The TUC has today warned many workplaces are still not taking adequate measures to protect employees from coronavirus.
The warning comes as new polling reveals that less than half of employees say their workplaces have introduced safe social distancing.
The survey – carried out for the TUC by BritainThinks – also reveals that just two-fifths of workers say they know their employers have carried out Covid-Secure risk assessments. It is a legal requirement to carry out a risk assessment and share with staff
Just four in 10 report being given adequate PPE.
Last week Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged the nation to go back to work, telling people the “vast majority” of workplaces are Covid-Secure.
But the TUC says its findings cast huge doubt on that claim.
Although most workplaces are thought to have taken some measures to deal with Covid-19, workers told the TUC their employers are not doing enough to protect them at work.
The survey highlights how those on low incomes and in insecure work have been worse affected by companies cutting corners on workers’ safety.
1 in 4 low-income workers – those earning less than £15,000 per year – report that no action has been taken by employers to reduce the risk of coronavirus infections.
While over two-thirds of those on insecure contracts said no measures had been taken to prevent transmission at work.
The TUC poll shows that three-quarters of workers have at least one concern about returning to work outside the home.
More than a third said they were concerned about not being able to socially distance from colleagues, while a similar number (lsaid they were worried about exposing others in their household to greater risk as a result of returning to work.
Almost a quarter said they were concerned about not being able to socially distance from clients or customers, while nearly a third said they were worried their workplace would not be cleaned properly.
Although three-quarters of workers told the TUC they had concerns about returning to work, only a third had spoken to their employer, while 29% said they didn’t feel comfortable speaking to anyone.
Two-fifths said they voiced their concerns to friends and family.
These findings come as the Health and Safety Executive is in the process of appointing private outsourcing companies to carry out workplace ‘spot checks’, demonstrating the shortfall in capacity for enforcement the TUC has warned about.
These will not be trained, expert or warranted inspectors, and will not have the same powers. They will only be able to do a basic inspection and check for a risk assessment.
The HSE has chosen this approach as the additional government funding provided for workplace safety is for one year only – meaning they can’t use it to resource much needed increases in inspection and enforcement capacity. Typically, training a HSE inspector takes at least two years.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“Making sure workplaces are safe is key to preventing the spread of Covid-19 and getting our economy back on its feet.
“If we don’t deal with the public health crisis, we won’t be able to deal with the economic one.
“Rather than trying to bully people back into offices, ministers should change the law to require all employers to publish their risk assessments, and make sure workplaces are safe.
“And they should crack down on bad bosses who risk their workers’ lives. As we saw with Leicester, it only takes one bad boss playing fast and loose with workers’ safety to shut down an entire city.”