The TUC has today (Thursday) written to ministers to raise urgent concerns about the government’s back-to-work safety plans.
The union body says the government is refusing to consult with unions and employers on the latest guidance that will “affect millions of working people”.
The TUC fears the new guidance – which is due to be published imminently before restrictions are lifted on 19 July – will be “vague” and result in widespread confusion.
The government’s decision to deny unions and employers meaningful input into the new guidelines is a worrying development, says the TUC.
In May of 2020 when ministers last proposed people return to their workplaces unions and employers were given the opportunity to scrutinise the guidance and press for changes.
But this time around the new workplace safety plans have been presented as a “fait accompli” to worker and business groups.
The TUC highlighted the rules on face coverings which will be changed despite clear evidence that they reduce the spread of Covid-19 in enclosed and crowded spaces.
The union body says removing - without consultation - the legal obligation to wear a face covering in work settings such as supermarkets and on public transport has undermined confidence that the government is serious about making workplaces Covid-Secure.
The TUC said it was particularly concerned about workers who may be immune-suppressed, pregnant, or not yet double-vaccinated, who will be put at risk of infection unless there is clear government guidance that applies to all workplaces in their sector.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We all want working life to get back to business as usual.
“But as restrictions are lifted and increasing numbers return to their workplaces, it is crucial that we get workplace safety right, and give workers and members of the public confidence.
“This is how we get the country up and running again – not hobbled by rising infections and enforced` self-isolation taking workers out of workplaces.
“The TUC has real fears that clear, detailed guidance for employers will be replaced by vague exhortations to employers to do the right thing, resulting in confusion.
“Government must not offload its responsibility to consult on guidelines to protect the health and safety of workers.
“And it must not gamble the safety of key workers, from bus drivers to supermarket staff, on an individual customer’s sense of personal responsibility.”
On the decision to change rules around face masks, Frances added:
“The prime minister has announced his intention to remove the legal obligation to wear a face covering in work settings such as supermarkets and on public transport.
“To do this at a stroke, ignoring the concerns of workers in these sectors and running contrary to public opinion, has done nothing to give workers confidence that the government is serious about making workplaces Covid-Secure.”
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