MSP unveils plans for free home transport for late night hospitality staff

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PROPOSALS for a new law requiring hotel bosses to provide free overnight transport to help workers get home safely are due to be unveiled later this year.

Maggie Chapman of the Scottish Greens is due to hold a 12-week consultation before Christmas on a bill requiring employers to finish work in the early morning to show they can bring staff home.

People working in night industries may be at higher risk of returning 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 voluntarily provide home transport for staff working unsocial hours, but Ms Chapman’s proposal would enshrine that obligation in law.

It plans to do this by making it essential that companies include the duty to workers in their application to licensing boards for councils that allow them to operate.

The MSP’s proposal for the new legislation follows a vote at its party’s conference in Dundee earlier this month, supporting 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 started when 26-year-old hotel worker and Unite member Caitlin Lee, who waived her right to anonymity, was sexually assaulted on her way home from work in the center. city ​​of Glasgow in July this year.

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

“We’ve seen many employers step up and take responsibility when talking about pay and health, safety and welfare conditions, and one of the really positive things about Unite Hospitality’s Get Me Home Safely campaign recognizes that employers have a responsibility not only to employees. at work, but they are responsible for it in the community.

“Some employers already provide transport to the homes of late workers. But we’ve gotten to the point where we leave that up to the employers. It must be something tighter.

“The idea behind the bill is that we can strengthen licensing legislation. As part of license applications, we want to require that people working late can be transported home. »

Ms Lee was attacked on July 31 after she left work at a Glasgow city center hotel.

She told the Herald on Sunday: ‘I don’t want what happened to me to happen to another 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 night workers are transported home, we also need primary legislation in the Scottish Parliament to ensure the Licensing Act (Scotland) is fit for purpose. and to ensure workers don’t have to choose between walking home in the dark or wasting two hours’ pay in a taxi.

“The responsibility for the safety of workers to and from night work should not rest with the worker – it must rest with employers and politicians at all levels to guarantee our safety.

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

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

All sectors?
CURRENTLY, Ms Chapman’s proposed legislation focuses on hospitality workers, but she hopes further work could mean end-of-shift staff in other sectors, included in the NHS and social care, will be able to benefit from the same protections to return home safely.

“There are workers, people who work in the NHS, in social services and in a whole variety of roles that are not in hospitality [who finish work late],” she says.

“The focus of the bill will have this narrow focus [on hospitality workers] but that does not mean, and in the discussion of the bill itself, it may apply more broadly.
“According to the detailed wording of the legislation, I hope that as part of the licensing requirement, they will have to demonstrate how they will ensure that end-of-shift workers return home safely.

Ms Chapman said the bill’s safety measures 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 would be the standard that employers would have to meet, or whether the draft law set a national minimum.

Trade in the hospitality sector has been hit hard during the Covid pandemic and continues 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 the difficulties the hospitality sector is facing, 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 keep the staff they want, it’s about this job offer.

“It is part of this package. Yes, they are looking at wages and pensions, but they will also be looking at broader health and safety conditions. »

Ms Chapman hopes her bill will be introduced in Parliament next year after formal 12-week consultations end next spring. The bill would be reviewed by the MSPs of the Economy and Fair Labor Committee, with the exact timing of its introduction depending on parliamentary proceedings.

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