Great Britain

One worker in ten ‘forced back into workplace’ as bosses ignore Covid guidelines, says TUC

BOSSES are blatantly ignoring official Covid guidance by forcing staff back into workplaces, a TUC poll reveals today.

Around 9 per cent of workers say they have been put under pressure to return to their workplaces, according to the union body’s survey — the number leaping to 17 per cent among disabled staff.

The poll suggests that as many as a quarter of workers are operating from offices or other workplaces despite being able to work from home.

The TUC says the disturbing figures highlight a crisis in health and safety enforcement, which could see employers ignore the law with impunity.

The findings come as the Prime Minister is expected to delay the ending of Covid restrictions in England — including the work-from-home guidance — in a bid to combat a sharp increase in Covid cases.

TUC polling reveals that 46 per cent of workers say their boss has not taken steps to improve workplace airflow, 17 per cent have not been given personal protective equipment and 11 per cent say that social distancing has not been enabled in their workplace.

Yet despite the clear lack of action and Covid outbreaks in many workplaces, no employer has yet been prosecuted for breaching Covid guidelines.

Workers should be able to trigger a spot-check from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), but a 50 per cent real-terms cut in its budget in the last 10 years has led to a dramatic decline in inspections, the TUC says.

General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Employers should not be able to ignore government safety guidance with impunity.

“The government must send out a clear message to employers to play by the rules or face serious action.  

“Ministers must fund enforcement bodies properly so they can recruit and train qualified workplace inspectors, inspect more workplaces and prosecute companies which don’t keep their workers safe.

Ms O’Grady added that workers being forced back into their workplaces should contact their union, “and if you’re not in a union, join one today.”   

Carolyn Jones, director of the Institute of Employment Rights, said that its own recent report Covid at Work had “exposed the utter contempt too many bosses show towards the wellbeing of their staff, and the failure of the government and the HSE to hold employers to account.

“The government is proposing a new enforcement body for workers’ rights, yet it has failed to ensure the health and safety enforcement body does its job — during a pandemic.”

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