Information for workers in Wales during the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic covering health and safety at work, taking time off and working from home.

As of 10 May the Welsh Government's advice to most workers in Wales is to work from home if you can.

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What we are asking the Welsh Government and UK government to do to support workers

The Wales TUC is working with Welsh Government and other organisations to support workers in Wales affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Welsh Government has led the way on ensuring the safety of workers with the introduction of the 2-metre social distancing law. We've welcomed their revised policy to extend testing to all key workers. We are continuing to work in social partnership with Welsh Government and are working with them to ensure that:

  • all key workers know that they are entitled to testing and can access the right PPE to protect them and their colleagues
  • particular issues with PPE in the outsourced care sector are addressed
  • that the 2-metre social distancing law is effective and being applied

In terms of supporting key sectors and industries, Welsh Government has been working with us and other social partners to go beyond what the UK government is offering. We will continue to work together to do all that we can to support and retain good jobs in Wales through the crisis and as we move towards recovery.


The UK government needs to prioritise:

  • Ensuring that no-one should have to return to work without tough new measures on safety
  • Boosting benefit payments and removing the delays in access
  • Introducing decent sick pay for alllevel with the Real Living Wage
  • A massive economic stimulus plan
  • Ensuring that the promised support for self-employed people reaches workers as soon as possible
  • Paid parental leave for those who need time off work

Coronavirus advice - your health and safety at work

  • Are you able to stay safe from coronavirus at your workplace?
  • Have you got the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) you need to keep you safe?
  • Are you able to practice social distancing at work?
  • Are you able to wash your hands whenever you need to?

If you answered 'no' to any of these questions or have any health and safety concerns, please fill in our health and safety concerns form. We will anonymously share your concerns with Welsh Government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). If you tell us it's okay, we will also pass your details on to your trade union so they can raise your issue with your employer and offer you advice about what to do next.

What if you refuse to work because of safety concerns over coronavirus at your workplace? Read our blog 'can i refuse to work because of coronavirus?' to find out more about your rights.

Read more about changes your employer should make to keep you safe at work and the government action we want to see to protect workers.

Watch a replay of our webinar on coronavirus at work - a health and safety issue

We've also put together some information for trade union health and safety reps on what health and safety reps can do to help protect members' health and safety during the coronavirus lockdown.

For advice on what do to if you think you have COVID-19 visit the Public Health Wales website or the NHS website.

Coronavirus - impact on BME workers

Trade unions are very concerned by reports of the disproportionately high number of Covid-19 deaths affecting frontline workers from BME (black, minority and ethnic) backgrounds. The Wales TUC has called for clearer data to be collected to understand why ethnicity is a strong risk factor.

We don’t yet have a scientific explanation as to why Covid-19 affects some people more than others, but we do know that BME people in the UK have experienced years of systematic discrimination in the workplace, and in society more widely as a result of the impact of UK government policies.

We know, for example, that they are more likely to be living in overcrowded accommodation, less likely to have access to good healthcare, and more likely to be trapped in low-paid, high-risk jobs.

We also know that BME people have been disproportionately affected by a decade of UK government austerity and cuts to public services.

Watch Wales TUC General Secretary Shavanah Taj talking about this issue on ITV Wales.

Read our blogs on why structural racism is putting BME lives at risk during the coronavirus outbreak and Covid 19: How racism kills.

We also have a blog on Ramadan and coronavirus: supporting Muslim workmates.

Coronavirus advice - looking after your mental health

Everyone is wondering how we are going to survive the coming months, worrying about job security or the challenges of working from home and being with family 24/7. But there are ways that you can protect your mental health and even lead to a growth in your mental wellbeing.

Join our new weekly 'coping with coronavirus' bite-size learning sessions to give you tools and techniques to help you look after yourself and cope with the challenges ahead.

Read our blog for some tips on looking after your mental health during the coronavirus crisis.

Watch a replay of our webinar on tackling isolation.

 

Coronavirus advice - help at work

Contact your union rep or official for advice on how coronavirus may affect you at work. 

Not in a union? Use our join a union tool to find the right one for you. 

If you have concerns about what your employer is doing  fill in our online form. This form will be used to gather intelligence on the impact of the coronavirus in our workplaces, especially in respect of protecting jobs, rights and pay. To tell us about health and safety concerns use this form instead.

