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April 16, 2020

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Employers must keep workers safe or get shut down, says TUC

The TUC has called on government to take further steps to protect workers who are still going into work. 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.

constructionThe 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 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.”

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.

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