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Employers must keep workers safe or get shut down, says TUC
The TUC yesterday (Wednesday) called on government to take further steps to protect workers who are still going into work.
- TUC calls for government to publish tough new rules about safety for businesses that are staying open – and to close them down if they won’t comply.
- Workers who fear for their safety shouldn’t face punishment or dismissal, says union body.
Unions are concerned that many workers who can’t work from home are being exposed to unnecessary Covid-19 risk because their employers are not putting adequate safety measures in place.
The TUC is calling for:
- Strong new rules from government on the safety measures employers should put in place
- Every employer that expects workers to come in to work to complete a full formal risk assessment, following government guidance and with the involvement of their staff unions.
- A new enforcement body, involving employers, unions and the Health and Safety Executive. This body would have the power to issue enforcement notices for immediate compliance and to shut down workplaces if employers fail to comply. Similar arrangements are already in place in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
- Protection for workers who refuse to go to work during this period because they are genuinely afraid that they’re being put at avoidable Covid-19 risk
Hundreds of workers have got in touch with the TUC to raise concerns about workplace safety. Many (full quotes in notes) reported failure to implement social distancing, lack of protective equipment and cleaning measures, and non-essential sharing of tools and clocking-in systems.
The TUC believes that stronger enforcement of workplace safety regulations is needed both to protect individual workers and their families, and to slow the spread of the virus.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady yesterday said:
“With coronavirus infections increasing, employers must do all they can to keep their workers safe.
“But many people who have to go into work are raising the alarm about their working conditions.
“No one should have to endanger their own health and put their families and the wider community at risk.
“Government must introduce strong new rules to keep workers safe. And those employers who flout the rules should be forced to close.
“We all want businesses to get through this crisis and keep workers in their jobs. But employers must also play their part in stopping the spread of the virus, protecting our NHS and saving lives.”
Notes to Editors:
- The safety measures the TUC is calling for employers to adopt include:
- Supporting staff to work from home if at all possible.
- Supporting staff to get to work by the safest means possible (e.g. waiving car parking charges to reduce workers’ need for public transport or allowing staff to travel at less busy times).
- Changing workers patterns to allow greater social distancing (e.g. introducing split shifts and staggering start and finish times).
- Agree risk assessments with union health and safety reps.
- Providing appropriate personal protective equipment, and washing and changing facilities.
- Case study one: Sarah (not her real name) is a retail worker from Hertfordshire. She is concerned about safety in her store. She told the TUC: “There’s no extra cleaning measures being put in place. Our tills are closer than two metres apart, and we aren’t being given hand sanitiser. We don’t have social distancing in the queues at the checkout and customers are standing too close to each other and to staff.”
- Case study two: Kyle (not his real name) works in a school in the South East. He told the TUC: “I work in a school and we are caring for key workers’ children. Regular cleaning only happens if we do it ourselves. We need some PPE as it is impossible to help children learn without leaning in close. It would be helpful to have testing in this situation as we are exposed and could be passing the virus on to children.”
- Case study three: Mike (not his real name) is in his 60s and works for a private postal company in London. He told the TUC: “We cannot social distance correctly according to government guidelines due to space. We do not have PPE although we deal with external couriers and hundreds of packages and letters a day that could be contaminated. The post room is open daily and we are expected to get public transport to and from work.”
- Case study four: Lola (not her real name) works in a care home in Shropshire. She thinks contamination may be an issue in her workplace. She told the TUC: “Our cleaner is off work ill at the moment, so the residential home is being cleaned by just one person, once a week. Nothing is getting disinfected properly – a wipe down isn’t enough. We should be having our temperature taken when we arrive at work, but the thermometer has gone missing so this isn’t happening. Masks are only just now being given and not all staff are wearing them.”
- Case study five: Dean (not his real name) works in social care in the North West. He’s worried he doesn’t have protection from the virus at work. He told the TUC: “We have to go into people’s homes to provide personal care, but we have only been provided with paper type masks, I haven't got mine yet, so we are relying on hand washing as a method of preventing the spread of the virus. Basically nothing has changed in the way we work, although they have said they will let us know if anyone is suspected or confirmed to have the virus.”
- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.
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