The TUC has produced extensive guidance for trade union reps. It is designed to give you an understanding of the workplace issues in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also provide support in being effective at negotiating with employers steps that can be taken to best protect the health and safety of the workforce.

Read the TUC's coronavirus advice for reps.

Read our blog on 10 things you can do now to organise on coronavirus at work.

Watch our webinars: coronavirus at work - Q&A  and how to organise through the coronavirus crisis.

We've also put together an interactive guide for reps on organising through the coronavirus crisis.

The Wales Union Learning Fund (WULF) is continuing to offer support and a wide range of learning opportunities to workers during this time. See more details on our WULF web page. You can also watch a reply of our webinar on apprenticeships and Covid 19.

Look out for our upcoming webinars:

No return to work until it's safe - 14th May

The tools to create your own future - 15th May

Coronavirus - your right at work - 21st May

Coronavirus advice - working from home

Covid-19 will mean many workers are asked to work from home. We've put together some tips for people who are working from home for the first time. 

Read our blogs about what you need to know when working from home , health and safety while working from home and learning something from home during the coronavirus.

Share your tips with us on Twitter.

Watch a replay of our webinar on health and safety while working from home.

Working from home can mean that workers are exposed to different health and safety hazards, and some employers are ignoring their responsibility to carry out a risk assessment. Workplace reps can help change this. To find out more about what you can do if you are a workplace rep, have a look at our interactive guide to risk assessments for homeworkers.

Join our #SickPayforAll campaign

At least 90,000 workers in Wales are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. And, at £94.24 a week, our rate of sick pay is nowhere near enough.

The UK government should introduce emergency legislation that:

  • Gives every worker the right to statutory sick pay from the first day of absence
  • Scraps the minimum earnings threshold for statutory sick pay
  • Ensures that sick pay is paid to workers having to self-isolate
  • Increase the weekly level of sick pay
  • Provide funds to ensure employers can afford to pay sick pay, and provide additional support to those who miss out

Sign our #SickPayforAll petition.

 

Coronavirus advice - what are my rights to time off due to school closures?

If you have children, you may need to take time off due to nurseries and schools being closed.

The UK government has confirmed that parents of children who are unable to work because they need to look after children are eligible to be 'furloughed' as part of the Job Retention Scheme. This scheme means the government will subsidise 80 per cent of your salary while you are unable to work.

But currently it is down to individual employers to agree to the worker being furloughed and in reality many employers are telling workers to use leave or change shifts. The TUC has called for the UK government to take a clearer lead on this issue. If you are having difficulties, speak to your union rep if you need help or advice.

You may have the right to take 18 weeks unpaid parental leave, if you've worked for your employer for 12 months or more. In some workplaces, unions have negotiated for parental leave to be paid. Your contract should confirm what arrangements apply in your workplace, but you can also contact your union rep or manager if you’re unsure.

However, some workers don't have these rights, and face months without pay. Nobody should face losing their income or job for doing the right thing.

We’re calling for the UK Government to temporarily introduce guaranteed paid parental leave for one primary carer. They should reimburse employers, like they currently do for maternity leave.

Read our blog to find out more about rights to time off for parents and sign our petition and support working parents.

 

Coronavirus advice - what are the rules if you're temporarily laid off?

If you're one of the workers who've been asked to go on furlough, make sure you know your rights.

The coronavirus has put the UK economy under immense strain, with businesses across the country shutting down to prevent the spread.

After discussions with trade unions, the government is to plough billions of pounds into a furlough scheme that will see the taxpayer give businesses 80 per cent of the wages of those employees who are temporarily laid off. 

This should stop those businesses suffering a drop-off from making workers permanently redundant. It will ensure that more workers have enough money to cover their bills and leave businesses well-placed to ramp up activity once demand picks up again. 

But while measures to protect jobs are welcome, it's important that employers follow the rules when sending staff on furlough. And if you're one of the workers who've been asked to go on furlough, make sure you know your rights.

Read the TUC blog to find out more about your rights as a 'furloughed' worker.

Watch a replay of our webinars on the job retention scheme and employment rights  and coronavirus at work - the wage subsidy.

