Covid Scotland: Government urged to end work from home advice

The Scottish Government has been urged to end advice to work from home “as urgently as possible”.

It comes after Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs the country had “turned the corner” on the Omicron wave, announcing the restrictions on hospitality and indoor gatherings brought in on Boxing Day would be scrapped from Monday.

The Scottish Government will engage with businesses around a phased return to working from offices in February, Ms Sturgeon said.

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But business leaders have called for this step to be taken sooner, warning the delay was having a “growing consequence” for businesses which depend on footfall from office workers.

The advice to work from home remains in Scotland.

"Today’s update did not see any clear indication of an end date for the requirements around home working,” said Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.

"This will confuse and frustrate businesses, particularly those in our town and city centres who rely upon the flow of office workers for income. Businesses are reporting that this inflexibility is having a growing consequence for the productivity and wellbeing of their staff.”

She added: “The Government have indicated that they will engage with business on devising a hybrid approach from the beginning of February. Many businesses have already adopted hybrid approaches, in partnership with their employees, and simply await confirmation from the Government that they can proceed on these return-to-work plans.

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“We urge the Government to remove the shackles from offices as urgently as possible to provide real choice for employers and employees. We cannot delay the removal of these restrictions any further.”

Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: “We need urgent clarity on this now, not next month. It is encouraging that Ms Sturgeon alluded to the fact the Government will be engaging with businesses about a return to a more hybrid approach from the start of February, but with every day that passes, the more difficult it becomes for businesses to start planning for the future.”

Ms Sturgeon said the Government now plans to engage with businesses.

"We will continue to ask people to work from home whenever possible at this stage – and for employers to facilitate this,” she said.

"However, we will engage with business now about a return to a more hybrid approach from the start of February.”

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