How seriously are you taking COVID security in your workplace?

While workplace Health and Safety Regulations has been a top priority for employers and HR professions amid the pandemic, recent data has unveiled widespread covid-secure failures. 

This is likely to be a cause of concern for the HR function; not only seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases again, but also the risk of Tribunal cases for non-compliance and breach of Health & Safety Regulations and Government safety guidelines.

The Trades Union Congress’ (TUC) survey of more than 2,100 workplace safety representatives, found that many employers are failing to follow covid-secure rules:

  • More than three-quarters of safety representatives (83%) said employees had tested positive for COVID-19 in their workplace 
  • 57% said that their workplace had seen a “significant” number of cases.

TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: 

"Britain’s safety representatives are sounding the alarm. Too many workplaces are not Covid-secure. “This is a big worry for people expecting to return to their workplace soon. And it should be a big priority for ministers too. “We must have robust health and safety in place to reduce the risk of infections rising again when workplaces reopen,” 

DVLA staff go on strike

This concern can be seen first-hand, it was reported yesterday that hundreds of staff at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) began a four-day strike, in a dispute over Covid-related safety. It follows an outbreak at the site which has, since September 2020, seen 560 employees at the 6,000-staff offices contract the disease with one employee dying from the disease having contracted it whilst at work. At the time, staff said they felt scared to go to work and that there were unhygienic conditions and a lack of social distancing at the offices.

Employees claim those with symptoms were encouraged to return to work, vulnerable staff had work from home requests turned down and Test and Trace mobile detection has been circumvented. 

You may recall our reporting of a previous situation at the DVLA in our blog of 18th February which covered the fact that the DVLA management were asking employees to disclose their waist size as part of a ‘points based’ risk assessment’ to decide which employees were healthy enough to return to work.

Well the situation has only worsened since then with the Commercial Services union (PCS) at the site in Swansea, South Wales, walking out until this coming Friday 9th April after talks have failed to resolve the row.

What does the DVLA say?

The DVLA insisted that workplace safety was a priority:

“DVLA has followed and implemented Welsh Government guidance at every single point throughout the pandemic as we work to deliver our essential services.”

 “Staff in roles that enable them to work from home are doing so and have throughout, in line with current Government advice”

“However, in view of the essential nature of the public services we provide, some operational staff are required to be in the office where their role means they cannot work from home.”

What is the major concern of the PCS?

Seemingly some progress had been made in talks, such as the agreement to remove more than 300 desks, the revision of the risk assessments which has led to a further 300 staff being sent home, and a commitment on how to proceed in talks over the coming months, however the lack of immediate moves to reduce numbers on site means the industrial action will go ahead. 

“We call on the DVLA and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to enter into meaningful negotiations with the union, as we are determined to only send our members back into DVLA when the workplace is safe again.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “That PCS members are prepared to take unprecedented strike action shows just how badly DVLA management have failed in their responsibility to keep staff safe.

“No civil servant should have to go on strike to guarantee their safety at work.”

“It is inconceivable that this Government is allowing DLVA to risk the lives of its staff by forcing them into a workplace that is so clearly not safe

If any employee is found to have contracted Covid whilst at work it is the responsibility of the employer to take all reasonable measures possible to follow the Government Regulations and Statutory Guidance in order to operate safely. It is imperative that ALL businesses make the correct provisions to ensure the safety of their staff. Failure to comply with the relevant public health legislation could result in enforcement action by the relevant authorities.

If you need support or reassurance that you are complying with all Government guidance regarding this we can help.

For a free no strings, confidential initial half hour conversation on how we can help your business and/or to discuss any specific HR issues you need assistance with please get in touch by calling us on 01792 296 178, emailing us at shakira@personology.co.uk or click here to book a call back.

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