Redundancy - advice and support

Employer schemes such as the Job Retention Scheme and the introduction of furlough may prevent the worst of the job losses in the short-term across Wales.

But redundancies are still happening. And there may well be worse to come as the crisis develops and impacts on our economy.

Read our advice page on redundancy support during the coronvirus crisis.

The Wales Union Learning Fund (WULF) is continuing to offer support to workers affected by redundancy through the coronavirus crisis. See more details on our WULF web page.

Watch a replay of our webinar on supporting members with redundancy held on Wednesday 8th April:

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Disabled workers and COVID - reasonable adjustments when working from home

Covid-19 means more people than ever before are required to work from home.

But if you are a disabled worker and have reasonable adjustments at work, this change can prevent you doing your job properly.

Employers have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable workplace adjustments for disabled people. This is to prevent a disabled worker being put at a disadvantage compared to a non-disabled worker. This can be due to the way the workplace is organised, the physical features of the work environment or the absence of an extra aid or service.

Read our blog to find out more about your rights to reasonable adjustments as a disabled worker when working from home.

Pregnant workers and COVID - what are your rights?

UK government guidance classifies pregnant women as part of the 'vulnerable people' group who should observe 'social distancing measures'.

This has significant implications for pregnant women who are told their job cannot be done from home, whose employer is not able to put reasonable safe working measures into place and/or whose travel to work prevents them from being able to maintain appropriate social distance.

There is a legal framework that all employers must act within regarding pregnant employees and breastfeeding mothers. Employers have a legal obligation to assess the workplace risks for pregnant women and their unborn children, and breastfeeding mothers who have returned to work.

They must keep these risks under review as circumstances change and the pregnancy progresses, if applicable. They should follow these four steps if a risk, such as exposure to COVID-19, is identified:

1. They must try to remove or prevent your exposure to risks.

2. If that is not possible, they should temporarily adjust your working conditions, to allow you to work from home.

3. If that is not possible, you should be offered suitable alternative employment at the same rate of pay, if available. 

4. If that is not possible, they must suspend you from work on full pay for as long as necessary to protect your health and safety or that of your baby. Your full pay should be based on your usual earnings, not pay based on your contractual hours.

If there is a health and safety risk that prevents you carrying out your normal role and you cannot be redeployed, you should be suspended on 100% of your normal rate of pay. 

If however you are furloughed because there is no specific health and safety risk but your employer is affected for example by lack of demand, or through carrying out non-essential work, you should be furloughed on the same terms as other non-pregnant colleagues.

Read our blog for more information about your rights and protection from discrimination as a pregnant worker.

Domestic abuse - supporting members during the lockdown

Lockdowns around the world have resulted in an increase in domestic abuse.

Measures to prevent the spread of the virus mean that many people are now isolated at home with a perpetrator. Support agencies have reported a huge rise in people reporting abuse.

Read our information page to find out how you can support members and co-workers experiencing domestic abuse.

The Live Fear Free Helpline can provide support to anyone affected by domestic abuse or sexual violence. They can also provide advice to those concerned about a colleague, friend or family member. Their helpline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 0808 80 10 800. You can also get advice and support by:

 

 

Coronavirus advice - other sources of information

Shelter Cymru has advice for people worried about how Covid-19 could affect their housing

The Senedd research blog has compiled a useful list where you can find information on topics including housing, benefits, health and education. 

The Equality Advisory Support Service offers advice and help to individuals on equality and human rights issues. It is still offering advice through its free helpline on 0808 800 0082, BSL advice service and webchat and textphone. You can also fill in the contact form on www.equalityadvisoryservice.com

Disability Wales has compiled a 'your questions answered list' in response to disabled people's frequently asked questions on Covid-19 and a list of useful local contacts in Wales.

GamCare has telephone and online support available for anyone concerned about their own or someone else's gambling.

Public Health Wales has an information page on staying well at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Money Advice Service has put together advice pages on coronavirus and your money and coronavirus - what it means and what you're entitled to.

The Wales Cooperative Centre has put together a list of Covid-19 related links aimed at people working in cooperatives and social enterprises.

Digital Communities Wales has compiled lists of useful learning resources and digital tools on the following topics:

Mental health charity Mind Cymru has information on coronavirus - supporting yourself and your team and coronavirus and your wellbeing.