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Employers should do all they can to keep staff safe and avoid breaking Covid rules

Some employers are still demanding their staff go into offices when they don’t need to, putting their staff and others at risk. Alarming research by union, the TUC found one in five people going into their workplace unnecessarily. Worryingly, this is also backed up by what callers to our Advice Line are telling us too.

Employment Adviser, Matthew Taylor, who recently stood down as Interim Director of the Labour Market Enforcement, said employers breaking Covid rules should be named, shamed and fined.

At Protect we certainly believe employers should be doing all they can to keep their staff safe and if it isn’t completely necessary for staff to go into offices – why make them?

Our Chief Executive, Liz Gardiner recently appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live giving advice to employees facing pressure to go into unsafe work environments. A 5 Live investigation found there were more than 60 suspected Covid outbreaks in offices in England in the first two weeks of January, despite the government telling people to work from home if they can. Figures also show there were more than 500 outbreaks, or suspected outbreaks, in offices the second half of last year – that’s more than supermarkets, construction sites, warehouses, restaurants and cafes combined.

The BBC had obtained the numbers, via a Freedom of Information request, from Public Health England (PHE) and, for the first time, the data has been broken down which types of workplaces are proving the most susceptible to outbreaks – with offices coming top of the list.

Chief Executive Liz Gardiner, told Radio 5 Live said, “We’ve had hundreds of people raising concerns about unsafe work places over the pandemic, whether that’s lack of social distancing, lack of ventilation, offices where there is no risk assessments taking place and, unfortunately, people being asked to come into work when there is no need to.”

Our report, ‘The Best Warning System: Whistleblowing During Covid-19’ looked at whistleblowing concerns during the first six months of the pandemic and found 41% who raised Covid-19 related concerns to their employer were ignored. Worse still, 20% of whistleblowers were dismissed after raising concerns about Covid-19 issues.

Protect wants employers to listen and take action when their staff whistleblow. It is inexcusable for a whistleblower’s concerns to be ignored, especially during a pandemic when the concerns could be a matter of life and death. More employers need to introduce effective whistleblowing arrangements. We also agree with Matthew Taylor in his call to name and shame employers who continue to play roulette with their staff’s health and wellbeing.

• Listen to Protect’s Chief Executive Liz Gardiner on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Stephen Nolan show : https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000rtgd

(Available until February 28)