Coronavirus Work Rights | UK Advice for Coronavirus from Unite

covid 19 H&S

Coronavirus Work Rights | UK Advice for Coronavirus from Unite

Last updated: 8 July 2020, 19:30

Check the latest information regarding Coronavirus work rights, as well as government updates on UK advice for Coronavirus.  PLEASE NOTE: Government, public health and other official advice and guidance on COVID-19 is changing on a daily basis.

This update was accurate at the time of writing, but the first port of call for public health guidance on Coronavirus should be Public Health England, Public Health Agency (NI), NHS Scotland and/or Public Health Wales. Daily government updates for the public can be accessed here.

Main Unite guidance

Please also see all the following Unite coronavirus work and employment rights’ guides:

 

 

 

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Check the official government issued guidance on support for workers, public services and businesses related to Coronavirus Employment Rights, while the government’s critical workers list is here (scroll down to see the full list of Coronavirus response critical sectors and essential workers).

Below is a list of frequently asked questions tailored by Unite’s legal department to quickly access a broad range of information and resources on Coronavirus-related issues, including support measures provided by the union and advice on employment rights. This includes advice and guidance on the new Coronavirus job retention scheme and the self-employed scheme.

Howard Beckett – assistant general secretary, political & legal affairs

 

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Can you afford not to be?

 

join unite 2019

 

Join online today!

Unite is the largest trade union in the UK and Ireland with members across the private, public and voluntary sectors including manufacturing, public services, transport, food, finance and construction.  Even if you are not in work, there is a place for you in our community or retired member sections.

Have a voice, take action and make change happen.  Join the union today!

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  • Personal and employment details (if applicable).
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Joining the union could not be easier.  Just follow our simple steps below.

1. Complete the Join Online form

Complete the simple form with your personal information and current job details, if applicable.

2. Find out the cost of your membership

The online application will work out your monthly membership fee based on the information you give us. *

3. Set up a direct debit

If you are happy with a monthly fee, you can complete the Direct Debit and activate your membership right away.

4. Receive email & instant MyUnite access

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Further membership information and contribution rates

 

 

 

Unite – Here for you Issue #12 Because you deserve better

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Issue 12
Campaigning for jobs
Sector deal demands

Unite continues to press the Treasury and BEIS for sector deals, including focussed extensions to the Job Retention Scheme at least until 2021, and for an industrial strategy to recover and rebuild the economy out of this crisis. We have met again with chancellor Rishi Sunak and business secretary Alok Sharma, who listened to our arguments about the need for immediate action to save jobs, and for long-term investment support.

However, the government has so far refused to provide sector specific support or to extend the furlough scheme beyond October, which would prevent the tsunami of job losses that we fear.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey responded to the prime minister’s “build, build, build” speech in Dudley this week by saying a “bridge” to the new economy was urgently needed to avert a jobs abyss.
“Do not abandon working people now, in their hour of need”: read Len’s Daily Mirror article, calling for a JRS extension, here on UNITElive
Don’t abandon UK Aerospace

Our campaign for support for the aerospace industry launched this week. Please ask your MP to help keep UK aerospace world leading by using their influence to persuade ministers to support a comprehensive financial package for UK aerospace to prevent tens of thousands more highly skilled jobs and quality apprenticeships being lost.

France and Germany have stepped up to protect aerospace. The UK government must do the same.

You can use the form and model letter on the aerospace campaign page here

Flying into the future
Meanwhile we continue to press for sector specific support for aviation, which was the first hit and among the worst hit sectors by coronavirus, using our Blueprint for Aviation strategy as the basis of what we expect.
Find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved here

Alongside that, the British Airways legal and crisis leverage campaigns continue to shine the spotlight on BA’s betrayal of its loyal workforce.

Write to your MP asking them to sign our pledge to strip BA of its lucrative landing slots if they don’t step back.

Read more

Keeping you safe 
Updated COVID19 guidance

Unite’s health and safety team has updated the guidance for officers and reps on our specialist COVID-19 web pages.

