The Leader of Corby Borough Council, Cllr Tom Beattie, has now received a response from Government following a letter he had written to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, highlighting concerns around Covid-19 guidelines. (Response included in Notes to Editors).
The Leader’s letter, sent early January, outlined concerns surrounding the disproportionate number of workers that remain at work due to not being able to work from home. It called for the Government to review the current guidance and ensure only essential businesses are operating in order to slow the virus and save lives.
The Leader of Corby Borough Council, Cllr Tom Beattie, said:
‘I thank the Government for responding to my letter. However, I find the response disappointing as it fails to address the central issue of what is and isn't regarded as essential manufacturing. They have simply restated existing advice, guidance and regulations. My letter called on the Government to review those regulations, as I believe they provide inadequate protection for those unable to work from home and consequently expected to go into work.’
The Government’s response to Cllr Beattie’s initial letter to the Prime Minister reads:
Thank you for your email, dated 8 January 2021, forwarding correspondence from Councillor Tom Beattie to the Prime Minister. I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Department.
As you are aware, current Government advice is for people to work from home where this is possible, but we acknowledge that this is not possible for everyone and some roles will require people to attend the workplace, provided that COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed closely. This is essential to keeping the country operating and supporting sectors and employers. While employers have the option to furlough staff this will be a decision that needs to be made by each employer taking into account their specific circumstances and business needs in order to remain a viable concern.
The decision to return to the workplace should be made in meaningful consultation with workers (including through trade unions or employee representative groups where they exist). It is vital employers engage with workers before any decision to return has been made, to ensure they feel safe returning to work, and they should not force anyone into an unsafe workplace.
Employers have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety, including from the risks of COVID-19. This includes the requirement to complete a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks, identifying control measures to manage them and implementing those measures. It is for each business to carry out its own risk assessment, in consultation with their workers and unions, to inform the actions they should take to reduce the risks of COVID-19.
The Government has published guidance for specific business sectors to assist them with making their workplace COVID-19 secure. This guidance is available at: www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19.
I thank you again for writing to us on such an important matter. We will continue to engage with the manufacturing sector and will update our guidance as the situation changes.
MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State – Minister for Science, Research and Innovation
*National Lockdown; stay at home guidance, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home#going-to-work.