PROPOSALS for a new law requiring hospitality bosses to provide free late-night transport to help workers get home safely are to be unveiled later this year.

The Scottish Greens’ Maggie Chapman is to bring forward a 12-week consultation before Christmas on a members’ bill requiring employers finishing work in the early hours to show they can get their staff back home.

People working in the night-time industries can face a higher risk from getting home than those working more regular hours, with many public transport services ending at midnight and taxi services being expensive or too busy.

Some employers do provide transport home voluntarily to staff working anti-social hours, but Ms Chapman’s proposal would put the duty into law.

She plans to do this by making it essential that firms include the obligation to workers in their application to councils’ licensing boards which allows them to operate.

The MSP’s proposal for the new legislation follows a vote at her party conference in Dundee earlier this month supporting trade union Unite’s Get Me Home Safely campaign.

Council support
SOME local authorities including Glasgow City Council have also backed a motion supporting the campaign.

It was launched when hotel worker and Unite member Caitlin Lee, 26, who has waived her right to anonymity, was sexually assaulted as she made her way home from work in Glasgow city centre in July this year.

“We have seen, as work becomes more precarious, workers’ lives become more vulnerable, financially and in other ways,” Ms Chapman told The Herald on Sunday.

“We have seen many employers step up and take responsibility when talking about pay and conditions on health and safety and wellbeing matters, and one of the really positive aspects of Unite Hospitality’s Get Me Home Safely campaign recognises that employers have a responsibility not just for employees at work but they have responsibility for them as part of the community.

“Some employers do already provide transport home for late workers. But we have got to the point where we leave it up to employers. It has to be something more watertight.

“The idea behind the bill is that we can strengthen licensing legislation. As part of licensing applications we want to make it a requirement that people working late shifts can get transport home.”

Ms Lee was attacked on July 31 after after leaving work at a hotel in Glasgow city centre.

She told The Herald on Sunday: “I don’t want what happened to me to happen to any other worker, which is why we launched Get Me Home Safely. For this campaign to succeed we need buy-in from employers, workers and politicians. 

“As well as local authorities passing our GMHS motion to ensure late-night workers are provided transport home, we also need primary legislation at the Scottish Parliament to ensure that the Licensing (Scotland) Act is fit for purpose and to ensure that workers don’t have to choose between walking home in the dark or losing two hours’ wages on a taxi. 

“The responsibility for workers’ safety to and from late-night work should not fall on to the worker – it must be with the employers and politicians at all levels to ensure we are safe. 

“This bill is incredibly important in shifting the responsibility to employers and Unite Hospitality will always fight for workers to ensure that no worker faces the same situation I faced.” 

The Get Me Home Safely campaign also calls for a number of safety improvement measures, including the installation of clear and operational CCTV on all forms of public transport.

All sectors?
CURRENTLY, Ms Chapman’s bill proposal focuses on hospitality workers but she is hoping that further work may mean that late-shift staff in other sectors, included in the NHS and social care, may be provided the same protections to get home safely.

“There are workers, people who work in the NHS, in social care and in a whole variety of roles that aren’t in hospitality [who finish work late],” she said.

“The purpose of the bill will have that narrow focus [on hospitality workers] but that does not mean to say, and in the discussion of the bill itself, it may apply more broadly.
“Depending on the detailed wording of the legislation, my hope is that as part of the licensing requirement they would need to demonstrate how they would ensure that late-shift workers get home safely.”

Ms Chapman said the safety measures in the bill would apply to men, women and non-binary people.

She added that as progress was made on the bill there would be a discussion on whether local authorities could determine what the standard would be that employers would have to meet, or whether the bill set a national minimum.

Trade in the hospitality sector was hit badly during the Covid pandemic and is continuing to struggle with higher energy bills and customers cutting back on spending amid the cost-of-living crisis. As a result, many businesses have been forced to close.

Asked about difficulties the hospitality sector faces, Ms Chapman said: “I hear that, but what they are also telling us is that they need staff. We have staff shortages in the sector. For them to get and retain the staff they want it is about that employment offer.

“It becomes part of that package. Yes, they look at pay and pensions but they will also look at the wider conditions around health and safety.”

Ms Chapman is hoping her bill would be introduced to Parliament next year after the formal 12-week consultation ends next spring. The bill would be scrutinised by MSPs on the Economy and Fair Work Committee with the exact timetable for its introduction depending on parliamentary business.