Decent work shouldn’t be indecent even when there is a crisis. It can be challenging and there are a number of issues/conditions that workers should be negotiating with management to ensure that the health and safety of staff and others who may be affected by work activities is paramount. This includes the pay, terms and conditions on which they are employed. In addition, it will be necessary to enhance or protect existing pay and conditions to protect other staff and communities.
This is the opening paragraph in the latest briefing from Hazards Campaign regarding the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The briefing is of major importance to workers and compliments the campaign from the TUC, that It's General Secretary, Francis O'Grady has been promoting through the media and TV News media; appearing on Channel 4 News, BBC Newsnight.
The briefing makes a particluar point that no one so far from the TUC speaking in the media has mentioned:
Employers must consult safety reps, which is their duty under the SRSC Regs. Employers have duties of care under the Health and Safety At Work Act. They have to assess and control the risks under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. We also need to make sure that any breaches of these are recorded, taken through procedure and that enforcement bodies are informed. None of us know how long we are going to be experiencing these circumstances and safety reps should consider alternative means of reviewing data and procedures and practices to support their members. This could be electronically, video conferencing phone etc.
But the Hazards Campaign briefing, 'Minimum Conditions For The Safety Of Workers Covid19' goes further and highlights the oft forgotten Employment Rights Act 1996, and in particular Section 44 of that Act.
Section 44 provides employees with the ‘right’ to withdraw from and to refuse to return to a workplace that is unsafe.
In that sense it can be considered to be the cornerstone of Health & Safety legislation, and is an employment right that when used correctly can be part of a health & safety campaign and avoid any need for industrial action ballots because worker's have the right to refuse to work in an anvbironment identified as causing ill-health or the risk of serious injury.
With the lack of knowledge of H&S legislation evident amongst many industrial based Trade Union officials, and the decline in the number of Trade Unions having dedicated Health & Safety Depts, preferring to elave Health and Safety issues to be dealt with by Industrial departments; the use of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (Clause 44) is minimal when in fact it should be utilised by all USRs and TU officials when dealing with H&S concerns in the workplace.
The current situation with the Covid-19 pandemic now about to overwhelm the UK, it seems clear that the Government is mindful of the Act and the rights it conveys upon working people to protect themselves by not working in hazardous conditions.
However, the situation calls for self-isolation of those at risk groups; irrespective of the existance or not of the Act.
The Hazards Campaign briefing offers a comprehensive guide to the demands for all worker's to be protected and not to be penalised; of which these are just a few to mention:
• All sickness absence monitoring to cease.
• Full sick pay paid to all staff regardless of length of service or where their entitlement has reduced or expired.
• No reduction in pay for staff who are self-isolating or caring for someone who is at risk.
• No reduction in pay for any worker having to take time away to look after their children.
• No redundancy consultations. All redundancies suspended.
• No restructuring unless it is because of the current crisis and agreed.
• All new disciplinaries postponed.
• All other grievances/disciplinaries/capabilities/and Appeals to only go ahead on a case by case basis in agreement with the trade unions.
• Those workers considered to be vulnerable to Coronavirus e.g. workers over 60 and those with underlying health conditions must be allowed to self-isolate and/or work from home if they so wish.
• Business continuity meetings must include representatives from the trade unions.
The full details can be found in the briefing, available to download from the Unionsafety E-Library using the search word 'HazardsCovid19' or by cliking on the above pic.
Source: Hazards Campaign