The TUC has declared that “tough new measures” will need to be implemented before people return to their workplaces as coronavirus lockdown measures are lifted.
In a new report released today, the trade union body outlines the requirements that must first be met by government and employers in order to “give staff the confidence they need”.
The TUC is demanding that every UK employer be forced to conduct a coronavirus-specific risk assessment, which would be developed with unions and workers.
This process would identify risks in the workplace, set out steps to mitigate them, and have these “completed and communicated” to staff before they are expected to return.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “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.
“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.
“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 TUC has also published new polling, conducted by YouGov, which saw 40% of workers surveyed say they were worried about returning to their normal place of work.
39% said they were concerned about not being able to socially distance from colleagues in the workplace, and 28% expressed concern about not being able to distance from customers or clients.
The TUC last week called on the government to set up a public inquiry looking into the “grotesque” failure to provide frontline workers with adequate personal protective equipment.
Labour’s Rachel Reeves told the BBC on Sunday that a public inquiry was “inevitable” as there are “so many lessons to be learnt” from the government’s handling of Covid-19.