We also have a new social distancing policy setting out employers’ responsibilities and how they must work with trade union safety reps to assist with the safe opening of workplaces.

Access all our guidance here

COVID19 personal injury advice line
Unite has set up a specialist legal team to advise and represent members who have suffered injury as a result of Covid-19.
If you have suffered injury from developing Covid-19 or have tragically lost a family member to the condition, then please call Unite’s Covid-19 personal injury team on 020 8799 4023.
Meat industry reform call 

Unite has called on ministers and industry to commit to a root and branch reform of the meat processing sector. The dire working conditions, low pay and insecure employment that blight the industry and have now come back to bite the nation’s efforts to defeat the coronavirus, must be addressed.

Read more

Action and events online
Happy birthday NHS
The NHS is 72 years old on Sunday, and some of our health sector members have recorded birthday messages and talk about their hopes and fear for the service’s future. Watch them here.
We’ve warned of the irony of weeks of clapping and warm words from ministers for dedicated NHS workers when the government is now increasing the risk of demands on ambulance and A&E departments by opening pubs in England the day before we should all be celebrating our health service. The prime minister must be held to account for his “gung-ho mixed messaging”. Social distancing remains vital.
Why BAEM workers should be trade unionists
Our Facebook Live event on Tuesday was an opportunity to discuss what further steps Unite must take to ensure BAEM workers join trade unions and that their voices are heard and acted on and what needs to be done to achieve representation of BAEM members throughout our structures.
Thank you to our brilliant panel of speakers and all those who joined in to ask questions.
You can watch it again here
Festival fun
The Durham Miners Gala and Tolpuddle festivals were never going to be silenced by Covid-19. Both events, which are annual landmarks in the trade union calendar, are moving online.
The Gala online – the Second Saturday – takes place on 11 July and the centrepiece of the day will be a concert streamed to Facebook and YouTube at 1pm, featuring new videos and archive footage from the Gala’s long history, brass band music, messages from key workers who’ve been dealing with the pandemic, and contributions from leading labour movement figures.
More information here
Tolpuddle’s online festival runs from 17 to 19 July and will be packed with debates, campaigns, history, films, music, comedy and will even feature a virtual procession.
More information here
Both events are free but donations are welcome.

To catch up with all Unite’s statements, stories and actions on #coronavirus go to our News and Events page HERE

And to UNITELive HERE

Please do not reply to this email as the address is not monitored if you need advice or have a query please contact your regional office through the Unite website or visit the Unite coronavirus information page.
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Unite – Because you deserve better Silencing the Whistleblowers

 

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SILENCING THE WHISTLEBLOWERS

Labour & European Law Review 

Reports of health care workers and others being subject to discipline for reporting on the lack of PPE in the NHS have featured heavily in the press, but what are the rights of these workers and others who are speaking out about working conditions which are not following government guidelines during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

GOVERNMENT GUIDELINES

On 23 March 2020, the government announced a period of stricter social distancing to minimise the opportunity for coronavirus (COVID-19) to spread, with people only allowed to leave home for very limited purposes. A number of businesses, including the retail and hospitality sector, closed. For others, working from home has become the norm but that is not the case for a large number of workers in health and social care, logistics, supermarkets and the construction industry.

Government guidance sets out social distancing and other measures employers should take to protect both the workforce and customers from coronavirus (COVID-19) while still continuing to trade. Employers are also under a duty to carry out a risk assessment to assess the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19) to the health, safety and welfare of workers. We have reported in this edition of LELR on the duty to provide personal protective equipment (PPE).

In large part, it has been workers who have raised the public’s awareness of the failure to ensure safe practices in the workplace, from the failure to provide enough PPE in the NHS and care homes to the failure to ensure adequate hygiene and social distancing in logistics, supermarkets, the construction industry and the public sector – varying from teachers educating key workers’ children to refuse collectors. But what protection is there for those workers who speak out?

WHAT PROTECTION IS THERE?

