Scottish Government Issues New Guidance For Businesses

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Although specifically targeted at the construction sector, this advice is relevant to the wider business community.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): construction sector guidance

Guidance on construction sites and associated works that can continue under specific conditions.

Overview

This guidance is for the construction sector. It comes into effect immediately – 6 April 2020 – and extends until further notice.  We will look again at these measures in three weeks time.  

Business and social distancing

As per the business and social distancing guidance, published on 4 April 2020, in this public health crisisit is vital that ALL businesses act responsibly and align fully with the social distancing measures introduced to protect the nation’s heath, well-being and economic future. 

Advice from the Chief Medical Officer is that all non-essential business premises, sites and attractions should close unless and until we can all be clear how operations can be undertaken safely and in a way that is fully compliant with social distancing. 

As such we would advise all business premises, sites and attractions to close now unless:

  • essential to the health and welfare of the country during this crisis (as defined below); or
  • supporting (or being repurposed to support) essential services; or
  • wider public health, health and safety or other considerations apply and require a facility or service to continue to operate for a specific period of time for a safe shutdown process to be completed; and
  • apart from in exceptional circumstances critical to lives and safety, capable of working in a way which is fully consistent with established social distancing advice

Critical National Infrastructure

Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sectors define those facilities, systems, sites and networks necessary for the functioning of the country and the delivery of the essential services upon which daily life in Scotland depends.

Essential services are the fundamental services that underpin daily life and ensure the country continues to function.  

There are 13 designated CNI sectors:

  • energy
  • communications – Telecommunications, Public Broadcast, Postal Services, Internet;
  • government
  • transport
  • finance
  • civil nuclear
  • defence
  • chemicals
  • space
  • health
  • food
  • water and waste
  • emergency services

Even where businesses are in the CNI category and judge themselves to be exempt from closure of business premises, it is imperative that they keep open only those premises or parts of premises that are truly critical or essential to the national COVID-19 effort.  For example, related logistics or administrative staff should work from home wherever possible, and non-essential staff must work from home. 

Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, including with trades unions where present, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working.

Sometimes this will not be possible, as not everyone can work from home. Business should look critically at their role and operations.

The Chief Medical Officer for Scotland has advised that all non-essential business sectors – like construction (unless it is essential construction, such as a hospital)  – should close unless and until we can all be clear how  operations can be undertaken safely and in a way that is fully compliant with social distancing.

We will work with the construction sector – and others – to consider if it is possible to produce appropriate guidance on that specific point. Unless and until such guidance is issued, non-essential workplaces – including in particular, construction sites – should stay closed.The construction sector and its supply chain is considered a non-essential business sector, except where supporting an essential sector as listed above.

The Scottish Government has high expectations of how fair work principles should be applied during the current crisis and have issued a joint statement with the STUC which should be taken into account when applying this guidance.

All business workplaces that are not being specifically required to close should consider these key questions – and at all times work on the precautionary basis:

  • Is what you do essential or material to the effort against the virus or to the wellbeing of society?
  • Are you able to demonstrate and give confidence to your workforce that you can consistently practice safe social distancing and comply with ALL other standard health and safety requirements?

If the answer to either of the above questions is no, the advice of the Chief Medical Officer on a precautionary basis is to close.

This document contains further guidance on construction sites and associated works that can continue under specific conditions.

There has been an unprecedented package of support announced from both the Scottish and UK Governments to support businesses. This support should help many employers preserve their business, maintain jobs and pay their workers throughout this crisis. Information on this support is available through findbusinesssupport.gov.scot.  We urge all businesses to make use of this. 

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