Corby Council leader disappointed with Government response to Covid workplace review request

Cllr Beattie had asked for a review of the Covid regulations in light of the high number of workplace cases

By Alison Bagley
Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 5:21 pm

Corby Council leader Tom Beattie has expressed his disappointment in the Government for their lack of action protecting workers in roles that are not regarded as 'essential manufacturing' jobs.

In early January, Cllr Beattie wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson a letter that outlined concerns surrounding the disproportionate number of workers that remained 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 operated in order to slow the virus and save lives as Corby's Covid rates soared in the period after Christmas.

Tom Beattie, leader of Corby Council with inset Prime Minister Boris Johnson

In the letter he said: "I am writing to you because I am extremely concerned about the Government’s stance on allowing non-essential manufacturing facilities to remain open for business and requiring that where people cannot work from home they should continue to travel to their workplace.

"Corby has a strong manufacturing economy, and consequently is seeing a disproportionate number of our residents being required to continue to go to work, increasing the risk to themselves and families of spreading the coronavirus.

"Whilst I appreciate there is an economic interest to keeping the businesses running, I do not consider that argument outweighs the risk to those residents’ lives, when options such as furlough are available and further business support could be made available to those impacted.

"I urgently call on the Government to review the current guidance issued in relation to this matter and to strengthen the message that only essential businesses should continue to operate to stop the spread of the virus and save lives."

In a reply sent on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Government said that employers should only decide to return to the workplace in 'meaningful consultation with workers'

The letter from Amanda Sollway MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, said: "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."

In a written statement in response to the Prime Minister, Cllr 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."