Scottish food industry calls for clarification over ‘key workers’ guidance

Scotland’s leading farming, fishing, food and drink organisations have released a joint statement calling on the Scottish Government to provide greater clarity to Scotland’s 32 local authorities on who they should define as ‘key workers’, to support the continued supply of food across the country.

National advice has been issued in England, Wales in Northern Ireland defining key workers as including those involved in the production, delivery and sale of food. In Scotland, no such advice has been issued and it is being left to 32 local authorities to make a case by case decision on individual businesses and groups of workers. They have said that issuing further guidance to councils, in line with the rest of the UK on food supply, will support the continued effort to keep the supply chain moving.

The statement adds that the industry organisations recognise the importance of keeping the definition of key workers incredibly narrow as the numbers of children attending schools must be kept as low as possible.

Prioritisation has thus far been given for category 1 key workers, such as those saving lives in the NHS, but at present, while some local authorities have recognised the priority of food supply under category 2 of the key worker designation, many have not.

The statement adds that an inconsistent approach and a lack of support for councils in defining key workers, could add further strain to a food supply chain already under enormous pressure.

In addition, the businesses are also urging businesses to follow some critical steps to reduce staffing to the bare essentials required to secure Scotland’s food supply.

Food and drink businesses have been asked to do the following, if they have not done so already:

  • Reduce staffing levels to the lowest possible number required to maintain the production of essential goods
  • Do not contact your local authority to make the case for key worker designation unless it is the measure of last resort. All other measures must be explored first (e.g. shift changes, halting some production lines, alternative childcare arrangements)
  • If you do contact your local authority, only seek designation for “business critical” roles.

Industry bodies represented by the joint statement are: Scotland Food & Drink, FDF Scotland, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS), National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS), Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), Seafood Scotland, Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, Scottish Seafood Association, Scottish Association Meat Wholesalers (SAMW), Dairy UK, Agricultural Industries Confederation Scotland (AIC Scotland) and Scottish Bakers.

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