COVID measures for Omicron

Over half of all COVID cases in Scotland are caused by the new variant, Omicron, and the numbers are rising at an alarming rate each day, with over 1,000 new cases identified yesterday.

New measures came into place on Friday (17 December) to fight the spread of coronavirus.

Read on for a summary of updated measures and steps to make yourself safe at work.

Employers should

  • support working from home when reasonably practical
  • maximise ventilation
  • conduct new risk assessments and implement measures identified
  • encourage staff to take a test twice weekly and on every occasion they intend to mix socially with people from other households.

Council updates

All proposals on returning to workplaces have been put on hold. There are on-going discussions around the Customer Hub at 249 High Street opening from 10 January, pending any goverment guidance.

It is early days and there is a lot of work being done. If you have questions about specific changes in work read this guide first then

  1. get the risk assessment from your line manager
  2. send this to your workplace rep with your concern.

If you are being asked to do something you feel is unsafe we need to know

  1. who is asking you to do this and how—get it in writing if possible
  2. if you have you raised your concerns with them.

Long COVID

Staff with long COVID will have the first 12 weeks of their absence registered as special leave, after which the normal absence procedure applies.

If your symptoms have a significant impact on you undertaking day-to-day tasks, you may be entitled to reasonable adjustments. This may mean changes to the absence targets.

It is important that cases are understood on a case-by-case basis. The Council’s policy allows room for discretion.

Getting the vaccine

You are entitled to paid time off for medical appointments—getting the vaccine is a medical appointment.

If you have side effects from the vaccine that prevent you from working, contact your line manager. Absence for side effects is recorded as paid leave, not sickness absence, so doesn’t count towards triggers etc.

Fit notes

The UK Government has temporarily increased the amount of time you can self certify as off sick from 7 days to 28 days.

If you are off sick, you can self certify for up to 28 days, after which you need a doctor’s note.

Get an isolation note if you need to isolate for COVID.

If you can’t work from home

Make sure risk assessments are up to date and measures are put in place. Managers must give staff access to risk assessments and these must be shared with health and safety reps.

Take a lateral flow test twice a week. Order lateral flow tests online.

Ventiliation should be maximised. If you are cold at work, inform your line manager and workplace rep—last year we made sure cleaners were given fleeces to keep them warm.

If you work in the homes of others

If anyone in the house is isolating, workers should only enter for emergency and essential work.

You should take a lateral flow test the day before your visit. Those in the household should take a lateral flow test.

If you have symptoms of COVID

Isolate immediately and take a PCR test. You can have this posted to you or can take one at a test centre.

If you have been in contact with someone with COVID

Isolate immediately and take a PCR test. You can have this posted to you or can take one at a test centre, normally on the same day.

If you live with someone who has coronavirus, you must isolate for 10 days. This includes living with children. The only exemptions are for some health and social care workers.

If you are unvaccinated and have been in contact with someone with COVID you must isolate for 10 days.

If you don’t live with your ‘close contact’ you can end isolation early if you

  • are fully vaccinated—2 doses, with over 14 days since your last dose
  • have no symptoms
  • have a negative PCR test.

This is not mandatory. Your work can ask if you would end isolation early, but cannot coerce you as this is voluntary. If you are being coerced to end isolation contact your rep immediately.

Exemptions for health and social care workers

You are expected to return to work if you

  • are fully vaccinated and have had a booster more than 14 days ago
  • have no symptoms
  • have a negative PCR test.

You must

  • take a lateral flow test before work every day for the 10 days since you saw your close contact
  • not work with immunosuppressed patients.

Steps you can take to feel safe

Request a new risk assessment for your workplace with the new variant in mind.

Is there a risk assessment in place? Does it address your concerns? If the answer is no to either of these questions, raise this with your line manager and your workplace rep immediately. No worker should be asked to undertake work with no risk assessment. The risk assessment should cover infection control and CoViD-19 specifically.

If you have underlying health issues, request an individual risk assessment that will address your health issues.

Scottish Government guidance on risk assessment

If your line manager is asking you to do something that you feel is not safe, raise your concerns with your line manager and your workplace rep immediately. If you are still being asking to undertake work that you feel is unsafe, go to an area where it is safe and contact your workplace rep—do not remove yourself from your workplace, only the danger.

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