The NHS in Scotland has launched a consultation on the future of work for its 160,000 staff – potentially offering them the choice of working from a fixed, home or hybrid location.

New proposals could see many thousands of workers select their preferred location as home-based, given how successfully people have transitioned to remote working during lockdown.

The ‘Once for Scotland’ workforce policies programme is being billed as an opportunity to create a modern, exemplar employer; showcasing our core values, and promoting consistent employment policy and practice that supports the implementation of the staff governance standard and effective recruitment and retention.’

According to the plans, policies will be presented in a ‘refreshed and reinvigorated format on a digital platform in a more user friendly and meaningful way, with staff and managers at the centre, whilst still being accessible to all groups of staff in alternative formats.’

The guidance, due to be implemented in August, states: “NHSScotland recognises that the working environment has altered in last 18 months as a result of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The refresh of the homeworking Policy within the extant supporting the work-life balance PIN (Partnership Information Network) has been prioritised ahead of the other policies in this suite.

“It will sit alongside the other elements of the Supporting the Work-Life Balance PIN to be refreshed when the ‘Once for Scotland’ Workforce Policies Programme formally restarts in August 2021.

“It is recognised that agile working, as an approach, is becoming more common place. The draft policy for consultation is intended to support employees and managers in considering and agreeing options for flexible work locations. This is not a Covid-19 specific policy. The policy has been refreshed and modernised to reflect the changed working environment. Changes proposed by the employer are covered by the staff governance standard which require full engagement and involvement with affected
staff. The NHS Board’s organisational change policy will apply where the employer seeks a change in work locations. This will ensure the protection of terms and conditions and no detriment to the employee.”

The 18-page consultation reveals there are three distinct categories of work location: fixed, based at one or more specified locations not at home, home and hybrid, a mix of the two.

However the document stresses that the manager should work with the member of staff to assess whether the role in question would be ‘suitable’ for agile working.

Employees are advised to have a discussion with their line manager before applying to change their location of work and there are certain ‘eligibility’ criteria that must be met.

But it state: “An employee’s request for home or hybrid working should be supported where possible.”

The only exceptions would be off there were any adverse impact on service delivery and quality, on work colleagues or on health and safety.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Discussions on refreshing the NHS Scotland home working policy started pre-pandemic but took on greater urgency as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

“The existing policy has been modernised to reflect the changed working environment. Any request to work from home must be fully considered and will require full engagement and involvement with affected staff.”

The 4 week consultation period runs from 28 June to 26 July 2021 inclusive.