A worker who makes a protected disclosure has the right not to be subject to a detriment or dismissal. The right is set out in sections 43A to 43L and 103A of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996). It applies to a broad range of workers including zero hours workers, agency workers and freelancers.

In order to benefit from the protection, the disclosure must be a “qualifying disclosure” and must be made in the proper manner.

A qualifying disclosure is any disclosure of information which shows that there has been a wrongdoing and which, in the reasonable belief of the worker, is made in the public interest. It covers complaints about risks to health and safety. This includes a breach of the PPE Regulations and failures to ensure social distancing in the workplace.

A disclosure which is made to the employer or another person responsible for the wrongdoing is made in the proper manner. A disclosure can also be made to the police, government ministers and to the press in certain specified circumstances. These are, that the worker:

  • must reasonably believe that the information and any allegation is substantially true and is not made for personal gain;
  • must have already disclosed the information to either their employer or a prescribed person; or
  • must reasonably believe that they will be subject to a detriment if they make the disclosure to the employer or prescribed person; or
  • reasonably believes in the case of an employer that the materials will be concealed or destroyed.

Whether a worker acts reasonably when disclosing a complaint to the press depends on a number of factors including how the employer responded. For example, did they act promptly and did they explain how the worker’s concerns would be addressed? It will also depend on whether the worker followed the employer’s whistleblowing policy. Given these hurdles for the whistleblower, it is clear to see that complaints to the press are usually a last resort.

Reports of workers who have blown the whistle being prevented from speaking to the media, having their emails and social media accounts monitored and threatened with disciplinary action or prevented from coming into work, are all detriments to the worker which the law on whistleblowing is designed to protect.

Punishing workers in an attempt to silence them is not just unlawful it is a threat to us all. It not only puts those workers and the public at risk by restricting the dissemination of important public health information but just as important it undermines our democratic right to freedom of speech.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Protection for whistleblowers is an important aspect of the right to freedom of speech.

The right to free speech is protected in article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights which says: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers’.

The right may be limited but only if there is a legitimate aim such as in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others or for preventing the disclosure of information in confidence but only if it is proportionate to the aim.

But can restrictions on whistleblowers be for a legitimate aim?

It is has been argued that it would be a legitimate aim to restrict whistleblowers to protect public health. The argument runs that it is scaremongering and undermines public confidence, but as George Letsas and Virginia Mantouvalou point out in their UK Labour Law blog “Is Gagging workers unlawful?” it can have the opposite effect. Knowing that there are shortages of PPE in the NHS puts greater scrutiny on the Government to address those shortages so that the public can regain their confidence in public policy on health. So the aim is neither legitimate nor proportionate.

A similar argument could apply to other workers such as delivery drivers, supermarket workers and teachers. Venting their concerns publicly that social distancing is not being followed and so putting themselves and their families at risk, raises awareness and encourages the public to maintain social distancing.

Limiting the ability of workers to speak out during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is arguably capable of being limited to protect the identity of patients. But that only applies in exceptional circumstances and even then the limitation should be proportionate.

It is vital that the ability of workers to give their account of their experiences is not limited by aims which are neither legitimate nor proportionate. Free speech, particularly in a global pandemic, provides critical information to the public. It enables all of us to understand the nature of the problem and the Government’s response to it.

As the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Whistleblowers pointed out in its report dated July 2019 “whistleblowers are the first line of defence against corruption, crime and cover-ups”. They need better protection under the legislation not less.

To read the social distancing guidance in full, go to: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/social-distancing-in-the-workplace-during-coronavirus-covid-19-sector-guidance#overview

Articles shared by Thompsons relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) are correct at the time of publication. You should check the government’s guidelines for the latest information and advice at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

 

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If you are not yet a member of Unite 

Can you afford not to be?

 

join unite 2019

 

Join online today!

Unite is the largest trade union in the UK and Ireland with members across the private, public and voluntary sectors including manufacturing, public services, transport, food, finance and construction.  Even if you are not in work, there is a place for you in our community or retired member sections.

Have a voice, take action and make change happen.  Join the union today!

