Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for people on the Highest Risk List

Advice to help people on the Highest Risk List make informed decisions and access support services.

This document is part of a collection

Advice on working 

Advice and guidance for people on the highest risk list (previously known as the shielding list) about working and how to keep yourself safe at work.

Reducing workplace risk


We continue to encourage workplaces to consider hybrid and flexible working practices. We are encouraging employers to take the needs of those on the Highest Risk List into consideration when implementing hybrid working. This includes people who might prefer to work from home, or people who are keen to return to the workplace. Read our guidance for employers about hybrid working.

As of 21 March 2022, workplaces are not required by law to have regard to Scottish Government guidance about minimising risk of transmission of COVID-19 or take reasonable practicable measure to reduce transmission. However, we continue to encourage workplaces to continue with all protective measures and we have published new guidance to provide advice on steps employers can take to reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace and create a safer environment for all. 

Although the requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessment is removed from 1 April, it is recommended that workplaces continue to consider COVID-19 transmission risks as part of their assurance procedures. For more details, including on workplace risk assessments, see the latest safer workplaces guidance.

Individual risk assessments

We also advise that you carry out an individual risk assessment to look at your individual risk from COVID-19. This can help you to highlight your individual risk to your employer in order to discuss any additional changes that may be needed to make your workplace and duties safe for you. Find advice about individual risk assessments here.

If you still feel unsafe

You should discuss any concerns with your manager or your employer. You can also get further advice from:

  • Occupational Health Services (if your employer offers them)
  • the Health and Safety representative in your workplace
  • HR (your employer’s Human Resources team, if there is one)
  • your trade union or professional body
  • staff with no union representation can seek advice and assistance from the STUC and Scottish Hazards
  • the Citizens Advice website or the free Citizens Advice Helpline on 0800 028 1456, (Monday to Friday, office hours)
  • the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)



Our advice continues to be to test twice weekly (LFD tests when you have no symptoms) and people should test before they meet with someone who is on the Highest Risk List.

As of 18 April, we will no longer ask everyone to carry out tests if they don’t have symptoms, unless they are a close contact of someone with COVID-19. This includes workplace testing except in health and social care workplaces and prisons where staff will continue to test.  Anyone with symptoms should continue to get a PCR test and self-isolate.

From 1 May, we will no longer advise people to test if they have symptoms.  If anyone has symptoms of COVID-19 or flu or other infectious illness, they should stay at home in order to aid recovery and reduce the risk of passing their illness to others. Find more information about testing in our Test and Protect transition plan.

Following the public health advice


Face Coverings

You are still required by law to wear face coverings in the same places as before, including public transport and most indoor public places. This includes workplaces. You must wear a face covering at work, unless exempt, if you can’t maintain a distance of more than 1m from others and there isn’t a partition.

Read face covering guidance for businesses and workplaces here.

Read the latest guidance on face coverings for everyone in Scotland here.

Physical distancing

Keeping some distance from people from other households and avoiding crowded indoor places - even though no longer legally required – is still a sensible precaution.

Hand hygiene

Wash your hands regularly using soap and water or sanitising hand gel. It’s important to do this after touching hard surfaces and common touch points (such as hand rails, key pads or door handles).

Respiratory hygiene

Catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue. Put used tissues into a bin and wash hands immediately. If you do not have tissues to hand, catch coughs and sneezes in the crook of your elbow.


If indoors ask to be near good ventilation such as by an open window and avoid crowded places, especially indoor spaces, or places where there is little natural ventilation. 

Distance Aware badges and lanyards

Distance Aware badges and lanyards can be worn to show others you would like them to give you extra space and take extra care around you. If it would help you feel more comfortable when at work, you can wear a badge or lanyard with the Distance Aware logo. You can pick up a badge or lanyard at your community or mobile library, or a badge at most ASDA stores.

We are also asking employers to promote and raise awareness of Distance Aware in the workplace.  Find out more about Distance Aware.

Safety steps you can take yourself


We have some advice about additional steps you can take to keep yourself safe in the workplace. This has been developed in conjunction with the Faculty of Occupational Medicine. This advice is on top of the protections your employer should put in place. It does not replace your employer’s workplace risk assessments or your individual risk assessments. These are additional things which you could think about.

