SCOTLAND’S businesses should be “encouraged” to allow employees to work a four-day week to help a return to work be effective in tackling Covid-19, Nicola Sturgeon has indicated. 

As part of her route map to easing the Covid-19 lockdown, the First Minister pointed to firms being flexible with employees and try and allow less people to come in contact with one-another. 

In the second  of four phases outlined by Ms Sturgeon, workplaces will be reopened, including factories and warehouses, with physical distancing. 

But Ms Sturgeon also warned that working from home is likely to continue “for the foreseeable future”. 

She said: “We want to move through these stages as quickly as the evidence allows.  

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“Getting the economy moving again really matters to all of us, and therefore we have sought to focus first on industries where people simply cannot work from home, however, safety and the confidence of employers, employees and customers is essential. That is why detailed guidance for key sectors of the economy will follow in the days ahead.” 

She added: “Let me stress that we will continue to require, for the foreseeable future, home working where that is possible and we will also encourage flexible working, including consideration of four-day weeks for example.” 

Labour leader Richard Leonard called for "a new industrial strategy, a new plan for the economy and a new plan for jobs" to deal with rising unemployment. 

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Ms Sturgeon said it is important not to slip into "old and bad ways of doing things" as the economy recovers, adding parents will have a "difficult balancing act" with childcare for some time. 

She added: "That is one reason, not the only reason, why we need to look at different working patterns. 

"Things like a four-day week are no longer things that we should just be talking about, these are things we should be encouraging employers to look at embracing, and there are a whole range of things that fall into that category." 

In response to the First Minister's comments on Thursday, a Glasgow-based charity that moved to a four-day week in 2018 said it had led to many benefits. 

Advice Direct Scotland, which advises people on consumer, benefits and debts issues, gave their staff fewer working hours while maintaining the same wages. 

Chief executive Andrew Bartlet said it had led to a better work-life balance for the organisation, consisting of around 90 employees and 100 volunteers. 

He said: "In 2018, we became one of the first major organisations in Scotland to introduce a four-day working week, recognising the positive difference this would make. 

"Absenteeism has reduced and productivity has increased as a result. 

"Prior to lockdown, this created a more positive atmosphere in the office, with staff encouraged to share stories about the activities they enjoyed on their extra day off. 

"As we move towards easing lockdown, we would certainly recommend a four-day working week to Scottish businesses." 

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The Scottish Greens have welcomed the First Minister backing the four-day week strategy. 

Alison Johnstone said: “The First Minister’s statement also suggested a move to a four-day week will be considered.  

“I welcome this approach as long as incomes are protected in full, as we look to ensure that any return to work is as safe and fair as possible.”