23 December 2021

Critical workers’ exemption

The Scottish Government has confirmed that businesses and organisations providing vital public services and Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) industries can apply an exemption to allow critical / essential workers to volunteer to leave self-isolation and return to work, in certain limited circumstances, to allow vital services to continue.

Businesses and organisations within the funeral sector which have a critical business need can now apply the exemption for certain staff, subject to complying with the procedures below.

Exemptions apply to businesses and organisations:
• impacted by staff shortages as a direct result of self-isolation requirements
• where a critical service is at imminent risk due to the staff shortage
• that have exhausted all other options to address pressures on operations

Eligible roles

Not all roles within a business are expected to be eligible for exemption status and businesses should consider the following guidance when applying exemptions for staff members.

Currently, eligible roles include those which cannot be undertaken from home, and are critical for the safe and dignified collection, handling, and burial and cremation of the deceased.

This includes:
• collecting the deceased or transporting the deceased (e.g. to a funeral director, crematorium or burial ground)
• preparing the deceased
• arranging the funeral
• conducting the funeral service
• cremator operators and other frontline cremation authority staff
• frontline burial authority staff

This does not include:
• any staff who are able to undertake their role from home (e.g. finance staff)

Businesses and organisations should engage with staff and union officials to make it clear that any decision not to self-isolate:
• is voluntary
• is subject to personal risk assessment which should consider the individual’s contacts and vulnerabilities

Staff can only volunteer to not self-isolate following a risk assessment of their personal circumstances, and the employers’ duty of care to all their employees must be respected.

Local Authority Burial and Cremation Authorities

Local authorities can apply exemptions to the services they run and will
create and operate internal exemption approvals processes, applying the guidance to their local circumstances.

Funeral Directors’ Businesses, privately run Burial and Cremation Authorities

Businesses and authorities are responsible for administering the exemption in line with the following guidance. Exemptions should be made on a temporary basis and last only for as long as there is an immediate risk to business or service continuity.

Under the exemption process, before a staff member who is a household contact of a positive case can volunteer to return to work, the staff member must:

• have had their second COVID-19 vaccination more than 14 days ago;
• have a valid vaccination record either downloaded from the NHS Scotland Covid Status app or a paper record of vaccine status from NHS Inform.
• not have symptoms of COVID-19;
• have evidence of a negative PCR test
• take daily lateral flow tests for up to 10 days after being exposed to the virus;
• fully comply with any PPE requirements, hand hygiene and other infection control measures

In considering if the exemption should be applied where a staff member has volunteered, the business or authority must:

• consider how the effects of self-isolation are impacting on critical functions and services;
• consider what steps have already been taken to address this pressure;
• consider the impact of no action;
• consider the scope of the requested exemption – location, number of staff etc;
• consider whether they are currently engaging with a local Incident Management Team (IMT) regarding outbreak management.

Businesses exercising this exemption would be further expected to notify officials via email to the inbox of their decision to apply exemptions and would be expected to include key details such as the date from which the exemption was applied; the number of workers the exemption applies to and their roles; and how the business meets the Critical National Infrastructure definition.

Burial and Cremation Team
Scottish Government