This advice may also be useful for your family or household members who are also thinking about how to keep safe for you.

Safety steps on your way to and from work

To help protect yourself while travelling, you could:

  • drive, walk, or cycle alone, if you can. If you walk or cycle make sure you keep some distance away from the closest person
  • avoid car sharing with people outside extended household wherever possible. See our guidance on travel and transport. If you have no other option, do so only with one person from another household. Sit in the diagonally opposite seat from them. Wear a face covering. Windows in the car should be opened as far as possible taking account of weather conditions to improve ventilation in the space
  • hand sanitise when you enter and exit the vehicle. Use alcohol or disinfectant wipes to wipe down any seats or items that any other person has touched
  • wipe down the door handles of your car after touching or sanitise your hands
  • on public transport, sit some distance away from the closest person to you wherever possible and wear a face covering. If you need to pass someone, keep some distance and do so as quickly as you can. Sanitise your hands before entry and on exit from transport
  • consider wearing a badge or lanyard with the Distance Aware logo to show others you would like them to give you extra space and take extra care around you
  • consider how you get from your transport to the front entrance of the workplace. If the entrance is crowded, wait until it’s empty, or clear enough for you to remain some distance away from others
  • put on a face covering before you enter the building
  • your manager should make reasonable adjustments for you to be able to negotiate the rush hour (while maintaining some distancing). This might mean arriving later or leaving earlier

Safety steps in the workplace

To help protect yourself at work, you could:

  • reduce tasks that could lead to contact with others. For example, save up photocopying jobs and do them in a batch rather than doing multiple trips 
  • clean your phone and mobile phone regularly
  • ask to work in a space that has natural ventilation (e.g. windows that can open)
  • avoid stuffy areas that have no or little fresh air, if other people also use the room. Ceiling and desk fans are safe if there is a fresh air supply, otherwise try to avoid rooms where these are in use as they will just circulate used air. Use blower fan heaters with caution in areas where others also use the room, especially without face coverings 
  • wash or sanitise your hands before and after touching shared equipment
  • if you cannot do this, hand sanitise at regular intervals during the day. You could set an alarm on your phone to remind you of this. For example every 10 minutes if you have touched a lot of things (as you might if you work in retail, hospitality or on a factory line), otherwise every 2 hours is advised
  • ask your manager if you can have your own equipment where possible, so you do not have to share
  • keep alcohol gel in your pocket or bag for use at work. Your employer could also provide pump-action or automatically dispensed hand gel at all frequently used ‘touch points’ in the workplace according to their risk assessment
  • work alone if you can, or with as few other people in the room as possible. If there are several people in the room it’s important to try to keep windows open and wear face coverings
  • if you are in a situation where another person at work (be it a service user or a colleague)does not maintain some distance from you, try to step back, ask them to step back and put on a face covering. Think carefully about when at work this might happen, make a list and use this to help you discuss it with your manager 
  • consider wearing a badge or lanyard with the Distance Aware logo to remind those around you to show others you would welcome extra space and care when at work. You could also ask your workplace to promote the voluntary Distance Aware scheme to their staff, customers and members. This could provide an opportunity for your workplace to discuss how they can be more considerate of others and support staff in their return to work​​​

Where you should pay extra attention


Changing rooms

  • if it’s not possible to keep some distance from others, point this out to your manager. Wait until the room is empty or quiet, or do not change there
  • change in another area if you can, and clean hands before and after leaving the changing area
  • ask about staggering start times or limiting how many people can be in the room
  • clean hands before touching any lockers and after use


  • wear your face covering at all times in the toilet
  • try to use the least frequented facility in the building where possible 
  • if possible flush with the lid down and immediately wash your hands with soap and water. Warm water is not essential, but soap is 
  • raise any issues about toilet supplies and cleanliness with your manager
  • use paper hand towels to dry your hands or an electric hand dryer
  • sanitise your hands after touching the toilet door handles and on exit from the toilets

