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Returning to work after lockdown

As coronavirus restrictions are eased, people who have been working from home during the pandemic will gradually be able to return to their workplaces but employers will still be asked to continue to support employees to work from home where possible. 

You can read the Scottish Government’s guidance on returning to the workplace after level 0 here.

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?

Until 30 September 2021, 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.

Can I ask to continue working from home?

If you have been working from home during the pandemic and wish to continue doing so after your workplace has reopened, you can talk to your employer to see whether this is possible. You can find out more about this on the ACAS website.

Can I take time off for childcare purposes?

If you need time off for childcare reasons, you may be able to take unpaid parental leave. You can find out more about this on the Scottish Government website. You could also ask to take paid leave, unpaid leave or to reduce your hours or change the times when you work. Your employer should listen to your requests and help you if possible. You can find out more about requesting to work flexibly on the ACAS website.

Can I be made redundant because I chose to be furloughed during the pandemic?

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 about going back to work?

Is it safe for me to go back to work?

Employers must conduct and regularly review COVID-19 risk assessments to ensure all reasonable measures to minimise the spread of COVID-19 are taken. This includes things like:

  • making sure staff and customers are aware of the measures they must follow
  • making sure your workplace is well ventilated by increasing the volume of outside air entering a building
  • making sure everyone can maintain good hand hygiene and surface cleaning
  • making sure people where face coverings where appropriate
  • following Test and Protect rules, including self-isolation when necessary
  • following rules on physical distancing 
  • continuing to support employees to work from home where possible.

You can find out more about what employers need to do on the gov.scot website.

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 am on the highest risk list (and may previously have been asked to shield), should I return to work or carry on working from home?

In relation to the phased return to the office, employers should discuss options with people on the highest risk list (who may have previously been asked to shield), some of who may benefit from continued home working or flexible working arrangements. However, people at highest risk can go into the workplace and may also benefit from a return to the workplace in the same way as others, based on their own individual risk or circumstances. The advice at level 0 and beyond level 0 is that people on the highest risk list can go into the workplace and/or use public transport. Employers should not discourage those on the highest risk to return to the workplace if that is not their choice or in their interests.

Therefore, employers are being encouraged to continue supporting home working or flexible working where possible and appropriate, but people on the highest risk list can go into the workplace along with others if they want to, or if their employer requires this. You can find more information and advice about employer responsibilities to make the workplace safe for everyone and using an individual risk assessment to support discussions and decisions about individual circumstances as well as advice and information on additional safety steps to take on the gov.scot 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.