NHSScotland 'Once for Scotland' Workforce Policies: Homeworking Policy

Closed 26 Jul 2021

Opened 28 Jun 2021

Feedback updated 21 Jul 2023

We asked

On 28 June 2021, the Scottish Government published a consultation on the NHSScotland Flexible Work Location Policy.

NHSScotland recognised that the working environment had altered significantly as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The extant Homeworking PIN Policy was refreshed and modernised to reflect the changed working environment.

Views and comments were sought on the policy and proposed supporting documents in order to identify any gaps and policy amendments required. The consultation sought to understand if the refreshed Flexible Work Location Policy reflected changes in working practices, and that the policy style was simple, standardised and person-centred.

You said

There were 330 responses to the consultation, 33 from organisations and 297 from individuals.  

  • Transitional arrangements to return to the office post pandemic were a recurrent theme in feedback from both organisations and individuals. This is out with the remit of the policy and NHS Boards will determine their local strategic intent.
  • Ambition there was a mixed response regarding the substance of the policy and level of ambition outlined. For some there was an expectation for the policy to define options for the future of work across NHSScotland as mixed working environments. For others there was a feeling that agile working and requests by the employer went beyond the remit of the extant PIN policy.
  • Commutable locations and working abroad – the experience of staff working from home as a result of the pandemic has led to a desire for some staff to live further away from the workplace for quality of life or affordability. In addition, there have been queries about the scope to work from abroad from both organisations and individuals.
  • Equipment – there was an ask for consistency across NHSScotland on the equipment provided to support employees working from home. Concerns were raised that cost implications could be a barrier to home or hybrid working arrangements. Feedback was also received on support for setup of equipment.
  • Health, Safety and Wellbeing – feedback was received on what should be included within the health, safety and wellbeing self-assessment and local procedures. Some respondents highlighted that homeworking helps employees to maintain a greater work life balance supporting physical and mental wellbeing. A number of respondents also reported feeling that they would not wish to continue working wholly from home. Concerns were also raised regarding identifying or managing employees who may be vulnerable due to isolation, mental wellbeing or are at risk in the home, for example, as a result of gender-based violence.  
  • Implementation – a number of implementation issues were raised through the consultation. These included:
    • the management of requests from employees to work from home or on a hybrid basis could become an onerous task for managers as we transition out of the pandemic
    • practical implications of managing employees who work from home whether in relation to ongoing communication, attendance, performance or conduct.  
    • respondents raised concern that there is no qualifying period or limitation on number of applications which can be made by an employee
    • equity of access and application of policy was a recurrent theme with concern expressed that managers determine whether an application is agreed.   
  • Terms and conditions – both organisations and individual respondents sought clarity regarding reimbursement for additional costs incurred by working from home, travel expenses and whether the review can end an agreement.
  • Information Governance – feedback was received on responsibility for information governance for those who work from home in relation to confidentiality and information security and ensuring the necessary safeguards are in place. 

We did

Consultation responses were analysed and carefully considered for policy amendment. Key themes from the consultation and suggested amendments to the draft policies were reviewed by the ‘Once for Scotland’ Workforce Policies Programme Board.   

We engaged further with the Scottish Terms and Conditions (STAC) Committee on the terms and conditions considerations raised through the consultation and the revised Section 33 of the Agenda for Change Handbook.  STAC reached agreement on contractual base and commutable distance; travel expenses and travel time; reimbursement for additional costs; review and the process to make changes to a permanently agreed arrangement. The agreed position has been incorporated into the Flexible Work Location Policy, Employee Guide and Manager Guide.

For all flexible working requests that include home as a location, employees must complete a health, safety and wellbeing self-assessment. The self-assessment was developed with Heads of Health and Safety and Occupational Health. The content of the self-assessment will inform the discussion between employee and manager and reviewed alongside the flexible working request. Local NHS Board Health and Safety policies, procedures and guidance should be referred to and followed.

The employer, manager and employee responsibilities have been further clarified in the policy. This includes the provision, maintenance and support of equipment and technology, safe storage and security of information, risk assessment, working arrangements, contact and communication. A standardised appeals process has also been added to the Flexible Work Location Policy.

The Scottish Workforce and Staff Governance Committee (SWAG) formally approved on 29 June 2023 the full suite of NHSScotland supporting work life balance workforce policies, including the Flexible Work Location Policy. These policies, and associated supporting documents, set the standard for employment practice for NHS Boards and can be accessed at https://workforce.nhs.scot/


The 'Once for Scotland' Workforce Policies Programme is designed to review and transform existing workforce policies (previously known as Partnership Information Network (PIN) Policies) in line with our vision:

"'Once for Scotland' workforce policies will promote NHSScotland as a modern, exemplar employer; showcasing our core values, and promoting consistent employment policy and practice that supports the implementation of the Staff Governance Standard and effective recruitment and retention."

This consultation focuses on the Homeworking Policy.

Why your views matter

NHSScotland recognises that the working environment has altered in last 18 months as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The refresh of the Homeworking Policy within the extant Supporting the Work-Life Balance PIN has been prioritised ahead of the other policies in this suite.  It will sit alongside the other elements of the Supporting the Work-Life Balance PIN to be refreshed when the ‘Once for Scotland’ Workforce Policies Programme formally restarts in August 2021.

It is recognised that agile working, as an approach, is becoming more common place.  The draft policy for consultation is intended to support employees and managers in considering and agreeing options for flexible work locations.  This is not a COVID-19 specific policy.  The policy has been refreshed and modernised to reflect the changed working environment.  Changes proposed by the employer are covered by the Staff Governance Standard which require full engagement and involvement with affected staff. The NHS Board’s Organisational Change Policy will apply where the employer seeks a change in work locations. This will ensure the protection of terms and conditions and no detriment to the employee.

The policy is not intended to directly address any terms and conditions issues as they are under the remit of the Scottish Terms and Conditions Committee (STAC).

The consultation follows the regional engagement events pre-policy (January 2020) and mid-policy development (March 2020). The approach, agreed by the Scottish Workforce and Staff Governance (SWAG) Committee, minimises the need for the traditional 2-3 month formal consultation process.

With this new model of engagement, and recognising that these policies have already been agreed in partnership, this consultation will look different from previous consultations.

What is included within the consultation?

The consultation focuses on the Homeworking Policy. This includes the following sections:

  • Aim
  • Scope (Who it applies to and What can be raised under the policy)
  • Definitions
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Procedure

The policy references supporting documents, each with a descriptor on what this entails.  

Please note: supporting documents are not part of the consultation. These will be drafted following the consultation when responses have been analysed and the policy is developed in a final draft.

Standard sections that apply to all policies, for example, Principles and Values, Employee Support, Roles and Responsibilities are available on the NHSScotland Workforce Policies website.

The questions set out in the consultation seek to understand if the refreshed policy reflects our vision for NHSScotland workforce policies to be user-friendly and supportive, and updated to reflect changed working practices.  The consultation also includes an equalities section to gather views on the potential impacts of this policy on protected characteristics equalities groups.

Read the consultation paper.


  • Health and Social Care