Covid-19 guidance for PA Employers
There are now no official Covid-19 rules or restrictions in Scotland. However, this page includes some things you may wish to consider around Covid-19 as an Employer of Personal Assistants.
General hygiene measures
The Scottish Government have recognised that we are now living with COVID-19 as a respiratory illness like cold or flu.
They advise following simple hygiene measures to avoid the risk of infection, like:
- trying to stay at home if you have symptoms
- if you have symptoms and do need to go out, wear a well-fitting face covering
- get the vaccine if offered to give you the best possible protection
- wash your hands regularly
- meet in well-ventilated spaces.
You can find more suggestions for how to stay well at the link at the bottom of this page.
‘Self-isolating’ (staying at home) is no longer a legal requirement. If one of your PAs tells you they suspect they have Covid-19, or have tested positive, but they feel fit to work, it is usually up to you to decide if you want them to work for you.
You may have included a clause in your PAs’ contracts to set out under what circumstances you have the right to decide if a PA is fit to work. Speak to your insurance provider or get legal advice if you do not have this clause and want to include it – you will need to follow a process to change any contracts.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including face masks, is no longer available for free to people working in social care.
You may have a Covid-19 policy in place that describes the measures your PAs should take to reduce the risk from Covid, including the use of PPE. You may also want to conduct a Covid-specific risk assessment to demonstrate what the risks are from Covid and what measures PAs should take to reduce risks, eg. wearing face masks and disposing of them in agreed ways.
If your Covid-19 policy says that your PAs are required to wear PPE, it is your responsibility to provide this. Speak to your Local Authority about including the costs for PPE for your PAs in your budget.
If you need advice about how to discuss the issue of face coverings with your PA(s), you can contact the ACAS helpline: 0300 123 1100. The helpline is open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
You can find more advice from ACAS at the link at the bottom of this page.
A Face Covering Exemption Card scheme, delivered by Disability Equality Scotland, closed on 22 September 2023. Cards already in circulation can continue to be used, with no time limit on their use.
Routine testing for Covid-19 is no longer available.
You can buy Covid-19 tests from pharmacies, supermarkets and online if you suspect you have Covid-19 and want to check.
If you have done a risk assessment for Covid-19, you may have decided that asking your PAs to test for Covid regularly is an appropriate method of reducing risk. If so, it is up to you to provide the tests they need. Speak to your Local Authority about including the costs for tests for your PAs in your budget.
In winter 2023, only the following groups of people are eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine:
- frontline health and social care workers (including Personal Assistants)
- residents and staff in care homes for older adults
- people aged 65 and over
- people aged 6 months and over with a condition that places them at higher risk
- regnant women
- carers aged 16 and over
- people aged 12 and over who are household contacts of people with a weakened immune system.
As an employer, you cannot make your Personal Assistants get a Covid-19 vaccine. There may be reasons your PA cannot or does not want to be vaccinated – for example, pregnancy, religious beliefs or a disability, so including this in a contract of employment may lead to a claim of discrimination.
Check out the factsheet from the Independent Living Group, ‘Can I insist that my PA gets the coronavirus vaccine’? at the bottom of this page for more information.
If your PAs are happy to be vaccinated, you can support them to take up the vaccine by giving them paid time off work to get it.
You can check if you, or your Personal Assistant(s), are eligible for the vaccine, at the NHS Inform website.
Some local health boards are offering drop-in clinics for people eligible for the vaccine. You can find more information on the NHS Inform website.
Some people who have had Covid-19 continue to experience symptoms that last for a long time after the infection. This is known as ‘long covid’.
If one of your PAs has long covid, you may need to consider what support they need to be able to continue in their job.
You can find advice from ACAS in the link at the bottom of this page.
Take a look at the resources available below to guide you in more detail.