Workforce - Supporting your employees


The UK government has established a network of COVID testing facilities. This programme runs alongside the existing programme of testing in the NHS for clinical purposes and testing of key workers in health and social care.

Testing will allow people - anyone aged 5 and over with symptoms - to know whether or not they have the virus.

Who can get tested?

A level of priority for testing appointments will be maintained for key workers and their household members to support them returning to work where it is safe to do so.

More detail about who is a key worker is set out in the prioritisation matrix for key workers. Please note the list is not exhaustive, but intended to provide an indication of the type of worker within each group.

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.

How to arrange a test

You can use this self help guide: access to testing for coronavirus on NHS Inform to help you select the right test.

Self-referral portal for workers

If you are a key worker or have to leave home to work, and you have symptoms or a member of your household age 5 years or over is symptomatic: go to the self-referral portal.

You can book a test for you or for your symptomatic household members at one of the testing sites in Scotland or request a home testing kit. 

Employer portal

In addition to workers being able to self-refer eligible employers can register and refer staff members or their household. To get a login, employers of key and other workers should email

Full guide >>.

Negative tests and returning to work

Even if a 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.

Test and Protect

Test and Protect is Scotland’s way of putting into practice the test, trace, isolate, support strategy. It will prevent the spread of coronavirus in the community by:

  • identifying cases of coronavirus through testing
  • tracing the people who may have become infected by spending time in close contact with them
  • supporting those close contacts to self-isolate, so that if they have the disease they are less likely transmit it to others

If physical distancing (2 metre rule) is implemented in a business, the working assumption is that co-workers of a positive case are not deemed ‘close contacts’ so would not have to self-isolate.

A ‘close contact’ is defined as:

  • Those that are living in the same household as a case. 
  • Face to face contact with a case for any length of time within 1 metre, including being coughed on, a face to face conversation, unprotected physical contact (skin to skin), or travel in a small vehicle (e.g. car or van) with a case.
  • Extended close contact (between 1 and 2 metres for more than 15 minutes) with a case.

Key workers

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