SCOTTISH jobcentre workers must not be forced back into offices by the DWP, an SNP MP says.

Therese Coffey's Department for Work and Pensions includes some of the lowest-paid staff on the UK Government payroll.

They've been critical to the expansion of Universal Credit provision through the pandemic and have been enlisted to promote the department's Kickstart programme to help overcome youth unemployment.

But bosses are seeking to get staff back to work on a hybrid basis and Inverclyde's Ronnie Cowan says that must not happen in Scotland, where ministers have urged all employees to stay at home where possible.

He's acting after a constituent with underlying health problems who has been shielding through the pandemic raised concerns that they'd have to go back into their DWP base.

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Cowan MP said: “I’m sure everyone would love to return to a normal working lifestyle, however we do not live in normal times.

“Covid has not gone away, which is why it is vital that employees – especially those with underlying health issues – have the option of working from home.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have learned that many jobs can be done to a high standard without having to enter an office. This shouldn’t be forgotten as restrictions ease.

“That is why I am urging the UK government, and the DWP, to follow the SNP Scottish Government’s approach by allowing those with underlying health issues to continue to work from home, whether they are based north or south of the border.

“A UK wide approach on this matter is desirable in order to deliver transparency and clarity to all constituents who are apprehensive about returning to the workplace.”

The PCS union, which represents DWP staff, has told its members: "We believe that it is not safe for members anywhere in the UK to be forced to return to work right now. We strongly believe that the Scottish Covid guidance does not support a mass return to work right now." It's in talks with the department.

While UK government departments all follow official guidance, they're separate employers and have the flexibility to make their own decisions on their individual working arrangements in order to meet their requirements.

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Throughout the pandemic, Jobcentres were kept open to support the most vulnerable claimants, with staff designated key workers. Jobcentres in Scotland, England and Wales returned to their pre-lockdown opening hours in April, with screened desks for meetings with claimants and distancing measures in place at every site.

However, there have been several closures and deep cleans after outbreaks at individual premises, including at offices in Glasgow.

The DWP said: "The health and safety of DWP staff remains of utmost importance as we continue to deliver vital support to millions of people across the country.

“We are absolutely committed to ensuring all our sites remain Covid secure for both colleagues and customers, in line with the latest UK Government and devolved administration health and safety guidance.”