

Self-isolate when symptoms first appear and support your workers to do so

Everyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 – a new, continuous cough; fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste - should isolate straight away and arrange a PCR test via NHS Inform or, if you can’t get online, by calling 0800 028 2816. 

Self-isolate if you have been identified as a close contact of a positive case and support your workers to If you have been identified by Test and Protect as a close contact of a positive case, you should refer to Contact tracing in Scotland | NHS inform for the latest information.

Get vaccinated when offered

Encourage staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine through supporting the dissemination of national campaign information. Individuals retain the right to choose whether to take the vaccine and businesses should be mindful of this.

Test before going to work and social activities

Individuals should do a lateral flow test regularly (twice-weekly) and on every occasion they intend to mix socially with people from other households. This might mean testing more regularly.

This will help break chains of transmission, which is particularly important with the more transmissible Omicron variant.

LFD kits can be obtained through NHS Inform or from local pharmacies or test centres.

If you test positive, you should report the result online as soon as the test is done. This ensures that people can get the advice they need as quickly as possible. After reporting their result, people should then fill in the online form they will receive, so that contacts can also be informed and rapidly given the correct advice.

Maximise ventilation

By taking measures to increase the volume of outside air entering a building, such as opening windows, doors or vents, you can help minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19 to colleagues and customers. 

A range of guidance has been developed to help businesses, employers and employees understand what good ventilation is which includes Scottish Government ventilation guidance and the Health and Safety Executive guidance on ventilation and air conditioning during COVID-19.

Hybrid working

Businesses and workplaces should consider the implementation of hybrid working if they can, with workers spending some time in the office and some time at home. Hybrid working supports business resilience. We encourage employers to manage the transition to hybrid working in consultation with workers and where appropriate, trade unions.

Good hand and respiratory hygiene and surface cleaning

Good hygiene measures are key workplace-specific measures to create a safe working environment. These include, for example:

  • providing access to sanitiser and hand-washing facilities
  • regular cleaning of work equipment, chairs and work stations areas and common touch points
  • regular cleaning and sanitising of communal areas
  • if sneezing or coughing around other people, do so into a tissue, handkerchief or your elbow
  • minimising the use of touchpoints throughout buildings, including exploring where possible how digital processes or systems may replace the need for face-to-face discussion
  • wherever possible, movement of individuals between work stations should be minimised, e.g. avoid hot-desking, and assign each individual a designated desk. Where work spaces are shared, they should be cleaned between users.

Additional advisory measures that could be taken to reduce transmission


What this means in the workplace

Keep yourself and others safe

  • provide information to staff and visitors to the premises about measures which must be followed
  • encourage staff to be considerate of others as some individuals may wish to take a more cautious approach
  • refer to Staying safe and protecting others for further information

Maximise the use of outside space

Encourage the use of outdoor spaces for meetings and breaks.

Keep distance where you can

We would encourage people and businesses to think about how best to use the space available. The World Health Organisation recommends keeping a physical distance of at least 1 metre from others. Where practical and appropriate, this could include the retention of certain measures such as:

  • voluntary limits on maximum capacity where appropriate
  • manage the inflow/outflow of premises through ongoing use of one-way systems and/or traffic lights systems
  • protective screens
  • electronic ticketing

Businesses should also consider implementing:

  • staggering break times to reduce pressure on break/eating areas
  • using outside areas for breaks and meetings, where possible and appropriate
  • reconfiguring seating and tables to maximise space
  • reviewing use of locker rooms, changing areas and other facility areas to reduce concurrent usage
  • minimise congested areas in your premises such as narrow corridors, staircases, doorways and storage areas by introducing one way systems

Take extra precautions when in crowds or large groups

When meeting in groups, everyone should try to keep distance from others that are not in their social group. Everyone should be encouraged to:

  • avoid crowded spaces;
  • try to stay a reasonable distance from others where possible
  • meet outdoors instead of indoors, where possible
  • keep the size of indoor meetings as small as your circumstances allow or ensure the area is well ventilate

Stay at home if you are unwell (beyond COVID-19 symptoms)

Businesses should support staff to stay at home if they are unwell even if they don’t have COVID-19 symptoms as the individual may still have an illness which could be passed onto other people.

