MPS say they have been “inundated” with concerns over companies failing to protect workers in non-essential roles from the risk of being exposed to coronavirus.

Letters have been sent to firms to urging them to follow guidance which says businesses should close unless they are providing vital services or can guarantee social distancing in the workplace.

Alan Brown, SNP MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, said concerns had been flagged to him about more than 20 companies, including a warehouse which distributes shoes.

He said: “There is no doubt the companies that are making people work are making it clear if you don’t come to work you won’t get paid and in some cases there may be disciplinary action.

“When you have bills to pay it doesn’t seem right, especially when – although we criticise the UK Government for a lot of things – we have the furlough worker scheme for permanent employees.

“I am sure most people now would rather take a 20% cut in income, get most of their wages, and not feel pressured to go to work and risk potential exposure to coronavirus.

“The whole point of the UK Government and Scottish Government guidance is to try to limit spread of the disease, so why go out of your way to go against that advice? It is disappointing.”

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Scottish Government advice states that businesses which have not been ordered to close should be considering questions such as whether the work is “essential or material to the effort against the virus or to the wellbeing of society”.

In a letter sent to local firms, Brown said coronavirus is the “biggest challenge we have faced in recent times and the measures we take to deal with it must reflect its magnitude”.

It added: “Employers should make decisions about what is essential work and it should not be up to employees to decide whether or not they should go to work.

“Workers should not be placed under unnecessary and unacceptable pressure regarding their terms and conditions.

“Organisations must ruthlessly prioritise those staff who are providing absolutely essential basic services – that’s the bottom line.”

One firm sent the letter is shoe company Office which has a warehouse distribution point in Kilmarnock.

Brown said: “Constituents had contacted us concerned they were effectively still being made to work, it was non-essential business as far as they were concerned and they felt that was exposing them to the risk of coronavirus in terms of working practices.

“You can imagine workers asking why distribution of shoes is considered essential work. But the company is still holding the line they are classing them as essential workers.”

Brown said the company had argued they were putting protection measures in place, such as social distancing.

But he added: “They seem absolutely determined to carry on which is clearly still causing their workers concerns.

“I will continue to follow up and try and engage with them, just to see why they think their work is so critical in the current climate. It really makes no sense.”

The Sunday National contacted Office for comment but had not received a response at the time of going to press.