Staff news

Staff Briefing 24 March 2020

Colleagues ,

I hope you are coping with the unprecedented challenges we are now all facing in our personal lives and in adapting to the changes in our working lives. Your health and wellbeing continues to be the main priority in the weeks ahead.

I can’t even begin to put into words how proud I am of your contribution to The Highland Council in the last few weeks as we have worked through the Coronovirus situation – thank you. I am making a personal plea to those of you are able to help us in any way as you read through the staff briefing below. Your support is desperately needed in some key service areas we must now deliver as part of our Civil Contingency Response in this national emergency.

Please take care and keep well,

Warmest regards,

Donna Manson

Chief Executive


Staff Briefing 24 March 2020



You will all be aware that the UK and Scottish Governments have implemented immediate measures to restrict social interaction and delay the spread of the Coronavirus. Emergency legislation gives the government wide-ranging powers unlike any other recent legislation. It is essential that you all comply with these instructions, as these measures will slow down the pressure on hospital services and will save lives. This video explains how this works and how you could save thousands of lives by complying with these measures.

The Council has been given a number of specific tasks by the Government and everyone is working very hard under extreme and unprecedented conditions to achieve these in very short timescales.


Council Key Workers

The Council has had to reprioritise everything we do to ensure our focus is on essential, critical services which support the protection of life and our duties under the Civil Contingencies Act.

Those who are not in critical roles, should carry on doing your work as normal, until told otherwise, working from home if possible, and adhering to social distancing and excellent hygiene practice.

Many of you will be asked by your line manager to do some different work which is focusing on helping the essential functions and welfare duties we need to carry out. Unions are supportive of all staff being asked to do different roles, where there are not enough volunteers.

You can also, in discussion with your line manager, volunteer for key roles in manning a new helpline, assisting with the provision of welfare through Humanitarian Assistance Centres or providing child care for essential NHS workers.


Critical roles which require freedom of movement and which will carry on as a priority include the following:

Emergency, resilience and communications

Death registration, Burials and cremations

Environmental Health Social work and child protection

Essential healthcare roles

Mental health social work

Home care/care homes/ looked after children

Household and commercial waste

Welfare – humanitarian aid workers (food and medicine distribution)


Criminal justice



Domestic Abuse

Core ICT workers

Emergency response teams to deal with floods/oil spills/landslips/snow clearance


Humanitarian Assistance Centres

All Local Authorities have been asked to set up Humanitarian Assistance Centres (HACs) to coordinate welfare to vulnerable people who are having to self-isolate.  There will be 10 in Highland and work is underway to coordinate this major piece of work, in line with national guidance. Volunteers are being sought form both staff and from community groups who are keen to contribute to the response.

These HACs will be set up by the end of the week. Their purpose is to provide the structure through which support is provided to individuals at risk of serious harm, including the distribution of food and medicines supplies and other services.  The priority group for us to support first are being identified by the Government.  This group have clinical needs to self-isolate for 12 weeks and they are being written to imminently advising them of the need to shield themselves in this way and to contact their local council for any assistance needed.  There could be around 10,000 people in Highland in this group. Our job is to help them stay at home safely to avoid them becoming ill with Covid 19 and to take pressure off the NHS.  Over time the group of people to support is likely to broaden. We will provide an update this week including operating hours, locations and contacts.


Child Care Hubs

Key essential workers have been invited to apply for child care to enable them to carry out essential work, with a strong priority to those providing medical and nursing care and patient transport roles. Places will be limited and we have asked that these workers use all available childcare within their own support network before considering using a care hub. We will need staff to assist with providing these key facilities to enable essential workers carry on working. Some staff may be asked to redeploy and others can volunteer for this purpose.



If you wish to volunteer visit the portal to see how to do this. Thank you to everyone who has registered so far, but we desperately need far more volunteers to enable us to do these tasks. 


Staff enquiries

Staff should continue to use the helpdesk on 01349 886610 or email for specific questions about their job, terms and conditions, etc.


Staff support

You have now received information about a confidential new Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) service Spectrum.Life.  This provides mental wellbeing support, legal and financial advice and relationship advice as well as eLearning content related to a variety of wellbeing topics. The service is available to all council staff and your families. Follow this link using Google Chrome.


Your health

You may feel very worried about Coronavirus and how it may be affecting your life and your loved ones.  There are things we can all do to look after our mental wellbeing which can help to cope if you’re feeling anxious or worried. 

If your worries or anxieties are related to your work role, we would ask you to please speak with your line manager in the first instance.   There are some excellent resources within the mental health toolkit – you can access this via the Highland Council intranet, by clicking on the “Mental Health and Wellbeing Toolkit” in the popular link section on the left hand side of the home page or via this link

Scottish Association for Mental Health – Coronavirus Self Help and Wellbeing

Mind – Coronavirus and Your Wellbeing

NHS Inform – Social Distancing and Mental Wellbeing

NHS UK – How to Look After Your Mental Health Whilst Staying at Home


National advice and guidance on Coronavirus can be found here:

and here: