Returns to workplaces must be rooted in the Precautionary Principle to make work COVID-Safe for all workers including those not directly employed; and in so doing, safeguarding the economy too. Workplaces may be an important source for community-wide COVID-19 transmission if not effectively controlled. Central Government, Government Agencies and Employers must act to co-ordinate steps to implement, monitor and enforce the principle through existing health and safety law, if necessary enhancing regulations on employment, welfare and health and safety legislation. These will need to be supplemented by new COVID-specific information, recommendations, policies and resources.
We have prepared a COVID-Safe Workplace Charter for consultation setting out key actions required by different parties in order to ensure effective implementation of the Precautionary Principle.
- Consult with workers and trade unions to develop and publish a COVID-Safe Plan (CSP).
- Work constructively with workers and their union safety representatives who are either based in their organisation or who are roving trade union safety representatives.
- Ensure workers with COVID-19 symptoms, or who are contacts of those with symptoms are encouraged to self-isolate and get tested as advised and are paid normal wages while off work. All workers should have access to sick pay in these cases.
- Ensure employers report such illnesses rapidly to both the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local public health bodies.
The Health and Safety Executive and Local Authorities
- Provide help and advice to employers in developing the CSP.
- Inspect and certify workplaces as a condition of reopening.
- Conduct regular unannounced checks of workplaces and, where they are in violation of their certified CSP close them down until the violations are rectified and they can be re-certified.
- Enforce rigorously the Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations to ensure unions can effectively represent all workers and check on employers compliance with CSPs.
- Provide sufficient resources for employers to implement a Covid-Safe Plan and universal access to sick pay for all workers, irrespective of immigration status, or normal wage level of pay for employees who have to self-isolate.
- Place precautionary health and safety at work at the centre of the government strategy to fight COVID-19 transmission, alongside
Provide funding to the HSE and Local Authorities to fulfill their normal and COVID-specific obligations. This requires HSE funding and inspection levels to be reinstated to previous optimum levels, tripling current inspection frequency, and implementing and extending rights for roving representatives, including access to non-union workplaces and complementing HSE’s role with rights to issue prohibition and improvement notices.