UNION leaders have warned “decisive action” must be taken against workplaces which fail to comply with coronavirus restrictions when lockdown eases – including closing them down if necessary.

While the current message in Scotland is to stay home, plans are being drawn up so businesses can open safely once they are given the go-ahead.

A boom in home working as a result of the pandemic has been predicted, but experts say difficulties in adjusting to life outside the office and “Zoom fatigue” could result in more wanting to return to the workplace.

The new world of work is likely to look very different, with physical distancing restrictions and the end of hot desking and water cooler conversations in offices.

Since lockdown began, there has been ongoing concern over some businesses flouting the restrictions aimed at preventing spread of the virus.

Falkirk Council revealed last week it had received more than 100 complaints from members of the public since March 26, over issues such as too many customers being let into a shop, a lack of social distancing for employees on construction sites and car washes, and gyms operating which should be closed.

Dave Moxham, deputy general secretary of the STUC, said the number of companies already failing to adhere to government guidelines was “not a good starting point” from which to be considering the next phase.

“Our urgent call to these companies is they need to step back into line,” he said.

“In terms of the general move to opening up, we’re sending a very clear message that every single workplace should have undertaken a special risk assessment and that they should be consulting with their workers.

“No worker should step back into the workplace, until they’ve been shown the risk assessment that the company has done.”

Moxham added: “Companies shouldn’t be insisting that anybody comes into work who is in the sheltered or self-isolating categories, or anybody who has other caring responsibilities which precludes them from being able to do so.”

Monitoring compliance will be the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive and local authority environmental health experts.

Moxham said the police would also have powers to close companies under emergency coronavirus legislation once concerns had been flagged up by a local authority.

He said such action should be taken, particularly in the initial stages of reopening, and that unions would support workers who chose to walk out over legitimate health and safety concerns.

“The first week or two is really important in this, so other companies see decisive action being taken against what will be the minority,” he said.

“Let’s face it, the majority are going to do the right thing. But we want to ensure workers themselves are empowered to take action they need to keep themselves safe.

“Enforcement agencies should act swiftly and decisively when bad practice is there, as that will help regulate everything as we move into what will be a three or four month opening up period.”

As living with the virus becomes the “new normal”, companies will be expected to take a range of measures into account – such as maintaining social distancing of two metres between employees, or providing personal protective equipment if that is not possible, encouraging frequent hand washing and regularly cleaning surfaces.

Everyday features of office life once taken for granted may no longer be possible.

Sejal Raja, head of employment law at law firm RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP, said layouts of open plan offices may have to be adjusted so workers can socially distance.

“It may also mean that you have to stagger working times and working days to ensure that you haven’t got as many employees in,” she said.

“To avoid the risk of infection, the suggestion is that you should avoid hot desking.

“If offices have coffee break rooms and canteens, it’s advisable that they’re shut down for the moment to avoid people standing by the coffee machine and having a chat and risking social distancing measures.”

She added: “Some organisations are now putting in temperature check measures before employees come into the office, and if they have high temperatures they’ll be turned away.

“Other organisations are starting to put a one-way lift system in so you can only go up or down in one lift. There’s all these various measures that employers are thinking about that that will be key, before anybody returns to work.”

Raja said she believes there will be more flexibility for people to work from home if they want to.