Frances O’Grady has declared that the TUC wants workplace risk assessments conducted in consultation with trade unions and for these assessments to be published in an effort to keep workers safe during the pandemic.
In an interview with Sky News this morning, the TUC general secretary said it was not helpful to “issue edicts to all workers” and urged the government to take a “step-by-step” approach in encouraging people to return to workplaces.
O’Grady explained that there is an “appetite for greater flexibility at work”, particularly for those with childcare responsibilities, and argued: “It doesn’t make sense to just tell everybody one size fits all.”
Commenting on the approach being taken by government ministers, she said: “The government needs to take this step-by-step. I don’t think it’s helpful to issue edicts to all workers…
“The whole point of safety is that we want every workplace conducting a risk assessment, as employers are required to do so by law, and consulting with unions.
“We’ve asked the government to make sure those risk assessments are published so that staff can see for themselves alongside their communities – because of course this has an impact on the whole community – that workplaces are safe.”
The government launched a new ad campaign this week in an increased attempt to encourage people to get back in the workplace. The governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are still advising people to work from home if possible.
The general secretary added: “Workers have an appetite for greater flexibility at work – especially when they’ve got childcare issues or indeed health problems themselves – it doesn’t make sense to just tell everybody one size fits all.”
Asked if it is “necessarily safe” to return employees to work: “Well, no. And we’ve seen that in food processing companies and textile companies, fast fashion, where employers haven’t been doing the right thing… and of course we’ve seen those localised outbreaks.”
'We want every workplace conducting a risk assessment and consulting with unions…and we want those risk assessments published for workers to see.'@The_TUC general secretary @FrancesOGrady says it's 'not helpful to issue edicts to workers'.https://t.co/Cl0Zvlvjh4 #KayBurley pic.twitter.com/lPkV0fDWSZ
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) September 1, 2020
Treasury secretary Steve Barclay said on Sunday that employees should start to return to offices where possible from Monday to help the economy “get back to normal” – but the TUC warned that “just wagging fingers at people” will not work.
Head of the British Chambers of Commerce Adam Marshall said that clearer communication from the government is needed, and that going back to work would be dependent on factors such as schools and public transport operating effectively.
Hundreds and thousands of children are also returning to schools for the start of term in England this week, prompting increased concern that there may be spikes in the rate of transmission.