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by John Johnston
27 April 2020
Unions demand 'tough new measures' to protect workers returning to their jobs

Barrington Coombs/EMPICS Entertainment

Unions demand 'tough new measures' to protect workers returning to their jobs

Unions are demanding "tough new measures" be put in place to protect workers returning to their jobs before coronavirus lockdown restrictions are lifted.

The TUC said ministers must make it a requirement for all UK employers to produce a specific Covid-19 risk assessment before the UK Government considers allowing people to return to work.

It comes as new polling for the union umbrella group found two in five workers were concerned about returning to their jobs over the risks of contracting the disease.

The study also found that 39 per cent of employees feared they would not be able to fully socially distance from their colleagues when they return to work, while 28 per cent were concerned about not being able to stay two metres away from customers or clients.

Meanwhile, the new report said those playing "fast and loose" with safety rules should face "serious penalties, including prosecution" if they fail to adequately protect employees.

TUC boss Frances O'Grady said the measures were needed to ensure workers had the "confidence" they would not put their families at risk when returning to their jobs.

"Many employers have struck sensible deals with unions to protect workers’ health, safety and wellbeing. But too often decent employers are let down by those who play fast and loose with safety," she said.

"We need tough new measures from government to reassure working people that their health and safety is a priority. Too many workers have already been forced to put their health on the line during this pandemic.

"We all want everyone to get back to work and start rebuilding Britain. But workers need confidence that they won’t have to put themselves or their families at unnecessary risk."

She added: "Government must ensure that every employer performs a comprehensive risk assessment before asking staff to return to work. And bosses who don’t take steps to protect workers should be prosecuted.

"If workers are asked to work in conditions they think are unsafe, they can refuse. And they should know that their unions will have their back."

The group said the measures drawn up by employers should be signed off by workplace unions or Health and Safety Executives before the lockdown is over - a move backed by Labour's Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham,

The call comes amid increasing pressure on Boris Johnson - who returns to work on Monday - to set out a plan for easing lockdown restrictions.

Tory donors and grandees this weekend called for more detail on the Government's exit plan, but Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned critics: “If we take the wrong measures now, it’s not just the risk to public health, [it’s] also the risks to the economy.

“Because we’d get a second spike, a second lockdown, and that would be a serious blow to public confidence."

Labour's Shadow Secretary for Employment Rights and Protections, Andy McDonald MP, said: “With the country pulling together during this time of crisis, Labour is working constructively with the Government to stop the spread of the coronavirus and support workers and businesses.

"We want to ensure no stone is left unturned to keep people safe now and in the future, and the Government must go further to provide security to people in and out of work.

“It is not enough to just clap for our carers and key workers, we must build a better society that protects them and all workers, strengthens their rights and properly rewards them for what they do.”

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