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TUC & NUJ reaction to the return to workplaces announcement

17 July 2020

Responding to Boris Johnson’s announcement today, allowing employers to start bringing home working staff back to the workplace from next month, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said:

"We all want to get the economy up and running as quickly as possible. Returns to workplaces must happen in a phased and safe way.
"The government is passing the buck on this big decision to employers. Getting back to work safely requires a functioning NHS Test and Trace system. Yet progress on test and trace is still patchy, and the government is still refusing to support workers who have to self-isolate by raising statutory sick pay from just £95pw to a rate people can live on.
"A safe return to workplaces also requires much greater investment in public transport if people are to be able to commute to workplaces.

"Before reopening any workplace, every employer must complete a risk assessment, and make plans to reduce the risk to workers through enabling social distancing. They must consult their staff trade unions, and larger employers should publish the risk assessment on their website.  
"Not everyone will be able to return to workplaces full-time or immediately. People who have been advised to shield and those without enough childcare may need to work fully from home for the foreseeable future. 
"Many businesses have seen the benefits of flexible approaches to working during this pandemic. This progress must not be lost. All staff should have the right to work flexibly from their first day in the job."

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"The NUJ supports the TUC's call for improvements in sick pay and the right to flexible working. Any media employers wanting to bring staff and freelances back into workplaces have to carry out health and safety risk assessments and engage with the NUJ to ensure workers are safe."

The TUC is calling on employers to do the following before asking staff to return to the workplace:

  • Complete their Covid-Secure risk assessments as required by law, in consultation with unions and their workforces
  • Publish their Covid-Secure risk assessment on their website, as the government expects
  • Take the actions from the risk assessment to enable safer working, such as requiring social distancing and supplying PPE if it is required
  • Show flexibility and consideration for workers’ individual circumstances, including considering caring responsibilities, those who are shielding, and those who have other health conditions, including mental health
  • Allow workers who rely on public transport to have staggered start times to prevent a rush hour crush  

The TUC is calling for government to make flexible work the default and give all workers the right to work as flexibly as possible from their first day in the job. Flexible working can take lots of different forms, including the right to predictable hours, working from home, job sharing, compressed hours and term-time working.

Tags: , tuc, covid-19, coronavirus, workplace, health and safety