What you will need to join online today

  • Personal and employment details (if applicable).
  • An email account
  • Bank details – to set up a direct debit

The sign-up process

Joining the union could not be easier.  Just follow our simple steps below.

1. Complete the Join Online form

Complete the simple form with your personal information and current job details, if applicable.

2. Find out the cost of your membership

The online application will work out your monthly membership fee based on the information you give us. *

3. Set up a direct debit

If you are happy with a monthly fee, you can complete the Direct Debit and activate your membership right away.

4. Receive email & instant MyUnite access

You’ll receive an email telling you how to gain access to the MyUnite portal.  A membership pack will follow in the post which will include your Unite membership number.

* The online application will calculate your joining fee prior to any payment being requested.

Further membership information and contribution rates

 

 

 

Unite – Because you deserve better Section 44 – Employment Rights Act 1996 The secret to getting safe working conditions in the UK

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Section44 – Employment Rights Act 1996

the secret to getting safe working conditions in the UK

 

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Although you have probably never heard of it, Section 44 Employment Rights Act 1996 could be considered the corner stone of the UK’s Health & Safety at Work legislation

Here’s why:

Section 44. provides employees with the means to contest the adequacy and/or suitability of safety arrangements without fear of recriminations (e.g. getting sacked or transferred) or suffering detriment (e.g. loss of wages).

Section 44. provides employees with the ‘right’ to withdraw from and to refuse to return to a workplace that is unsafe. Employees are entitled to remain away from the workplace (e.g. stay at home) if – in their opinion – the prevailing circumstances represent a real risk of serious and imminent danger which they could not be expected to avert.

Section 44. entitles employees to claim for ‘Constructive Dismissal’ and (unlimited) compensation in the event that an employer fails to maintain safe working conditions.

Section 44. means employees don’t have to wait until they (or someone else) suffer injury before they can take action to get suitably safe working conditions.

Section 44. leaves employees with no excuse whatsoever for tolerating unsafe working conditions and acts as a deterrent against an employer either deliberately or carelessly devoting inadequate resources to the protection of safety in their workplace.

Section 44. cautions employees against taking risks

Section 44. clarifies the circumstances in which an employee should take “appropriate action” to withdraw/remove themselves from danger.

See Section 44.1(d) and Section 44.1(e) below:

(d) in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent and which he could not reasonably have been expected to avert, he left (or proposed to leave) or (while the danger persisted) refused to return to his place of work or any dangerous part of his place of work, or

(e) in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, he took (or proposed to take) appropriate steps to protect himself or other persons from the danger.

© Crown copyright 2002 – 2008

Section 44. clarifies that it is the employee’s opinion that counts

Section 44.2 makes it clear that it’s what the individual employee taking the action believes that counts –

Section 44.2 For the purposes of subsection (1)(e) whether steps which an employee took (or proposed to take) were appropriate is to be judged by reference to all the circumstances including, in particular, his knowledge and the facilities and advice available to him at the time.

© Crown copyright 2002 – 2008

If everyone knew about Section 44

Knowing about Section 44. would immediately emancipate employees from the misconception that they have to tolerate unsafe working conditions. It (as the law always intended) empowers them with the legal means to insist on – and get – appropriate safety standards.

If, every employee was made aware of Section 44, safety standards would improve dramatically – and quickly!

If employers knew that their employees knew about Section 44, they’d know that unless they provided a suitably safe working environment, their staff could withdraw their labour and remain off work – on full pay – until the shortcomings are remedied.

The threat of this happening would be sufficient to encourage most if not all employers to invest more appropriately.

But, hardly anyone has heard about Section 44 (yet)

Despite its significance and the fact that it has been law for more than a decade, hardly anyone is aware of Section 44 Employment Rights Act or how it relates to Health and Safety at Work.

The HSE won’t tell you!

The HSE have denied responsibility to inform the public about Section 44!

Below is what Steve Vinton at the HSE’s Innovative Engagement Unit wrote in response to a question I put on the absence of information on Section 44.

