Following the Scottish Government’s statement on 15 March 2022 regarding COVID-19 restrictions, organisations should take time to review the status of recently eased restrictions, and those which are to be eased in the coming weeks. These changes will be of particular relevance to businesses and employers throughout Scotland, who should follow the up-to-date guidance when dealing with employees and customers alike.
Recent changes to COVID-19 restrictions
Scotland has been preparing a phased return to office working to varying extents since the summer of 2021, with guidance released on 31 January 2022 allowing employers to consider a hybrid working model – a mixture of office-based and remote working.
The mandatory vaccine passport scheme, which required nightclubs and large event venues to conduct checks of proof of vaccination held by attendees, ended on 28 February 2022. The scheme remains functional and businesses can continue to request proof of vaccination prior to entry should they wish to do so, but this is no longer required by law.
Guidance on self-isolation is expected to remain in place for some time in Scotland, as set out in the table below. There is no legal requirement to self-isolate in Scotland, but employers are advised to allow their employees to self-isolate as far as possible.
|Category||Prior position||Changes introduced in January/February 2022|
|Office working||Employers were advised to limit office working as far as possible and to allow remote working to prevent the spread of COVID-19.||From 31 January 2022: Employers can implement hybrid working, meaning a mixture of office and remote working, at their discretion.|
|Vaccine passport scheme||Large or high risk venues were under obligation to conduct checks of proof of vaccination of a certain percentage of attendees.||From 28 February 2022: No longer any legal requirement to conduct proof of vaccination checks. The vaccine passport scheme remains in use for businesses wishing to still make use of it and for international travel.|
|Self-isolation||Individuals testing positive for COVID-19 were required to self-isolate for 10 days from the date of a positive test.||From 6 January 2022: Individuals testing positive for COVID-19 should isolate for 10 days from the earlier of first date of symptoms or the first date of a positive test. Isolation can be ended early upon two consecutive negative tests from day six onwards.|
Further easing of restrictions
Currently, use of face coverings in indoor public spaces is required by law unless exempt. The guidance advises use of coverings in certain outdoor or private spaces where risk of transmission may be higher. A full list is available here. While the Scottish Government had previously expected to remove the requirement on face coverings from 21 March onwards, it was announced on 15 March that this would be delayed for a number of weeks. A further update is expected in April in relation to face coverings.
The government has confirmed that from 21 March it will lift remaining requirements on businesses, providers of services such as care services, and places of worship to implement measures targeted at reducing the spread of COVID-19, such as physical distancing and, for businesses, recording of customer details for contact tracing.
Guidance relating to testing and contact tracing remains in force, but is expected to be lifted during the course of April 2022, giving way to a more targeted testing system. It is expected that any testing required under this new system will remain free at the point of use.
|Face coverings||Mandatory in indoor public spaces, unless exempt.||No change as of 15 March, with a further update expected in April.|
|Hospitality – spread reduction||Businesses are advised to implement measures including physical distancing, increased ventilation, screens between customers and recording of customer details.||From 21 March, the decision to implement any measures is at a business’s sole discretion – guidance will no longer be in place.|
|Testing||Close contacts are advised to test via lateral flow for seven consecutive days if asymptomatic, and to test via PCR if symptomatic. The general public are advised to take lateral flow tests twice weekly.||Advice expected to be lifted during the course of April, subject to change.|
This article is based on changes to the law as confirmed on 15 March 2022. Should you have any queries, please do get in touch with Kevin Clancy, at [email protected], or the Health and Safety team at Shepherd and Wedderburn who will be able to assist you.