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THREAD on @BorisJohnson's #returntowork announcements & the implications for worker health and safety. /1
To much anticipated fanfare, on Sunday night @10DowningStreet announced the begginning of the easing of the lockdown, including the new policy of encouraging some people to go back to work. The shift is in emphasis; the law hasn't changed. But the shift is not insignificant. /2
In his speech the PM acknowledged it was not safe to take public transport & go into work, but nevertheless encouraged those who had no alternative to do so. /3
The impact of this will not be spread evenly among across society; it will hit the low paid and BAME workers particularly hard. Indeed this is the trend we've seen so far for people who never stopped working. /4…
The return to work instruction is predicated on workplaces being safe because they follow new government guidelines. /5
The @beisgovuk has since issued 8 different guides for different types of workplace… /6
The guidance is not law and is not mandatory. The law on health and safety at work has not changed. /7
And in any case, statutory health and safety at work rights cannot be enforced by workers, but only by the @H_S_E. The removal of civil liability was brought in by the @Conservatives in 2013, as part of @David_Cameron's drive to "kill off the health and safety culture" /8
The man currently in charge of our healthcare, @MattHancock, was so passionate about cutting down health & safety regulations, it was what drew him into politics. /9
As then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Skills, he moved the amendment that removed workers' ability to sue employers under the health & safety legislation. He was concerned about the excessive burden on business due to perceived health & safety obligations. /10
The @Conservatives have an abysmal record on enforcing employment rights, something I've written about quite a bit given that this failure is the main cause of what we see happening in the so-called #gigeconomy… /11
The enforcement record is a reflection of political values, as enunciated by @MattHancock above. And the fact that the #Coalition Government gutted funding for enforcement bodies, as seen in a report by @Unchecked_UK /12
Much of the new #Covid19 guidance focuses on familiar messages: social distancing, handwashing, wiping down surfaces, etc. And as throughout this #pandemic, low paid workers are instructed to self-isolate for up to 14 days without being given the means to do so. /13
Statutory sick pay doesn't cover enough people (limb b workers are excluded as are employees who earn less than £120 p/w). And at £95.85 p/w the rate of SSP is not enough to live on, even temporarily. /14
The impact of this is discriminatory and the @IWGBunion is challenging these aspects of the SSP regime in an urgent legal action against the Government. We'd be grateful for your support.… /15
The most startling aspect of the new guidance is the instruction to employers to NOT provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for #COVID19 purposes /16
It's hard to understand the idea that "the science" says that all PPE is useless in most settings. What's easier to understand is the logistical concern that if high quality PPE is bought up by private sector employers that there will be less available for @NHSEngland /17
But if this is the rationale, the Government should be honest about this, as well as about the fact that a failure to prepare, #austerity, depletion of stockpiles & an astounding level of incompetence have also contributed to the PPE shortage. /18…
The guidance isn't all bad though. E.g. the guidance for people who work in vehicles suggests using physical screening in cars where distancing is not possible. This is something @UPHD_IWGB has called for for @Uber & other private hire drivers. But who's responsibility is it? /19
UK health & safety law largely implements #EU law. The EU law covers "workers" which includes @Uber & @AddisonLeeCabs drivers, couriers & others. UK law on the other hand, only covers "employees", a much narrower group. The UK has unlawfully failed to implement the EU law. /20
The @IWGBunion is again bringing urgent legal action to rectify this & extend health and safety protections to hundreds of thousands of workers. And again, we'd be most grateful for your support.… /21
But what about ss44 & 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996? Doesn't that protect workers from detriment and dismissal if they refuse to work in dangerous workplaces? In theory, yes. In practice, it depends. A right is only as good as one's ability to enforce it. /22
In UK law, the right only applies to "employees", not to "workers", something our court case will address. And these are not rights enforced by the Government. /23
If a worker refuses to work and has wages deducted, they can claim this in the employment tribunal, but it could take 2 years to get the money back, hardly much comfort to someone on low wages who doesn't have the luxury of time. /24
These provisions are no panacea but they are important rights & the @IWGBunion will certainly be exercising them to the full extent possible. But you have way more options with the backing of collective strength and solid legal representation, so JOIN A UNION! /25 /END/
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