Toggle high contrast
Issue date

The TUC has written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng warning that workers’ safety is being put at risk by confusion created by guidance announced by the Prime Minister on Covid-19 and workplace risk assessments.

The Prime Minister’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan, presented to parliament on 21 February, states that from 1 April, employers will no longer have to explicitly consider Covid-19 in their risk assessments.

However, the TUC warns that this change conflicts with the statutory duty employers have to “make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work” (Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations reg.3(1)).

The union body says that the regulation requires any risk to health to be incorporated in a risk assessment, and this must therefore include the ongoing risks working people face from contracting Covid-19, including subsequently developing long Covid.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Wherever you work, you have a right to be safe. And your employer has a responsibility to fully assess the risks you face and take appropriate action.

“But ministers are sowing dangerous confusion on Covid safety at work. Longstanding rules on workplace safety clearly indicate that employers should consider Covid risks, but the government has sent out a conflicting message. And this may leave working people facing risks that could and should be prevented.

“We want ministers to clear up this confusion by advising employers that they must still consider Covid-19 in workplace risk assessments. And we are advising workplace health and safety reps that they should continue to request specific information on Covid-19 when they are consulted on risk assessments.”

Editors note

- Full letter from the TUC to Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Secretary of State, BEIS

Dear Kwasi

Living with Covid

I am writing to raise our concerns about new requirements on workplace risk assessments set out in the government’s ‘Living With Covid’ guidance published on 21 February.

In paragraph 60, the guidance advises employers that there will no longer be a requirement to consider Covid-19 in workplace risk assessments:

  • Remove the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments.

The TUC is concerned with how this advice contradicts employers’ existing duties to assess all risks to employers and other persons’ health and safety and to consult the workforce on changes to safety management.

The statutory duty under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations reg.3(1) instructs employers to ‘make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work and the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking’.

Any risk to health must be incorporated in a risk assessment. As with any airborne virus, there obviously continues to be a risk of infection posed by Covid-19. In addition, employers should also be acknowledging risk of Long Covid.

We need to ensure employers continue to comply with existing legislation and regulation. Furthermore, employers are also duty-bound to consult with trade unions (where they are recognised) and the workforce on any plans to change risk management. This is an important regulatory responsibility, which helps to make sure everyone knows their role and responsibility in managing safety at work, and the plans in place to protect them.

We would appreciate clarification being made to the document that sets out employer duties required by existing legislation and regulation and reiterates the importance of workforce (and trade union) consultation as part of the risk assessment process.

Given that this guidance is due to take effect from 1 April, we would welcome your confirmation of these changes at the earliest opportunity.

Yours sincerely

Frances O’Grady

TUC General Secretary

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

To access the admin area, you will need to setup two-factor authentication (TFA).

Setup now