Coronavirus (COVID-19): Self-isolation exemption for health and social care workers

For general activities outside of work, health and social care workers should follow our guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.

To return to work in a health and social care setting, there are additional clinical safeguards in place.

Line managers no longer need senior management approval before asking employees to return to work.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you must self-isolate and book a PCR test. Only people without symptoms may be eligible for exemption from self-isolation.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The most common symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a high temperature or fever
  • a new continuous cough
  • a loss of, or change in sense of smell or taste

A new, continuous cough means coughing for longer than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours. If you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual.

You’ll be eligible for exemption from self-isolation if you’re a close contact of someone with coronavirus and you:

  • are fully vaccinated – this means you’ve received 2 doses and you had your second dose more than 14 days ago
  • do not have symptoms of coronavirus
  • return a negative PCR test result
  • are not a case in your own right
  • have not been identified for self-isolation under travel regulations

You may be eligible to continue to work during your exemption if you meet the criteria below.

When does exemption from self-isolation for work apply?

You do not have to go to work if you do not feel able to. However, you are expected to return to work if you meet all of the criteria for exemption and have been asked to do so by your line manager.

There are several criteria that must be met:

  1. You’ve been identified as a close contact.
  2. You’re fully vaccinated – this means you’ve received 2 doses of an approved vaccine and you had your second dose more than 14 days ago. This needs to be verified with your line manager.
  3. You do not have symptoms of coronavirus.
  4. You are not currently self-isolating as a case.
  5. You do not develop symptoms in the 10 days since you last saw the person who tested positive.
  6. You’ve had an initial negative PCR test result. If you’ve tested positive for coronavirus in the last 90 days, you’ll need an initial negative LFD test rather than an initial PCR test before returning to work.
  7. You take a daily lateral flow device (LFD) test before starting work for the 10 days since you last saw the person who tested positive. If you live with the person who tested positive, the daily LFD tests start from the date of their first symptoms, or their positive test if they do not have symptoms.
  8. You must report the result of every daily LFD test to your line manager. You must also report your result through the NHS Scotland portal. If you have a positive LFD test, you must self-isolate and arrange a PCR test (even if you have had a positive PCR result in the previous 90 days) to help with further risk assessment before returning to work.
  9. You do not work with immunosuppressed patients – for example in oncology settings. If you do, you may be asked by your line manager to work within other areas.
  10. You continue to follow infection prevention and control guidance.

If you’re identified as a close contact more than once, you’ll need to have a new negative PCR test each time in order to be exempt.

It’s particularly important you follow the infection prevention and control guidance for:

  • correct use of PPE (personal protective equipment)
  • extended use of Fluid-Resistant (Type IIR) Surgical Face Masks (FRSM)
  • compliance with appropriate hand hygiene
  • adherence with car sharing advice