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“RECIPE FOR CHAOS”: Government attacked over confusing return to work guideance

“RECIPE FOR CHAOS”: Government attacked over confusing return to work guideance


The Government has been attacked by unions and employers over its guidance around the return to work, with a warning that it is a “recipe for chaos”.

The TUC and the Institute of Directors criticised a statement from the Business Department, described by an employers’ group as a “series of mixed messages”.

The decision to lift Covid restrictions in England from next Monday, such as the wearing of masks, as well as ending the direction to work from home, has led unions to warn of the risk to workers’ safety.

Mixed messages

Dr Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, said: “Like everybody else, businesses across the country having been awaiting ‘freedom day’ with bated breath, but instead we have had a series of mixed messages and patchwork requirements from Government that have dampened that enthusiasm.

“Return to work or continue to stay at home. Throw away your masks or continue to wear them. Today’s long-awaited guidance from Government has done little to dispel that confusion.

“Whilst it is right that companies should be allowed to take decisions based on their unique circumstances, it is vital that government provides businesses with best practice in developing their own policies.

“However, business leaders are understandably confused as to the legal status that this guidance has and are concerned about vulnerability under health and safety legislation, as well as the validity of their insurance.”

“What Government needs to do is inspire confidence amongst the country’s businesses and workforce that we can all begin to return to work safely. Today’s series of rather obvious statements does little or nothing to that end.”

Recipe for chaos

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We all want the economy to unlock as soon as possible, but these new back-to-work safety guidelines are a recipe for chaos and rising infections.

“They have been published without proper consultation with unions or employers, just two full working days before restrictions end on Monday.

“Instead of providing clear and consistent guidance on how to keep staff safe at work, the government is abandoning workers and employers.

“As infection rates surge, every employer must by law carry out a thorough risk assessment and take action to keep their workers safe.

“But these inadequate guidelines will leave many employers with more questions than answers and worried about their liability if they get things wrong.”

Ms O’Grady said wearing face coverings should remain a legal requirement on public transport and in shops.

The Business Department said that, in the latest stage of easing of restrictions, all businesses can open and the Government is no longer instructing people to work from home.

“To support businesses through this next phase, the ‘Working Safely’ guidance will continue to provide advice on sensible precautions employers can take to manage risk and support their staff and customers.

“Businesses still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business.

“The way to do this is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of Covid-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks you identify.

“You should use the guidance to consider the risk within your premises and decide which mitigations are appropriate to adopt.

“In the long term, we expect that businesses will need to take fewer precautions to manage the risk of Covid-19.

“We will continue to keep our guidance under review and will remove advice once it’s safe to do so,” it added.

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