Nicola Sturgeon hits out against UK campaign urging people to return to offices or face redundancy

Reports suggest the UK Government is set to launch a campaign urging people to return to the office
Nicola Sturgeon has said it is not the right time to be urging people back to the officeNicola Sturgeon has said it is not the right time to be urging people back to the office
Nicola Sturgeon has said it is not the right time to be urging people back to the office

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will “not countenance” any campaign to get workers back into the office that bases itself around saying those working from home are more likely to be made redundant.

Her comments follow reports in the UK media that the UK Government is planning a ‘media blitz’ around a campaign to get workers back to the office.

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UK ministers are reportedly planning on making the argument that if workers do not return to the office, that decision makes it more likely for them to be made redundant by their employers.

The First Minister said the Scottish Government would not be following the same route and said it would not be “fair” on people working from home if they were threatened with the loss of their job in order to make them return to the office.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I will not countenance in Scotland any kind of narrative around this that is seeking almost to intimidate people back to work before as a country we have taken the decision that that is safe.

"People should not be told if you don’t get back to work in an office right now, if you are still working from home, you might be at greater risk of being made redundant or sacked, I don’t think that is the kind of approach we want to take here.

"Individuals and indeed businesses should have the right to expect to look to government for advice about what is safe to do and what timescale.

“We need to have a spirit to this where we are all trying to do the right things for the right reasons and if our guidance is still as it is work from home if that is possible then we are doing that for a reason and workers in that position should not feel that that is somehow making their job less secure.

"If you’re following guidance about working from home, that in and of itself should not be making your job less secure than it would otherwise be.

"I don’t want, in Scotland, campaigns that focus on that because I think that is putting pressure on individual workers that is not fair.

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The First Minister also said discussions between the economy secretary Fiona Hyslop and chambers of commerce across the country had taken place examining the potential of a “phased return” for office workers.

Ms Sturgeon refused to be drawn on any details as to what that might look like, but said it could follow a similar pattern to the construction industry’s phased return to work.

She added there was still “too high a risk” of the transmission of Covid-19 within offices to allow for a quick change in policy.

The First Minister said: "What I would say is firstly these will be decisions for the Scottish Government to take as part of our route map out of lockdown.

"We want to get back to normal as quickly as possible and I think there is an opportunity for all of us to decide what we want normal to look like in the future, do we want it to look exactly the same as the pre-Covid era?

"I think flexibility in how people work and allowing people to strike better work/life balances, we should perhaps think about grasping those opportunities but generally we want to get back to normal as quickly as we can.

"We will continue to take a careful but hopefully absolutely forward approach to this to get people back into the office where that is appropriate as quickly and as safely as possible.”

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