COVID-19 – new rules / restrictions
New public health restrictions issued by the Scottish Government mean that all of mainland Scotland is now in a temporary lockdown which is expected to last for at least four weeks.
Following the lockdown announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday 4 January, everyone in Scotland must now stay at home at all times except when leaving home for essential purposes, for example:
- For work, where that cannot be done from your home
- For education, including school, college, and university
- For essential shopping, including essential shopping for a vulnerable person
- For healthcare, including COVID-19 testing and vaccination
- To provide care, assistance, support to or respite for a vulnerable person
- To participate in or facilitate shared parenting
- To visit a person in an extended household
- Local outdoor recreation, sport or exercise
- More details can be found here.
Specific rules have been given to tradespeople, governing what type of domestic work can be carried out during this time. This means that some essential construction work is being allowed to continue in Scotland as follows:
Domestic construction work
Tradespeople should only go into a house to carry out or deliver essential work or services, or where that house is unoccupied. The kind of work that may continue includes:
- utility engineers and telecoms workers (e.g. electricity, gas, solid fuel, water, broadband) for the purpose of safety checks, repairs, maintenance and installations, where those cannot be delayed
- urgent repairs and maintenance – time critical repairs and maintenance that threaten the household’s health and safety
- delivery, installation and repair of key household furniture and appliances such as washing machine, refrigerator, cooker etc.
- provision of health, medical and veterinary care to household occupants including animals, e.g. to prevent a health or welfare issue arising or address a current health or welfare issue
- services in support of a home move
- domestic cleaner providing services in support of a clean and safe living environment for people in vulnerable circumstance, living with a disability and as a result of that vulnerable circumstance or disability are unable to clean their own home.
Where work to be carried out on someone else’s home is not essential, it would be against the law for it to go ahead while the house is occupied under the current restrictions.
Examples of this could include:
- cosmetic painting/ decorating/ interior design
- interior remodelling
- measuring, fitting or replacement of kitchens/ bathrooms/ carpets or windows where the existing condition is adequate and does not risk the health or safety of the household.
Working in someone else’s home
In this public health crisis, it is vital that everyone act responsibly and align fully with published guidance. At a minimum this should include:
- 2 metres physical distancing
- good ventilation
- the wearing of face coverings
- effective hygiene practices
- appropriate risk assessment
- contact tracing and appropriate self-isolation.
Tradespeople and businesses should contact the customer or client in advance to:
- ensure the customer or client agrees to have their contact details recorded for the purpose of contact tracing
- check the household is not self-isolating.
People should not enter the home if any of its occupants are self-isolating, except where such work is essential for emergency health and safety reasons. In such circumstances, tradespeople and businesses should review any risk assessment processes they have in place and be especially vigilant in implementing existing mitigation measures throughout the duration of the work, such as:
- physical distancing
- hand hygiene
- avoiding unnecessary contact with household surfaces
- use of face coverings.
These mitigations are essential to break the chain of transmission
The CICV Forum has updated its guidance for carrying out work in domestic properties which can be found here.
For outdoor workplaces during lockdown, construction and manufacturing can remain open, but employers should plan for the “minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively”.
People delivering goods to, or services in or outside a customer’s house, can travel between COVID-19 Protection Levels for the purpose of work where that work is essential and allowed under the regulations..
You should only travel with members of your own, or extended, household. When there is no alternative but to travel with people from outwith your household, you should:
- Keep to small groups of people, up to six at any one time
- Keep your distance and take care entering and exiting the vehicle
- Sit as far apart as possible in the vehicle, avoiding face-to-face
- Maintain good ventilation by keeping the car windows open
- Wear a face-covering, unless you are exempt
- Clean your hands before and after your journey
- If the vehicle is your responsibility, clean the door handles and other areas that people touch.
- If you regularly share transport whether it is a car or minibus or other private vehicle, try and share with the same people each time.
Further information on travelling to work is available in the CICV Forum animation here.
Travel to work is not the only reasonable excuse for travel at this time, and the full list can be accessed at the link given here.
Physical distancing should be observed when using site canteens and local shops and cafes. The two-metre physical distancing rule has now become law.
Dealing with worker concerns
Where workers are reluctant to attend work, or to work on certain jobs due to COVID-19 fears, employers are urged to tackle this issue sensibly. Employers should share the outcomes of risk assessments of such jobs (see below) to allay workers’ fears of excess risk, and ensure that job sites are following COVID-19 public health guidelines to an acceptable degree before carrying out the work.
For guidance on childcare, please see here.
Members can access risk assessment templates for free by registering with the BSG Hub here. Once the member has registered they can then produce their own RAMS. To learn more about the specific risks relating to COVID-19 on the BSG Hub, registered Members should use the BSG website menus to click on ‘Health and Safety Documents’ > ‘Risk Assessments’ > ‘Occupational Health’.
There is currently no specific guidance for apprentices attending college, with many classes for January now being carried out via remote learning. Anyone with any queries should contact their SECTT Training Officer.
Appropriate face coverings should be worn at all times. For more guidance, watch the CICV Forum animation on face masks here.
Merchants and wholesalers
Merchant and wholesale suppliers will be allowed to remain open.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
The CJRS or furlough scheme continues to operate UK-wide during this time, and will continue until at least the end of April 2021. The UK Government has reiterated that a lack of appropriate childcare is an acceptable reason to place a worker on the furlough scheme, either fully or flexibly, even if there is sufficient work in the business for that worker to do.
Employers may wish to consider such a move for parents of nursery- and school-aged children while Scottish schools are closed to pupils, and home-learning protocols are in effect. Fuller guidance on the CJRS is available here.
If the business chooses not use the furlough scheme in this situation, employees (but not other types of worker) will remain entitled to take unpaid time off for dependants, or parental leave.
Home Energy Efficiency Programme for Scotland (HEEPS)
Non-essential works inside people’s homes that are funded as part of the area-based schemes (ABS) programme should not be started while Level 4/stay at home restrictions apply. This includes any preparatory activities that need to take place inside people’s homes, eg an initial EPC or other building survey. If pre-existing internal works remain incomplete, eg part finished internal wall or ‘room in roof’ insulation, local delivery partners would be expected to urgently complete these as essential works, to ensure that the property is safe and weatherproof.
The First Minister will be meeting with business and union reps over the coming weeks to consider “if more regulatory action is required”. In the meantime, further information on the current restrictions and guidance can be found on the Scottish Government website here.
The Scottish Government has also published a page of FAQs about working in people’s homes, including guidance about essential domestic construction work. Read more here.