Jason Leitch joined the COSLA briefing last week. He emphasised the fact that double vaccination + booster remain the best protection against the spread of Covid-19, particularly given the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant.
He made clear that they are still learning about the level of severity of Omicron. Whatever the level of severity is though it’s certainly not so different that we’d see a sufficient enough reduction to hospital admissions to allow any relaxation of mitigations so all precautions should be followed.
He said that the increased transmissibility and consequential isolations will have a significant impact on the number of people attending work. They are currently looking at absence (through people having Covid or isolating in line with government guidance) modelling in local government which is indicating that up to 25% of the LG workforce could be off work in the coming weeks. They stated that they would be surprised if in a fortnights time local government will be able to provide anything but critical services.
In light of this local authorities have been asked to draw up a list of critically important roles for consideration for isolation exemptions. These lists must be discussed with trade unions and local public health teams – they should not be blanket exemptions but focussed on roles specifically delivering critical services. We will keep you updated regarding this.
amongst social care workers remains lower than other frontline workers so please ensure any local issues presenting difficulties in staff being able to get their booster are raised with management.
there continues to be concern about the low number of pregnant women taking their vaccine, such that they have been added to the list of clinically vulnerable. Guidance has been updated for pregnant women and can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pregnant-women-urged-to-come-forward-for-covid-19-vaccination
should be actively reviewed by every employer – please check if this has been done and if not please ask that they are. It is not enough for an employer simply to say that they drafted a generic risk assessment several months ago and that it remains relevant. They need to go back over them all in light of changed and strengthened mitigations.
We raised concerns about the impact of tightened mitigations, isolation, the continued uncertainty and concern on the mental health of workers. It was agreed that there will be a refresh of the ‘Don’t stay on mute’ campaign that we worked on jointly with the employer earlier in the year. We will share this when complete.
CoSLA has put together some good practice on ventilation which you can find here:
Safer Workplaces Guidance
The safer workplace guidance has been updated in line with the increased levels of protection required for Omicron. All employers should be following this. You can find the up to date guidance here:
Long Covid – SJC Collective Agreement
Please see attached SJC-68 – the collective agreement reached on Long Covid. It is important to stress that this outlines the bare minimum we would expect local authorities to be implementing in relation to this – they can and should be encouraged to do more.
Review of Regional Improvement Collaboratives
The Scottish Government has published an evaluation of the operation of Regional Improvement Collaboratives which you can find here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/review-regional-improvement-collaboratives/
This, you will be pleased to read, will be the last LG update from us this year. It has been another challenging year in local government but, whilst we might not have been able to deliver everything we would have wished, we have made real progress in many areas and have protected members in ways they will never know. Lives have been saved and members are better off because of the hard work all of you have done this year. I know it has not been easy but it is appreciated. Thank you. I hope you manage to get a bit of a rest over the festive season.
We hope this is helpful.
Best wishes for 2022