Social Distancing: Supporting the Workforce

Guidance for Employees and Managers

This guidance is subject to change as the situation progresses (Last updated by HROD Manager 24/03/2020)

Argyll and Bute Council is taking measures to ensure that our workforce is as safe as possible during the current pandemic. This involves supporting social distancing measures to reduce unavoidable contact where possible.

The government have issued a statement on 23rd March to increase social distancing measures and effectively implement a lockdown to help suppress the spread of COVID 19. Social distancing is not the same as self-isolation which applies to people who are symptomatic or living in a household with others who are symptomatic (see separate guidance note). Social distancing advice applies to everyone who is not covered by self- isolation measures.

With effect from Tuesday 24th March the Scottish Government guidance is noted below

Stay at home - national guidance

The only permissible reasons to leave your home are as follows:

  • To shop for basic necessities and that should be limited to once a day
  • To take exercise once a day - but alone or with your own household, not in groups
  • For medical reasons or to care for a vulnerable person
  • To travel to essential work if that cannot be done at home. Further guidance to employers is pending.

As we await further guidance from central Government the guidance for council employees is as follows:

Frontline services, key workers and essential staff Those of you who are working in our critical frontline services, please attend work as normal, keeping in close contact with your manager to make sure you are clear about any changes to normal working arrangements. Pay close and careful attention to social distancing and health and safety measures to keep yourselves safe. If you have any concerns or worries, please contact your manager or supervisor directly. If they cannot answer immediately, they will escalate to senior management for an answer as quickly as possible.

Office workers – If your place of work is closed but you are unable to work from home, please contact your line manager or supervisor with your personal contact details and remain available for work.

Working from Home - Those of you who are already working from home, please continue to do so and keep in close touch with your manager.

Access to buildings – Some of you may require access to buildings for equipment or essential maintenance. Where this is the case, please ensure that your manager is aware and arrangements will be put in place to ensure that you have safe access.

During this time, we may ask you to carry out tasks that are not part of your normal daily work. These will be in line with your skills and abilities and we will ensure that you receive appropriate training.

Employees Considered high risk

The Government have provided the following detail in relation to the group of people who are considered to be at risk of severe illness from coronavirus and should therefore be stringent in taking social distancing measures:

Employees who are considered high risk, or those living with a person in one of the high risk categories should have a discussion with their line manager around the specific social distancing measures that would be appropriate for them in terms of their role and personal circumstances.

In most cases the line manager is likely to be aware that an employee in their team is in a high risk category. However where the employee lives with someone who is in a high risk category this may not be known to the line manager. The line manager should satisfy themselves that the employee (or someone they live with) is considered high risk. Where appropriate this could include confirmation from a medical professional for example a consultant or midwife etc.

Home working will be made available where possible and further specific guidance on home working will be available separately. Homeworking may not be appropriate or available for all employees and where this employee carries out essential work other mitigations such as working from a different location that minimises risk, working different hours where less contact can be accommodated, working alternative duties, development and online training can be considered. Solutions should consider the needs of the employee and the service in which they work. There may be occasions where employees who are considered high risk are unable to mitigate the risks through social distancing measures due to the nature of their role. The employee should remain in contact with their line manager during this period of leave.

The employee should notify the absence line of the start date that they will be participating in social distancing from. If they or anyone they live with become symptomatic during the period of social distancing they should contact the absence line to update their status to Self-isolating.

All employees should continue to follow guidance below

What You Can Do

We are keen to ensure that all employees maintain high levels of hygiene to keep the chance of contamination to an absolute minimum. Please ensure:

  • You wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or alcohol based hand sanitizer (if handwashing facilities are not available)
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue away immediately (wash hands again)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Keep at least two meters’ distance from anyone
  • Increase space between colleagues at work stations where possible
  • Reduce social contact to minimise opportunities for exposure

Payment During participation in Social Distancing/ Lockdown

All available options (outlined above) should be explored by the line manager and employee to make arrangements that allow the employee to carry out some meaningful work during this period. Where this is the case the employee will continue to receive full pay.