Moving around the workplace

To minimise transmission, businesses may consider the following measures, where possible and appropriate:

  • implementing one-way systems on walkways that are suitable for all staff, visitors and customers taking into account disabilities
  • reducing maximum occupancy for lifts, providing hand sanitiser for the operation of lifts and encouraging use of stairs
  • making sure that people who are disabled are able to access lifts whilst encouraging physical distancing and other protective measures
  • regulating use of high traffic areas including corridors, lifts, turnstiles and walkways


Where possible and appropriate, organisations may consider:

  • avoid sharing pens or other objects
  • provide hand sanitiser in meeting rooms
  • hold meetings outdoors or in well ventilated rooms

Shift patterns

Organisations may develop plans to change shift patterns to protect the workforce and optimise productivity. This could include reducing the need for travel at peak times and opportunities for flexible working patterns. This may require negotiation with trade union or workforce representatives if it involves a change in terms and conditions. 


Provide training around processes to all staff to ensure everyone understands their new working environment. This includes reaffirming existing workplace practices and safety measures and also addressing changes that have been implemented to practices, layout and procedures as a result of COVID-19.

Work cohorts

As a business, you may wish for small groups of staff to form work cohorts. 

Work cohorts could be useful where a job role requires groups of the same staff to work in close proximity, such that they are likely to be deemed close contacts as set out in the Test and Protect guidance. It may help to maintain business operations in the event that a staff member develops symptoms or is tested positive for the virus, as exposure would be limited to their particular cohort.

Handling inbound and outbound goods

To reduce transmission from objects and vehicles at the workplace you can consider:

  • revising pick-up/drop-off points, procedures, signage and markings
  • introducing handwashing facilities/sanitiser for staff handling of goods and merchandise
  • when handling and storing goods, ensure you are in a well ventilated area, discard any packaging as safely as possible, avoid touching your face, and perform hand hygiene as soon as possible
  • remove waste in bulk if possible

Distribution and site visitors

Organisations may wish to consider limiting site access to those who need to be there for safe operation, ensuring safe working practices and production related activities.

There may be a requirement for specific external agencies to have legal access to certain premises in a safe manner.

They should consider implementing a permit to work system for contractors and external visitors who need to access the site. Where possible and appropriate, businesses should consider the following:

  • providing handwashing and hand sanitiser and encourage visitors to wash their hands regularly
  • maintaining a record of all visitors including encouraging the use of the Check In Scotland service

Changing rooms and showers

To minimise the risk of transmission in changing rooms and showers:

  • set clear use and cleaning guidance for showers, lockers and changing rooms to ensure they are kept clean and clear of personal items
  • restrict the number of people within the changing areas at any time
  • enhance cleaning and sanitising of facilities regularly throughout the day

Management of public and greenspaces

As an owner and/or operator of urban and/or green spaces it is important to consider all relevant legal obligations in relation to the retention or removal of interventions previously recommended by Safer Public Spaces guidance (e.g. traffic regulations, planning permission, permitted development orders or fire safety regulations).

The management of public and greenspaces that are more likely to be focal zones with high footfall may still require specific interventions, such as:

  • guiding movement through spaces
  • the potential need for any additional measures such as at entrance areas, to supervise and assist
  • allocation of pedestrian space e.g. footway widening
  • managing varying pedestrian, wheeling, cycling and traffic movement flows
  • provision of space for regular, safe, formal and informal road crossing points. Consideration should be given to the need for appropriate signs or markings to indicate crossing points for visually impaired people
  • accommodating high levels of cycling in and around busy centres, including provision of cycle racks or cycle storage
  • accessibility requirements for certain groups to be kept under review



First published: 23 Dec 2021 Last updated: 28 Feb 2022 -