Flexibility needed for rural job retention

Limitations in the coronavirus job retention scheme is one of the chief concerns of rural companies during the Covid-19 crisis, Scottish Land & Estates has said.

The rural business organisation has conducted a survey of members across Scotland to find out what proactive measures are being put in place by companies – and what issues they are facing in the months ahead.

The three key requests expressed in the rural business survey are:

  • Greater flexibility in the job retention scheme to allow the ‘partial furlough’ of staff;
  • A relaxation of some regulation to allow essential business activities to continue where appropriate;
  • Reminders about people not travelling unnecessarily to rural areas to be continually pressed home by government.

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of Scottish Land and Estates, said: ‘This is an unprecedented situation for everyone, including those who live and work in rural Scotland. Both the Scottish and UK Governments have worked tirelessly to tackle the crisis and our members will help in whatever way possible – especially in following the stay at home direction to help us all keep safe.

‘The nature of rural business means employees often undertake many roles, some of which are not currently required due to the measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19. We would like to see greater flexibility in the job retention scheme to allow the “partial furlough” of staff which would afford businesses the financial support to reduce staff hours but keep ticking along, ready for eventual reopening.’

SLE added that it would like to see a temporary relaxation of some regulations governing land management.

Ms Laing added: ‘Whilst everyone is making a concerted effort to maintain service and systems, it is evident that some of the permissions granted by the government and agencies such as SNH and SEPA may be delayed because of the shutdown and this will prevent some essential and time sensitive work in our rural areas – which could be carried out safely in adherence to Covid-19 guidance – from taking place.

‘As we have seen with MOT certificates, a pragmatic approach – including a move to retrospective permissions – could be introduced as a temporary measure. Those undertaking work would be expected to adhere to guidance as usual.’

Scottish Land & Estates continues to be in regular contact with the Scottish and UK Governments to share concerns and suggest solutions for rural businesses and communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.