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Returning to work

At the moment, anyone who can work from home should continue to do so. However, if you are asked to go back into the workplace and have concerns about childcare or safety when you go back, this page has further information that can help.

What are my childcare options if I need to go back to work?

Our page on childcare explains your options.

I've been asked to go back to work but can't get childcare, what are my rights?

Can I be furloughed if I need to look after my children at home?

Yes, you can ask to be furloughed if you need to look after your children but only if this is a result of coronavirus. So for example you can ask to be furloughed if:

  • your child’s school or ELC setting is closed due to coronavirus
  • your child can’t attend school or ELC because they have to isolate as a close contact of someone with coronavirus
  • you have to care for a vulnerable person.

Even if you can work from home, you may be able to be furloughed if you can’t juggle childcare with doing your job. If you need to reduce your hours to manage childcare, you can also ask to be furloughed for the hours you are losing.

If you need to be furloughed, get in touch with your employer to discuss this with them. There’s lots more information at the Working Families website.

You can check if your employer can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at the gov.uk website.

Who can be asked to go back into the workplace?

Currently the advice is that if you can work from home, you should. This applies to all sectors and jobs, including key workers. If you can’t work from home and your employer needs you to come back into the workplace, they should talk to you about this first. This means you can be included in any decisions where possible. There’s useful information about returning to work on the ACAS website.

Can I ask to continue working from home?

Currently the advice is that if you can work from home, you should. So if it’s possible to do your job from home, you should continue to do this. The Scottish Government is asking employers to be as supportive and flexible as they can. This is to allow people with caring responsibilities to carry on working from home. You can see the joint statement from the Scottish Government and Scottish Trade Unions Congress (STUC) about fair work during the coronavirus pandemic here.

Can I ask for a reduction in hours, or to work at different times of the day?

The Scottish Government is asking employers to be flexible with employees who are currently unable to return to work, as well as those working from home or working under different arrangements because of childcare commitments. This means they should consider any requests for paid leave, reduced hours or different working patterns. Employers are being asked to take account of travel to work considerations and childcare arrangements. They should listen to your requests and help you if possible.

Can I ask to be furloughed?

If you’re currently on furlough, you can ask to be kept on furlough for a bit longer. If you’re a parent who has been on extended leave, you can ask to be furloughed now. You can find out more about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at the UK Government website.

Can I get parental leave?

You may be able to take unpaid parental leave. You can find out more about this on the Scottish Government website.

Can I take time off as holiday or unpaid leave?

You may be able to arrange with your employer to take some time off as holiday or unpaid leave. You can find out more about this on the ACAS website

Can I be made redundant if I can’t go back to work because of childcare issues?

During the coronavirus pandemic, you still have the same employment rights. These include your rights around redundancy. If you believe you’ve been unfairly selected for redundancy, or that your employer didn’t follow a fair redundancy process, you can appeal. You can find out more about your redundancy rights at the ACAS website.

Can I be made redundant because I chose to be furloughed?

Your rights as an employee are not affected by being on furlough. This includes your redundancy rights, which means your employer can’t make you redundant just because you chose to be furloughed.

What can I do if I feel I’ve been discriminated against because I'm caring for children?

If you feel you’ve been discriminated against or stereotyped because of your sex, you should raise this issue with your employer. The ACAS website has more advice on what to do if you believe you’re being discriminated against.

What financial support is available if I can’t go back to work or have to work reduced hours?

You may be able to apply for Universal Credit if your income is reduced, or you're not working. You may also be able to apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund. Our page on financial support has more information.

What if I have safety concerns?

Is it safe for me to go back to work?

Employers must make the workplace as safe as possible for staff, customers and anyone else who visits.

The Scottish Government is working with employers, trade unions, and regulators. This is to create guidance to help different sectors create safe working environments for when people return to work.

As each workplace is different, businesses are being asked to work with trade unions or workforce representatives to decide how best to do this.

You can read the Scottish Government’s guidance for the following sectors here:

Guidance for other sectors will be added here as it’s published.

If you have concerns about returning to work, talk to your employer. They should listen to your concerns and take steps to protect you if at all possible. For example, they could offer extra car parking where possible so that you can avoid using public transport, or arrange for you to work different hours temporarily to avoid peak time travel. The ACAS website has more information

If you're disabled you can also request reasonable adjustments to help you do your job.

What if don’t think my workplace is safe?

If you’re worried that your workplace isn’t safe, you have rights under employment law. The ACAS website has more information. If you’re a member of a trade union, you can also speak to your trade union representative. You can also raise enquiries about working safely with the Health and Safety Executive and with Local Authority Environmental Health Officers.

Can I be made redundant if I don’t go back to work because of safety concerns?

During the coronavirus pandemic, you still have the same employment rights. These include your rights around redundancy. If you believe you’ve been unfairly selected for redundancy, or that your employer didn’t follow a fair redundancy process, you can appeal. You can find out more about your redundancy rights at the ACAS website

I’ve been shielding, do I have to return to work?

At the beginning of the pandemic, people who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus were advised to shield. This minimised the chance of them catching the virus. Shielding was paused from 1 August. However, the Scottish Government is advising people who were shielding to be extra careful. You can find out more about this at the Scottish Government website.

Employers must make workplaces safe for all employees. They should take into account the needs of people with underlying health conditions. You can find out more about the risk assessment process and download a useful tool you can use with your employer here.

If you have any concerns about returning to work, talk to your employer about it. You may be able to arrange to be kept on furlough, to get paid or unpaid leave, or to continue to work from home. You should also be able to change your hours so you don’t have to use public transport at busy times. If you still feel unsafe, you can discuss getting a fit note from your GP or clinician.

If your area is in level 4, the Chief Medical Officer will issue a letter which is similar to a fit note and which will last for as long as your area or workplace is under level 4 restrictions. This letter can be used if it is not possible to make your workplace safe.

There’s more useful information about returning to work on the ACAS website.

If you’re worried about money because you can’t work, the MyGov.scot website has more advice.

Someone else in my home has been shielding, do I have to return to work?

If you have any concerns about returning to work, talk to your employer about it. You may be able to arrange to be kept on furlough, to get paid or unpaid leave, to continue to work from home, or to change your hours so you don’t have to use public transport at busy times. There’s more useful information about returning to work on the ACAS website.

I’m pregnant, should I go back to work?

If you’re pregnant, your employer must make sure that there are no risks to you or your unborn baby in the workplace. The gov.scot website has more information on your rights at work when you’re pregnant.