Workforce - Key Workers

Key Workers

The First Minister has advised essential businesses still required to operate to maintain social distancing measures in the workplace. If you cannot meet these requirements, the Scottish Government guidance is to close. Alongside this guidance we would reiterate our guidance to businesses to reduce staffing levels on site to the bare essentials required to operate.

Testing of key workers

The UK government has established a new network of Covid testing facilities for key workers. Access to Covid testing in Scotland has been widened and will now be determined via a prioritisation matrix for key workers that includes a broader range of private sector workers and essential services.

Who can be now be tested

We need to ensure those critical to the sustained functioning of the economy and public services have access to testing that enables them to continue their vital work. The test is only guaranteed to be accurate if someone is symptomatic.

The list of workers able to access testing comprises: 

  • Staff delivering NHS services, providing social care to protect and care for the most vulnerable
  • Staff with face-to-face roles in residential institutions with people in the care of the state
  • Essential workers in critical national infrastructure fundamental for safety and security, and life-line services. This includes defence personnel, environmental protection, animal health and welfare, funeral industry and staff working for third sector organisations supporting people and children who are vulnerable, including grant aided schools, food supply chain and food processing workers, and workers on medicines and pharmaceutical supply, chemicals supply, energy and water supply
  • Staff directly involved in delivering other essential services. 
  • Staff involved in volunteering, or in nationally or locally significant industry important to economic sustainability and growth

When to get tested

You should get tested in the first 3 days of coronavirus symptoms appearing, although testing is considered effective up until day 5. No testing should be undertaken after day 5, unless it’s for a specific reason which will be agreed on a case by case basis by local microbiologists. If you are self-isolating because a person you live with has symptoms, you can refer them for testing. By testing the household member(s), we can be much more certain that you should either be self-isolating or can return to work.

Arranging a test if you are a key worker

Eligible key workers will be notified of where to go to get their test through the booking arrangements described below. Testing under the UK programme in Scotland is currently conducted in drive-through sites operating at:

  • Glasgow Airport
  • Edinburgh Airport
  • Aberdeen Airport
  • University of the Highlands and Islands campus in Inverness 

Employer portal

A new website has been established to improve the process of booking tests. This website is experiencing high volumes of demand and access is being carefully regulated to ensure the systems can continue to function effectively.

Eligible employers can register and refer staff for appointments or eligible key workers will be able to book a test directly for themselves or members of their household. After they have entered their details on the portal, individuals will receive a text or email the same day inviting them to either book an appointment, or offering a home self-testing kit.

Those using self-referral can indicate their preference prior to registering details.  

The target for sending results is by text within 48 hours. A call centre is available by phone, to help people with the process and deal with test result queries.

Obtain a login for the employer referral portal

To get a login, employers of key workers should email You must supply two email addresses that will primarily be used to load key worker contact details. Once employer details have been verified, two login credentials will be issued for the employer referral portal. Employers should then login at to make referrals.

Self-referral portal

Go to the self-referral portal at: to sign up if you are a key worker and you, or a member of your family, is symptomatic. Any questions from employers or key workers about accessing testing, the website, or results should be made by emailing:

Home tests

Key workers who have completed a self-referral may have the option, depending on available capacity, to book a home-test kit. Home test kits are an option where key workers are unable to attend a drive-through centre.

How home testing works  

After you complete a self-referral and order a home-test kit, the test would then be delivered the next day. You will self-administer the swab, packing it up as instructed. A Royal Mail courier will arrive the day after to collect it and take it to the lab.  The aim is that results will then be received via text within 48 hours. 

Negative tests and returning to work

Even if a key worker has had a negative result, it’s important to still apply caution. If everyone with symptoms who was tested in their household receive a negative result, the employee can return to work if their work cannot be done from home, providing they are well enough, and have not had a fever for 48 hours.

If, after returning to work, they develop symptoms they should follow the NHS Inform guidance and self-isolate. Employees should discuss their return to work with their employing organisation.

Full information issued by the Scottish Government can be found here.

Who is a key worker?

Key workers are those individuals who will be allowed to send their children to schools, or other identified facilities, to ensure they have childcare in order to attend work.

Unlike in England, Wales and Northern Ireland there is no national guidance in Scotland to include the food industry and supply chain within the definition of “key workers”. Instead, across the three broad categories of workers to be defined as ‘key workers’, as issued by Scottish Government, it is up to each of the 32 local authorities to determine if the food sector falls within the definition.

Letters for businesses to issue to key workers for movement and childcare

Food and Drink Federation Scotland, along with partners, has developed a downloadable pro-forma letter for businesses to issue to employees for whom it is absolutely essential to travel to work. Click the links below to download.

Key workers - movement between workplace letter

Key workers - childcare letter

Furlough letter template and webinars from Acas

Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has produced a free-to-download furlough letter template for employers to use to confirm that there is an agreement to temporarily furlough a worker or employee. Download here

There is also an upcoming webinar – Coronavirus: an advisory webinar for employers - on Thursday 16th April which will provide practical advice for employers to help manage the impact of Coronavirus in the workplace. Register here 

Absentee levels

Scotland Food & Drink is keeping a close eye on workforce absentee levels with very variable level of absence reported across the country and between individual businesses. Please keep information flowing to us on changes on this and general impacts of the outbreak on your operations. We are involved in daily calls with our fellow industry bodies and with government and it is your information shaping the responses being developed.

As always, you should email with a briefing on your current situation.