Midlothian workplaces busier during current lockdown than last Spring

Workplaces in Midlothian have been busier during the current lockdown than last spring, figures suggest.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 7:00 am
The Google data shows how footfall in Midlothian workplaces has differed across almost a full year of coronavirus restrictions. PA Wire/PA Images

The GMB union said some employers across Scotland 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 Midlothian over six weeks between January 5 and February 15 was 46% lower than during a five-week baseline period recorded before the pandemic.

But this was a rise on the average of 64% 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.

Between the first lockdown on March 23 last year and the current lockdown, activity in workplaces across the UK has risen from an average of 64 per cent below normal to 45 per cent below.

In Scotland, workplace activity rose from 63 per cent to 45 per cent below normal.

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, and Scotland is no exception.

“That has meant workers, particularly the lowest paid and predominantly women and BAME 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 Midlothian 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 31 per cent below usual the baseline – hitting this level on four days.

By contrast, the quietest – outside of bank holidays – was April 9, which was 72 per cent below normal.

The Institute of Directors, which represents UK business leaders, said the majority of its members indicated they would be keeping some form of home working in place after the pandemic.

Joe Fitzsimons, senior policy adviser at the IoD, added: "It is essential that the Government works closely with businesses to provide guidance on how organisations can reopen safely, to ensure the safety of their workers."

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.

"Employers must not ask or direct an employee to commit an offence by requiring travel for work that is possible to be done from home."