Employees forced back to work despite government guidance, says TUC

Nearly one in 10 UK employees have been forced back to the workplace despite government guidance to continue remote working until restrictions are reviewed on 21 June.

According to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) 9% of the UK workforce have been put under pressure by employers to return offices.

The number rises to over one in six (17%) for disabled workers.

The TUC said the government must send a clear message to employers not to breach the current guidance, which states that people should work from home if possible, in order to reduce community transmission and keep workers safe.  

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Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said employers must stick to the guidance, so that the country can beat coronavirus once and for all.

She said: “Some employers are still needlessly requiring workers to come into workplaces when they could work from home, and this is the tip of the iceberg of bosses ignoring their health and safety responsibilities. 

“Employers should not be able to ignore government safety guidance with impunity. It puts workers at risk and increases community transmission.”

The guidance from the government remains that employees should work from where they can.

Matt Jenkin, partner and head of employment law at Moorcrofts, told HR magazine employers who are insisting employees return to work, where employees can work from home, and before the government guidance changes face a number of risks. 

He said: “Apart from potential action from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it could lead to employees refusing to attend work on the basis that they believe that to do so would place them in serious and imminent danger.

“Employers who take disciplinary action including dismissal in those circumstances may find themselves facing an expensive tribunal claim.” 

The TUC said forcing employees go to the office is one of many ways employers have been ignoring their health and safety responsibilities

O’Grady said: "When the government does move to unlock the economy, we need workers to be confident their workplaces are safe and COVID-secure.

“So, ministers must fund enforcement bodies properly so they can recruit and train qualified workplace inspectors, inspect more workplaces, and prosecute companies who don’t keep their workers safe.”