In the event that it is impossible for the employee to carry out meaningful work either due to them being considered high risk or due to the nature of their role during this period the employee will be granted leave with full pay. The employee should notify the absence line at the start of their period of social distancing and keep in regular contact with their line manager during the period of social distancing.

Guidance for Managers

All managers should be familiar with the guidance from public health and it is essential for managers to remain informed, these links have been provided below for ease:

For those in Education Settings

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19

For those in Social or Community Care & Residential Settings

https://www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/web-resources-container/covid-19-information-and-guidance-for-social-or-community-care-residential-settings/

Preparation

We are currently asking managers to prepare by considering the work that teams could potentially do from home, ensuring that  Business Continuity Plans are up to date, pool devices are checked, working and tested at home in the event that we need to maximise opportunities for home working/minimise those coming to workplaces.

Managers are asked to consider the work/projects/development that teams could be doing if required to work at home for an extended period.

We may soon be gathering information on employee’s availability and willingness to assist with delivering our critical services should this be required. Your support to secure this information is key.

Safeguarding our employees and Citizens

Since the announcement in relation to social distancing we have received many questions from services and employees concerning the services they provide and the best way of safeguarding the workforce and our citizens.

We have also compiled a short series of questions below that employees can use for all interactions with the public and these will inform our risk assessments.

  • Are you self-isolating
  • Have you in the last 14 days come into contact with someone who is known to have COVID 19
  • Do you have Flu like symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath (even if mild)

If a visitor confirms any of the above they will not be granted access to our offices or will be asked to leave and access services through an alternative means, telephone or online.

We will also be asking for the following to be confirmed to appropriately risk assess the situation and protect citizens.

  • Do you have an underlying health condition
  • Are you over 70

For routine work involving home visits confirming any of the above will result in delay to the visit until the risk has reduced. For necessary emergency visits emergency procedures will be implemented and employees will be supplied with appropriate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

General Guidance on Attendance at Training

The council’s online learning environment LEON will be available to all staff as normal. Attendance at face to face training which is not essential to the safe delivery of your role (E.g. for registration or safe practice purposes) will be cancelled and you should not attend.

All face to face corporate training including the Argyll and Bute Manager programmes will be cancelled until further notice. This situation will be reviewed on a regular basis. Managers should discuss any training courses planned for their employees and make them aware that they should not attend unless it is considered essential.

The Talent Management team are currently working with providers to find alternative and remote ways to deliver some of our face to face corporate courses. Where it is possible for a training event to be delivered remotely the Talent Management team will notify all delegates directly of any alternative joining methods, otherwise you should expect that the training will not go ahead.

General Guidance on Attendance at Meetings

With immediate effect all meetings should take place online or over the telephone wherever possible. Employees should avoid being in the meeting rooms for meetings. Even if you work in the same office building as the person you are meeting you should conduct the meeting via skype, VC or over the telephone wherever possible.

Travel to meetings (unless deemed essential) should be cancelled. If employees are unsure whether a meeting is essential they should check with their line manager.

Managers should make alternative online arrangements for the following employee related meetings:

  • Return to work interviews
  • Attendance review meetings
  • Case review meetings
  • One to ones/ Supervision
  • Team meetings
  • Disciplinary meetings
  • Grievance interviews
  • Recruitment
  • PRDs

Other corporate meetings including SMT, DMT, and board meetings should be held remotely avoiding the use of meeting rooms where possible.

Recruitment

At this time it is extremely important that recruitment for essential posts continues to ensure the workforce required is available to provide essential services. Interviews should wherever possible be conducted remotely via skype, or VC. This may require that recruiting managers (or their delegated officer) contact candidates to make alternative arrangements based on the technology available to the candidates to conduct the interview remotely.

Where a recruiting manager takes the decision that face to face assessment of the candidate is required the process should be postponed and reviewed on a regular basis in line with guidance on social distancing, with candidates kept informed regularly of the status of the process.