Staff rooms and break times

  • the most important thing in a break room (or elsewhere) is staying some distance from anyone else and avoiding crowded places
  • people must wear a face covering in hospitality premises such as bars, pubs and cafes and restaurants, and canteens, including workplace canteens, but people are exempt from wearing a face covering to eat or drink.
  • face coverings should be worn in canteens and staff rooms except when seated and eating or drinking, and replaced immediately afterwards. It’s good practice to use your hand sanitiser before you replace your face covering. The virus can spread in canteens and staffrooms because if people are more relaxed, they can tend to stop following public health advice. Particular care should be taken that the measures are followed in these spaces.
  • during smoking or vape breaks keep a careful distance and put on your face covering immediately when you’re finished. Never share a cigarette or vape with others.
  • options include taking a home-made packed lunch and eating it in your car or outside.
  • if you have to use a break room, keep some distance between you and others at all times. Watch carefully before you enter the room if it seems crowded.
  • seats should be spaced out where possible. They should not be placed close to the door, or to shared items such as fridges, kettles, microwaves, sinks or work surfaces. If they are not spaced out as far as possible and it seems too crowded, raise this with your manager or someone who is responsible for this.
  • choose the seat furthest from these shared items if these areas are busier
  • wipe down any shared items before touching. Clean your hands after cleaning and just before eating.
  • bring in your own cutlery and crockery, but if this is not possible, wash these in soapy water before use and dry with a clean paper towel. Do not use a tea towel that has been used by others.
  • never share food with another person (e.g. shared take away/ shared box of chocolates/shared homemade bakery)
  • food prepared in a canteen or dining room is safe to eat if it is not shared with others. Takeaway food or drink should not be handled by any other person before you consume it (unless touch points have been wiped down first).
  • you can safely remove your face covering and enjoy your food and drink, but have a face covering at the ready to put on at any point

Safety steps on your way home

To help protect yourself on the way home, you could:

  • hand sanitise before entering and leaving your vehicle or other transport
  • wash your hands when you get home

Read more advice about the place or sector where you work.

Supporting your return to work


You may have been working from home or your employment may have changed since the pandemic started. You may be finding it hard to return to work.

There are support options that may be able to help you. For example if:

  • you’re unemployed at the moment
  • you would like to reskill to do a different kind of work
  • you have not yet been able to go back to work after furlough

Fair Start Scotland

If you are currently unemployed, Fair Start Scotland may be able to help. This is a voluntary service. Taking part will not affect any benefits you get.

The service offers one-to-one support for up to 18 months. This support is tailored to your needs to help you overcome any barriers to work and help you find the job that is right for you. Once in employment, in-work support is provided for a further 12 months. Being on the Highest Risk List should make you automatically eligible for Fair Start Scotland support. 

Find out more on the Fair Start Scotland website. You can also phone Fair Start Scotland for free on 0800 804 8108 (Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm).

No One Left Behind

No One Left Behind can also help you if you are not currently in employment, education, or training. This voluntary employability service offers help to access volunteering, training, employment, or educational opportunities. Advice is also available on ways to maximise income, cut living costs, and access benefits and resources such as childcare.

Find out more on the Employability in Scotland website, including contact details for accessing the service through your local authority.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS)

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) provides a range of career advice on redundancy, employment, online learning, immediately available jobs, and wider support services.

You can access SDS support from:

  • the My World of Work website, which can help with everything from finding and applying for a job to reskilling and changing career path
  • the online Skills Discovery tool, which you can use to discover your transferable skills, understand your value and decide your next move
  • the free SDS Helpline on 0800 917 8000 (Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm), where you can talk to expert work advisers
  • the network of local SDS centres

Access to work

You may be able to get support from Access to Work if you’re disabled or have a physical or mental health condition that makes it hard for you to do your job. To get this support, you must be in or about to return to paid work. Some benefits may also affect whether you can get this.

Support available includes:

  • an Access to Work grant to pay for things like special equipment, help getting to work, or a job coach
  • mental health support
  • help to assess changes your employer could make to meet your needs

Find out more about Access to Work on GOV.UK. This includes more information about who can get this support.


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