Are Aberdeenshire workers breaking the 'work from home' rule?

Work places in Aberdeenshire have been busier during the current lockdown than last spring.

By Patrick Jack, Data Reporter
Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 12:27 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 12:31 pm
Data suggest more people in  Aberdeenshire have returned to their workplace.
Data suggest more people in Aberdeenshire have returned to their workplace.

The GMB union said some employers have forced workers to choose between their work or their wellbeing.

Google uses location data from phones and other personal devices to track trends in people's movement in different areas of their daily lives, including where they work.

It shows average activity in workplaces in Aberdeenshire over six weeks between January 5 and February 15 was 49 per cent lower than during a five-week baseline period recorded before the pandemic.

But this was a rise on the average of 62 per cent below normal between March 24 and May 4, when the UK was plunged into its first national lockdown.

Current Scottish Government guidance says people can only leave their home for work if it is “not possible” to do so from home and their workplace is permitted to stay open.

Gary Smith, GMB Scotland secretary, said the Scottish Government must ensure guidance for workplace safety and support for safe working is as strong as possible.

He added: “There are employers who haven’t played by the rules, both private and public, that prioritised their profits and targets over the safety of workers and their communities.

“That has meant workers have been forced to choose between work or wellbeing over the last year. As a result, many have fallen ill and some have lost their lives."

The Google data shows how footfall in Aberdeenshire workplaces has differed across almost a full year of coronavirus restrictions.

Between the start of the first UK lockdown and mid-February, the busiest a working day got was just 32 per cent below usual the baseline – hitting this level on six days.

By contrast, the quietest weekday activity over this time – outside of bank holidays – was 72 per cent below normal, which happened on two days.

The Scottish Government said employers must take all reasonable steps to minimise the spread of coronavirus, including encouraging home working.

Fair work minister Jamie Hepburn added: “If staff were working from home during the first lockdown in March 2020, they should be working from home now."