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Chamber and committees

Question ref. S5W-34690
Asked by: Colin Beattie, Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Scottish National Party
Date lodged: 20 January 2021

Question

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will introduce guidance or legislate to exempt a person who lives with someone who is shielding from COVID-19 from having to go to work, similar to the approach taken during the first lockdown.

Current status: Answered by Mairi Gougeon on 3 February 2021


Answer

Family or household members living with someone on the shielding list were not advised not to go into work during the first lockdown. The Chief Medical Officer’s letter of 26 March 2020 did ask people to minimise time spent with others in their household and to keep 2 metres apart where possible.

Scottish Government advice remains that everyone should work from home if they possibly can.Stay at home regulations came into effect on 5 January 2021 which placed a duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to minimise the spread of coronavirus. This included supporting staff to work from home for those roles that can be undertaken remotely. If staff were working from home during the first lockdown in March 2020 they should be working from home now.

New Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on working from home was published on‎ 19 January 2021. This guidance is intended to support employers and the self-employed to continue to facilitate working from home in line with the stay at home regulations. This guidance can be applied across any sector or role where working from home is possible. Organisations should make every reasonable effort to make working from home the default position. Where a worker can perform their work from home, they should continue to do so.

As set out in this guidance, all employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working.

Family members from the same household should also work from home where possible. However, if this is not possible, they can still go into the workplace. It is the employers responsibility to make sure the workplace and duties are Covid-safe. We advise that household members should discuss their concerns with their employer (especially if this is causing anxiety), explaining that they live with a family member who has health concerns and is on the shielding list.

We are asking people to stringently follow and observe the FACTS guidance for a safer Scotland in order to reduce transmission of Covid-19.

Some employers may offer additional financial support for employees who are off work for caring or coronavirus-related reasons.

Employers can also, at their discretion, furlough people through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which has now been extended until April 2021. They may also be able to furlough people in the event that they have caring responsibilities resulting from covid-19.

In the absence of employment powers, we strongly encourage all employers to apply Fair Work principles, and a flexible approach to dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 on workers and workplaces, to protect the health and wellbeing of their workforce.