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MSP Briefing - The Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005 (Modification) Order 2008
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MSP Briefing - The Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005 (Modification) Order 2008

January 2008


This briefing sets out UNISON Scotland's position on the introduction of The Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005 (Modification) Order 2008 which is being considered in the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee on Tuesday, 15 January 2008.


UNISON Scotland welcomes any extension to the scope of the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act, 2005, that ensures more staff at risk from assault are protected by legislation. As you will be aware the numbers of assaults on public service staff is increasing and the criminal law is an important part of a package of measures to protect staff. We also welcome the Scottish Government's continued support for the safety at work initiatives including the current awareness campaigns.

However, we are very disappointed at the limited extension to the scope of staff covered by the Act. We were aware of the restrictions of the Act and highlighted these during the passage of the legislation. Despite these restrictions we believe there is an opportunity to cover a wider group staff who work in similar circumstances to the staff groups covered in the current Modification Order.

Firstly, there are the other health workers who are not covered by the order. Section 5 of the Act covers staff in a hospital or on adjacent land used for the purposes of a hospital, assisting a "person acting in a capacity mentioned in sub-section (3) below", i.e. a registered medical practitioner, a registered nurse or registered midwife or someone acting on behalf of the Scottish Ambulance Service. The Modification Order covers all of the above staff providing services across NHS Scotland, but omits anyone assisting them in carrying out their duties. There are many health workers in today's NHS who perform duties in their own right and do not 'assist' doctors or nurses, such as physiotherapists and other allied health professionals. Health workers in the community also work with other professionals, such as social workers, home helps, etc. The order runs the risk of creating a situation where, for example, in a joint future setting, a nurse and a social worker could be visiting someone in their home. If both are assaulted, only the nurse would be covered by the Act. Another example could be in a GP's surgery, where the doctor and community nurses would be protected, but not the receptionists.

We have similar concerns over police staffs not all of whom 'assist' police officers. There is a range of other staff who work in emergency circumstances who could be covered by the Act such as staff who deal with emergencies in environmental agencies and public utilities.


The selective nature of the order risks being perceived as creating a two-tier level of protection for public service staff. This would be unfortunate and we are sure this was not the intention. UNISON Scotland believes that the drafting of the current order has been done in haste and misses a golden opportunity to bring in legislation which would cover all public service workers carrying out their duties. We would urge the Justice Committee to request further legislation to cover other groups mentioned above and all other public sector workers who should be protected from assault on all occasions.

For further information please contact:

Dave Watson: d.watson@unison.co.uk Diane Anderson: diane.anderson@unison.co.uk



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