Coronavirus: Scots firms urged not to bring back workers early


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Scottish government

Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scottish companies not to call staff back to work early while the coronavirus lockdown remains in place.

The UK government is asking those who cannot work from home in England to start returning to the workplace.

But Ms Sturgeon said she was “not yet encouraging more people to go back to work” north of the border.

She said her government was working with employers and trade unions on how staff could return to work safely.

The first minister said Scottish businesses would be able to reopen “as soon as they can safely do so” and predicted that they would not need to wait for “long periods of time” after firms resumed operations in the rest of the UK.

The UK government is encouraging some people to return to work, although Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the job retention furlough scheme – which is currently supporting 7.5m workers UK-wide – by another four months.

Ms Sturgeon welcomed this extension, and said there were “ongoing discussions with the Treasury” about how it would apply north of the border.

She said: “We’ve been very clear that there has to be support in place for as long as we are asking businesses not to operate as normal, and we have to avoid cliff edges.

“If there are instances of us moving at different speeds because the evidence says this is necessary, then the support structures need to reflect that.”

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AFP

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the UK-wide furlough scheme

Addressing whether people should start returning to work, Ms Sturgeon stressed that “the lockdown restrictions remain in place for Scotland”.

She said: “I know the UK government published guidance for businesses yesterday – that is not yet operational in Scotland, as we are not yet encouraging more people to go back to work.

“I would ask instead that all employers follow Scottish government guidance, and I am very grateful that the vast majority of employers have been throughout this crisis.”

‘Safe working’

Ms Sturgeon said that while the nations of the UK may be “moving at slightly different speeds” out of lockdown, she was not “contemplating or predicting” that firms north of the border would be out of action “for long periods of time” while counterparts in England are trading.

She said the Scottish government was “working with employers and trade unions to develop guidance on safe working”.

Groups are focusing on 14 different sectors “to consider how quickly and in what manner we can return to work”.

The retail, manufacturing and construction sectors have been picked out as priority areas, although there are also teams looking at areas including tourism, energy and food and drink.

Ms Sturgeon said companies would eventually get back up and running, but said this must be done in “a careful and considered way” to “give people vital reassurance that this is not putting health at unnecessary risk”.



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