Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scots to work from home again until mid-January amid fears about a surge in Covid cases due to the Omicron variant.
Scots were already advised to work from home where possible, and while no new legal requirements are being introduced, employers are being asked to “ensure” it is happening.
Nicola Sturgeon said the companies that had employees working from home at the start of the coronavirus pandemic should do so again.
Why is working from home being advised?
Unlike elsewhere in the UK, the official advice has been for everyone in Scotland to continue working from home where possible even after the lockdown ended.
But the government has strengthened this advice in response to concerns about the new Omnicron variant and how it could impact on case levels in Scotland.
“We know from experience that with an infectious virus, acting quickly can be vital – if we wait too long for data to confirm we have a problem, it might already be too late to prevent the problem.
“In fact, acting preventatively is often the best way of ensuring that action can remain limited and proportionate,” Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday.
What rights do I have to work from home in Scotland?
The government has urged employers to support their staff to work from home, but this is not a legal requirement.
The Scottish Government point out that all employees who have been with a company for at least 26 weeks have the right to request flexible working, and employers have a duty to respond reasonably.
Earlier in the pandemic most non-essential retailers were closed, so staff there could not go to work regardless.
Now most businesses have reopened, the advice is that where working from home is not possible, measures should be put in place to protect staff.
What if my employer refuses?
Nicola Sturgeon has asked that employers ensure staff who can work from home do so.
The trade union Unison explains that if employers refuse to accommodate staff with concerns then a grievance can be raised as a last resort.
“Putting you in that situation is potentially a breach of health and safety law and may spread coronavirus to people in high-risk groups.
“As a last resort, when faced with a dangerous working environment which cannot reasonably be avoided, every employee has the right not to suffer detriment if they leave, or refuse to attend their place of work in circumstances where they reasonably believe there is a risk of being exposed to serious and imminent danger,” they say.
Citizens Advice Scotland also has details about informal and formal ways employees can negotiate with their employer.
How long will this be in place?
The First Minister says she is asking for home working to be the norm until at least the middle of January.
She said the government believes it will help to stem transmission rates.
“To be blunt, if you had staff working from home at this start of the pandemic, please now enable them to do so again.
“We are asking you to do this from now until the middle of January when we will review this advice again.
“I know this is difficult, but I cannot stress enough how much difference we think this could make in helping stem transmission and avoid the need for even more onerous measures,” Ms Sturgeon added.