- working from home during the COVID-19 crisis
- working from home after the COVID-19 crisis
- development of guidance
This guidance is intended to support employers and the self-employed to continue to facilitate working from home in line with the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scotland’s Strategic Framework and the ‘stay at home’ Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 which came into effect on 5 January 2021.
The guidance can be applied across any sector where working from home is a feasible option for both workers and businesses.
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.
This guide is underpinned by a spirit of collaborative working between companies and their workforce, recognising that organisations have a legal responsibility to maintain workplace health and safety (including for those working from home) and must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there is not one, a representative chosen by workers. Organisations cannot decide who the workforce representative will be.
This guidance should be applied to each employer. You will need to translate this into the specific actions you need to take depending on the nature of your business (i.e. the size and type of employer, workforce composition, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated) using this document as a guide. As each employer is different, it is for individual business and other organisations to work with trade union or workforce representatives to determine how best to apply the guidance in their circumstances.
You may wish to use the checklist provided to guide you in working though the various considerations for your organisation.
Currently, and prior to COVID-19, employees with 26 weeks service have the legal right to request flexible working, which can include homeworking.
Working from home as a public health measure in response to the pandemic has been a crucial factor in mitigating the transmission of the virus amongst the general population. Working from home has not been a choice for the organisations that have implemented it, nor was it a choice for the workers who are practising it. Those who are continuing to work from home are contributing to the public health effort, just as those returning to the workplace are. People working from home are making it safer for those workers who cannot work from home – it is an effort we must continue.
As such, remote working should remain the default position for those who can do so. Where that is not possible businesses and organisations are encouraged to manage travel demand through staggered start times and flexible working patterns.
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.
The Scottish Government is keen to build confidence and create the right environment for supporting safer work as we continue to live with COVID-19.
The guidance can also be used as a tool for an ongoing and continued shift in employer policies towards incorporating higher levels of homeworking in a post-COVID landscape. In conjunction with their workforce employers could change their working practices more long term. Introducing flexible and agile working policies that balances the needs of employers and workers has been found to raise loyalty, motivation and business productivity as workers experience an improved work-life balance.
We have worked with employers, trade unions and key stakeholders, including the Fair Work Convention, to ensure that this guidance is evidence-based, fair and ethical, clear and realistic.
To judge whether and when restrictions can be changed we will consider a range of evidence on the progress of the pandemic in Scotland using the principles set out in Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making and our long established commitment to fair work. As Scotland continues to ease lockdown restrictions, organisations including the Institute of Directors (IoD), SCDI, STUC, COSLA and SCVO have signed a fair work statement underlining the collaborative approach needed between employers, unions and workers to ensure workplaces can operate safely
The working from home guidance will be reviewed on a regular basis in line with the regular review of lockdown requirements.
The homeworking guidance will be reviewed on a regular basis in line with the regular review of lockdown requirements.
The remainder of this guidance sets out our recommendations across:
- employee wellbeing
- health and safety
- equipment and IT systems
- communication and engagement
- pay, expenses and finances
The guidance is informed by relevant legal and regulatory frameworks, including health and safety and existing employment rights.
This document is provided as guidance only and does not amount to legal advice. Employers may wish to seek their own advice to ensure compliance with all legal requirements.
If you can suggest ways we can improve the guidance please email Fairworkcovid19enquiries@gov.scot
During the COVID-19 crisis, emergency homeworking has been used to support the public health strategy.
Homeworking is not a new concept, it is an extremely popular form of flexible working that many employers have been offering which often has benefit for both business and employees. The guidance is concerned specifically with homeworking, which is one element of flexible working. For clarity, definitions of these are:
- flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs balanced against business requirements – offering flexibility on how long, where, when and at what times employees work (e.g. having flexible start and finish times, working condensed hours, or working from home/remotely)
- homeworking is a type of flexible working that may require a worker to work almost entirely at home, occasionally at home, or splitting their time between their home and the office