The Trades Union Congress (“TUC”) has demanded that all employers produce risk assessments before employees return to work following the relaxation of coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown measures. The TUC’s demands follow the release of a YouGov Plc poll which stated that 40% of workers are concerned about returning to their place of work.
In its report entitled Preparing for the return to work outside the home – A trade union approach the TUC states that too many employers (especially those where there is as yet no recognised union) have “undermined the safety and well being of staff by their actions”.
Risk assessments & PPE
The TUC’s guidance calls on the government to mandate that all employers be required to:
- carry out specific COVID-19 risk assessment and have it signed off by a trade union health and safety representative, or by a Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) inspector; and
- that adequate Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”) is issued to employees wherever the employer’s risk assessment deems the provision of PPE to be necessary.
The TUC’s report says that the HSE must be ready to prosecute employers who fail to carry out adequate and comprehensiveCOVID-19 risk assessments prior to reopening and requiring employees to return to work or who neglect their obligation to provide suitable PPE.
The report calls on the government to ensure that its existing Furlough Leave scheme remains in place for the duration of the lockdown period and also recommends that the existing scheme is amended to enable employees to return to work on a phased basis (without suffering deductions in pay) in circumstances where a full return to work is not feasible for health and/or family related reasons.
The TUC’s report also calls for the basic level of sick pay to be raised to the equivalent of a week’s pay at the real living wage.
It is not surprising that the TUC has issued a specific Coronavirus (COVID-19) report at this time. Many businesses across all industry sectors are currently planning to bring all of some of their employees back into the workplace. Employers already have a legal duty to assess the risks to the health and safety of employees and it goes without saying that employers requiring employees to return to work without adequate risk assessments having first been carried out and/or in circumstances where adequate PPE is not provided will expose themselves to potentially costly personal injury and/or employment related claims in the courts and tribunals. Additionally, businesses that flout their own legal, moral and social responsibilities will no doubt risk being publicly named and shamed.
Businesses or organisations who are considering bringing employees back into the workplace should take note of the following guidance:
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Harrington Law is a specialist and niche firm of employment law and data protection solicitors. The firm acts for and advises businesses and organisations in York, Leeds, Bradford and throughout the UK.
Disclaimer: the information set out above does not constitute legal advice and it is provided for general information purposes only. No warranty, whether express or implied is given and neither the author or Harrington Law shall be liable for any technical, editorial, typographical or other errors or omissions within the information provided.