Dear Local Business Owners,

As you will be aware, Coronavirus is the biggest challenge we have faced in our lifetimes and the measures we take to deal with it must reflect its magnitude. 

Effectively, Scotland is in lockdown and individuals and businesses alike must play their part in doing what simply must be done to give our NHS the chance to cope and save lives. 

I acknowledge the very acute challenges faced by businesses and I am grateful to the very many companies that are being responsible by actively supporting homeworking and allowing staff the time off for isolation.  

Unfortunately, a number of businesses in our area are NOT observing the guidelines on whether they can stay open or must close. 

Employers should make decisions about what is essential work – it should NOT be up to employees to decide whether or not they should go in to work. 

Workers should not be placed under unnecessary and unacceptable pressure regarding their terms and conditions. 

It is vital that all businesses act responsibly and align fully with the social distancing measures introduced to protect the nation’s heath.

The Scottish Government has prepared clear guidance for employers. It states that all business premises, sites and attractions should close now unless:

  • They are essential to the health and welfare of the country;
  • They are being or are repurposed to support essential services;
  • They are capable of working in a way fully consistent with established social distancing advice;
  • Wider public health or other considerations apply and require a facility or service to operate for a specific period of time for a safe shutdown.
  • Exceptionally, some more nuanced cases may arise and we will establish a central function urgently to provide advice and direction where needed.

All individuals and businesses not being specifically required to close should consider a key set of questions:

  • Is what you do essential or material to the effort against the virus or to the wellbeing of society?
  • If so, can your staff work from home?
  • If not, can you practice safe social distancing and comply with all other standard health and safety requirement?
  • If the answers to none of the above questions is yes, our strong advice on a precautionary basis at this stage is to close.

The Scottish Government expect construction sites in Scotland to be closed, unless the building under construction is essential – for example, a hospital.

I know many construction sites at the moment are following that advice and that other parts of the UK are taking a slightly different approach.  However, it is the Scottish Government’s view that sites should close based on the health implications.

It will look at whether it will be possible to provide some guidance that would allow construction sites to operate safely but we are not in a position to say that at the moment so until, that guidance is issued, our advice is construction sites should not be operating.

Exceptionally, some more nuanced cases may arise and the Scottish Government will establish a central function urgently to provide advice and direction where needed.

To help businesses and their workforces, a number of financial measures have been announced and the Westminster Government is expected to extend that help to self-employed workers.

Companies that have decided to lay off staff must now reconsider, and where possible, should halt or reverse their decision.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme provides the certainty that many businesses need – they will have money to pay people’s wages.

In Scotland, there is a £2.2bn package to help sustain businesses and, crucially, help them pay staff and treat staff fairly. This includes:

  • 100% rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors;
  • 1.6% rates relief for all properties across Scotland;
  • A £10,000 grant for small businesses.
  • £25,000 grants to the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors for those with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000.
  • On top of that, steps have bene taken to effectively halt the inflationary increase in business rates that was due in April.
  • A package worth £60m has been agreed with the water industry to help businesses facing difficulties with water charges during the outbreak

The Scottish Government has signed a joint statement of Fair Work with the STUC, setting out shared objectives for supporting employees, and ultimately employers. The statement outlines our shared belief that employers should be:

  • Ensuring all workers follow health protection advice to isolate either themselves or as part of their households;
  • Paying workers while they are sick or self-isolating;
  • Supporting those with caring responsibilities;
  • Facilitating home working;
  • Protecting the health and safety of all workers, but particularly frontline or key workers who face particular risks;
  • Ensuring all workers are provided with clear and comprehensive information on work-related risks on an ongoing basis;
  • Protecting the position of contracted workers as well as core staff.

To help you as an employer, there is help available:

We are encouraging an approach where workers, trade unions and employers work together to reach the right decisions.

Organisations must ruthlessly prioritise those staff who are providing absolutely essential basic services.

Thank you for all your help in these hugely challenging times.

Best wishes and stay well.

Ruth Maguire MSP
Member of the Scottish Parliament for
Cunninghame South