The TUC has published a report warning that, as hospitality and non-essential shops prepare to reopen in England on 12 April, infections could rebound if workplaces are not Covid-secure.

The study, titled “A Safe Return to the Workplace”, sets out a number of steps that the TUC wants ministers and employers to take to keep people safe at work and to prevent another spike in workplace infections.

These include:

  • Making sure that employers update their risk assessments to include what is now known about the importance of ventilation. Employers should allow as much work as possible to be done outside; they should invest in ventilation systems; and they should enforce social distancing as well as the wearing of face masks. Employees who can work from home should continue to do so until 21 June at least.
  • Introducing decent sick pay for all. A new TUC poll of private sector employers has revealed that of those who intend to use workplace testing, 28 per cent pay statutory sick pay of only £96.35 per week. The TUC is calling for this to be increased to at least the rate of the real Living Wage and extended to the two million low-paid workers who do not qualify for it currently.
  • Giving staff paid time off to get vaccinated. The TUC is critical of a recent poll which reveals that less than half of the firms surveyed (45 per cent) gave their workforces paid time off to get the jab. The TUC has the view that employers should be encouraging staff to get the vaccine, but having been vaccinated should not be a condition of employment. The TUC is calling on employers who are considering a Covid-status passport scheme to consult with recognised unions at sectoral and workplace level, but such a scheme will, the TUC points out, only work if employers provide decent sick pay.
  • Cracking down on bosseswho risk workers’ safety. Despite thousands of workplace outbreaks, not a single employer has been fined and prosecuted for putting staff in danger. The TUC notes that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has still not amended its much-criticised designation of coronavirus as a “significant” rather than a “serious” workplace risk, which means that inspectors’ enforcement options are limited. The TUC wants the government to take a much tougher stance with companies who flout health and safety rules, as well as provide the HSE with a long-term funding boost.

You can read the report in full here.