COVID: Business briefing

As Covid restrictions relax and are replaced with requirements in the new “beyond level 0”, it’s important to recognise that the virus is still within our communities and that the number of positive cases is increasing. The vaccination programme will reduce the severity of any symptoms within individuals, but there is a need for everyone to be responsible, follow safe procedures, get vaccinated and report any illness.

This briefing aims to highlight a number of issues for you to consider in managing your business.

Asymptomatic Workplace testing

Organisations with 10 or more employees can now sign up for asymptomatic workplace testing as part of an enhanced drive to identify emerging coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and break chains of transmission. Free lateral flow device (LFD) tests have been made more widely available as the country emerges from lockdown restrictions and moves beyond level 0.The testing regime is voluntary and organisations can adopt an LFD Collect model to distribute among workers or implement their own asymptomatic test site (ATS) model in workplaces. Testing in Scotland had previously been targeted at prioritised areas of the public sector, critical national infrastructure and private businesses with higher transmission rates.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd said: “Testing has a vital role to play as we move safely out of lockdown and this rollout of workplace testing to cover all companies with 10 staff or more builds on our strategy to tackle COVID-19. The vaccination programme has been a major success, however even though you are fully vaccinated it does not guarantee that you cannot catch the virus and pass it on without knowing you have it. Asymptomatic testing will remain an important tool in breaking future chains of transmission. More staff continue to return to the workplace in the months ahead, we must do all we can to ensure this is done as safely as possible. Workplace asymptomatic testing can play an important part in the recovery and organisations across our business, third and public sectors can contribute to this. It’s vital that all results are reported to ensure we understand the prevalence of the virus and halt further transmission.

The council encourages all organisations and businesses who are eligible to sign up for workplace testing and play their part in our recovery from the pandemic. Organisations with less than 10 employees can direct their workforce to collect LFD test kits from a local pharmacy or COVID-19 test site, or order online for home delivery 

Notes:-The workplace testing offer will initially be until the end of September 2021, in line with the universal testing offer. It will include formal volunteers from third sector organisations. Eligible Scottish organisations can find information on how to apply on the Scottish Government website.

Temporary Relaxations from building warrant and planning consents.

Current Scottish Government relaxations for temporary structures not to require building warrant or planning consent extends on the 31st March 2022. This includes temporary external seating areas, temporary structures including any marques or units. There is an opportunity to plan for this, and to either:

  • prepare and submit the necessary applications for planning and building warrant well in advance of the 31st March 2022 deadline (deally, before the 1st December 2021) if you wish to continue with their uses;
  • alternatively, implement measures to remove the temporary structures or use of the areas, on or before the 31st March 2022.

For further advice contact the council’s planning or building standards teams on: 01546 605518 or email planning  or building standards.

COVID Compliance measures and sectoral guidance

Argyll and Bute Council encourages all businesses to continue to play their part in reducing the spread of coronavirus and other airborne infections. Although the restrictions on physical distancing have been removed, there are still actions that businesses can and must take. Importantly, this means having premises and operations which continue to protect workers and customers.

Employers must still control the risks and review and update their risk assessment.

You should make sure the measures identified by your risk assessment take account of the Scottish government’s guidance on staying safe and protecting others in businesses and workplaces.

Some specific Scottish government guidance includes:

The following workplace controls remain unchanged:

Collecting visitor information is still required by law in hospitality and entertainment premises, and is a good idea in other types of business. We urge all premises with the means to use the free ‘Check-in Scotland’ digital product.  All guidance and a user toolkit can be found at: Check-in Scotland - mygov.scot.

Face coverings are mandatory in most indoor public places, indoor communal spaces including retail, restaurants, cafes, bars and public houses, and in workplaces and on public transport. Read more guidance on the rules and exemptions

Events

Planning an event. Make sure that you have appropriate measures in place for managing events across a whole range of issues, including Covid controls. The council supports safe and successful events, through its multiagency Safety Advisory Group. If you are planning an event, consider the guidance, and make early contact with the Council to discuss your plans and identify any requirements, including licences.

If you are uncertain or require further advice, contact the council’s environmental health team or call 01546 605519

Signage

Scottish Government have issued new signage to replace the FACTS messaging and physical distancing messages. The council are planning to remove current signage and replace with the new messaging, and to promote this through social media. There are four distinct messages and you are encouraged to consider posting these in your businesses for staff or your customers. The signage can be downloaded from the council website.

New Discretionary Hardship Fund for Businesses  

The purpose of this grant is to provide hardship support to businesses currently experiencing short-term financial challenges as a direct result of the impact of the COVID pandemic in the last financial year (2020-21). If your business needs funding to assist with recovery plans due to the impact of Covid last year then you can apply.

The Fund is focussed on providing support to businesses who are still facing challenges in 2021-22 specifically due to the impact of COVID on the business in 2020-21.  The Fund cannot be used to replace lost income for a business that still has sufficient cash reserves to meet all its needs, or to support a business that is not viable in the long term. Businesses are eligible to apply if they have already received other COVID grant support, if financial challenges related to the COVID pandemic remain.

There are three levels of grant award:

  • £2,000 for businesses with no employees 
  • £5,000 for businesses with 1- 9 employees 
  • £10,000 for businesses with 10 or more employees

This new fund can support businesses who are still facing challenges in 2021-22 specifically due to the impact of COVID on the business in 2020-21. If your business needs funding to assist with recovery plans due to the impact of Covid last year then you can apply. It can provide grants of £2,000 to £10,000 depending on the number of employees.  Applications will open on 9 September and will close on 15 September or sooner if the fund is fully utilised before then. Grants will be awarded on a first come first served basis.

Find out more information