Give staff paid time off to get vaccine, Rayner tells employers

Elliot Chappell
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Angela Rayner has called on employers to support the effort to immunise the population in the fight against Covid by giving workers paid time off to attend – and escort vulnerable family members to – vaccination appointments.

In a letter to the Confederation of British Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses, British Chamber of Commerce, Institute of Directors and MakeUK, Rayner commended businesses for their response to the pandemic.

Pointing to recent Office of Budget Responsibility figures showing that Covid is costing the economy over £5bn and 23,000 job losses each week, she told the business groups that “we all have a role to play” in the vaccination programme.

Rayner encouraged them to urge their members to join the #LetsVaccinateBritain campaign, launched by Labour and the TUC, to support the effort to “get people vaccinated, protect our NHS and secure the economy”.

Labour’s deputy leader stressed that “every effort can make a difference” and committed the party to working with businesses across the UK to “rebuild our country and our communities in the months and years ahead”.

Her call to business comes amid growing pressure on the government to toughen up current restrictions to suppress the spread of Covid. Matt Hancock told the public on Sunday that the NHS faces a “very, very serious situation”.

Recent modelling suggests that one in five people in the England – as many as 12.4 million people – may have had Covid. This figure rises to almost one in every two people in some more badly hit regions.

Chris Whitty has today warned that the country is approaching the “most dangerous time” of the pandemic, before the vaccine roll-out has an impact, and that the “next few weeks are going to be the worst” for the NHS.

The chief medical officer said this morning “anybody who is not shocked” by the situation “has not understood this at all”. He stressed the importance of as many people receiving the first jab as soon as possible.

The Health Secretary has reported that two million people, including a third of people over the age of 80, have received the first dose of the vaccine and the government has announced the opening of mass vaccination centres.

The government has said that more than half a million people over the age of 80 are set to receive letters inviting them to book an appointment, by phone or online, and attend one of the seven mass vaccination centres set to open in England.

Below is the full text of Angela Rayner’s letter.

Dear Tony/Adam/Mike/Stephen/Jonathan,

2020 was an incredibly tough year for all of us. The coronavirus pandemic has hit our country harder than almost any other, we have had the worst recession of any major economy and the impact on British businesses has been devastating. Too many good businesses have struggled, too many people have lost their jobs and the longer this crisis lasts the deeper the economic damage will be.

We should all be proud of the role British businesses have played in the national effort – adapting their workplaces to continue to operate in the most challenging circumstances, and even going above and beyond by changing production to make hand sanitiser, personal protective equipment and providing free school meals when the government failed to feed our children.”

The government has – once again – lost control of the virus. Regrettably, restrictions are again needed to save lives and protect our NHS. But for every week that this remains the case, more damage is done to our country, our economy and British businesses, more working people lose their jobs and more businesses face bankruptcy.

This crisis is costing the UK economy more than £5bn each week, and 23,000 people are estimated to be losing their jobs per week, which makes it absolutely critical that the vaccine is rolled out swiftly and safely. Delays will cost our economy billions of pounds, and see tens of thousands more workers lose their jobs.

That is why the Labour Party and trade union movement has launched the #LetsVaccinateBritain campaign, to do everything we can to support the national effort to get people vaccinated, protect our NHS and secure the economy. We encourage you to ask your members to support this campaign.

I know that you share this commitment to ensuring that the vaccine is rolled out as quickly as possible, and you will know first-hand how damaging delays will be to our economy and to businesses.

We all have a role to play, and Britain’s businesses can support this national effort by ensuring that all workers are given paid time off to attend their vaccination appointments and escort vulnerable relatives to appointments, workers are supported in signing up as NHS volunteers to support the vaccine roll-out and businesses use their platforms to promote the importance of the vaccine and combat dangerous anti-vax misinformation.

The sooner the vaccine is rolled out, the sooner our economy and our businesses can begin to recover and every effort can make a difference.

The Labour Party looks forward to working with British businesses to vaccinate Britain and rebuild our country and our communities in the months and years ahead.

Yours sincerely

Angela Rayner

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