“HSE does not have responsibility for the Employment Rights Act 1996. It is therefore not appropriate for HSE to provide guidance on employment rights legislation. However, as part of the range of advice and information that HSE provides on the Workers Web Page of its website, we are looking at the possibility of including something on Section 44 in relation to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (which stems from the Employment Rights Act 1996) and whistleblowing. We will be taking advice from HSE solicitors on the legal implications of the above prior to updating the Workers Page early next year.”

The statement from the HSE ignores the fact that Section 44 is titled “Health and Safety Cases”.

The HSE’s reluctance to inform the public about Section 44 conflicts directly with HSE’s declaration in March 2003 to – “Seek proactively to identify the information which people need and strive to provide it” and to “Share what we know” and it is also inconsistent with the HSE’s statement on openness.

So, why aren’t they telling?

Is there a Government policy to keep people in the dark?

Yes! For compelling proof: Click here

No one can deny its existence!

Section 44 is sitting there as an Act of Parliament, in black and white.

Click Here

How fast people will find out is uncertain

There is no way now of stopping people finding out about Section 44 or controlling how fast they find out. And, when they do, lots of them are going to be very angry at the way they have been kept in the dark and exploited. And, more and more of them are going to claim their right to a safe way of working.

There is the potential for serious and widespread disruption!

In the UK, practically every security officer could justifiably remain OFF WORK, ON FULL PAY for as long as it takes their employer to implement a safe system of working, or until an Employment Tribunal can be convened and a decision reached about the adequacy/inadequacy of the safety measures (min 3 months).

Nurses and midwives could do the same. So too, could most Teachers, Social Workers, Air Line Cabin Crews, Bus Drivers, Railway Service workers, Benefits Agency workers, even the Clergy!

It’s an option which many people would find attractive. Isn’t it?

 

What are you going to do now?

Winston Churchill said “Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on.”

Please do the right thing and tell others!

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Employment Right Act 1996

Section 44 Health and Safety Cases

(1) An employee has the right not to be subjected to any detriment by any act, or any deliberate failure to act, by his employer done on the ground that —

(a) having been designated by the employer to carry out activities in connection with preventing or reducing risks to health and safety at work, the employee carried out (or proposed to carry out) any such activities,

(b) being a representative of workers on matters of health and safety at work or member of a safety committee —

(i) in accordance with arrangements established under or by virtue of any enactment, or

(ii) by reason of being acknowledged as such by the employer, the employee performed (or proposed to perform) any functions as such a representative or a member of such a committee,

(c) being an employee at a place where –

i) there was no such representative or safety committee, or

(ii) there was such a representative or safety committee but it was not reasonably practicable for the employee to raise the matter by those means, he brought to his employer’s attention, by reasonable means, circumstances connected with his work which he reasonably believed were harmful or potentially harmful to health or safety,

(d) in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent and which he could not reasonably have been expected to avert, he left (or proposed to leave) or (while the danger persisted) refused to return to his place of work or any dangerous part of his place of work, or

(e) in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, he took (or proposed to take) appropriate steps to protect himself or other persons from the danger.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(e) whether steps which an employee took (or proposed to take) were appropriate is to be judged by reference to all the circumstances including, in particular, his knowledge and the facilities and advice available to him at the time.

(3) An employee is not to be regarded as having been subjected to any detriment on the ground specified in subsection (1)(e) if the employer shows that it was (or would have been) so negligent for the employee to take the steps which he took (or proposed to take) that a reasonable employer might have treated him as the employer did.

(4) Except where an employee is dismissed in circumstances in which, by virtue of section 197, Part X does not apply to the dismissal, this section does not apply where the detriment in question amounts to dismissal (within the meaning of that Part).

© Crown copyright 2002 – 2008

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NOTE: The right not to be subjected to a detriment (including dismissal) for ‘asserting a statutory legal right’ is also expressed in Section 29 of the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993. Under Section 29, the protection applies where an employee has made a claim to enforce a right, or has alleged that the employer has infringed their right in some way. It doesn’t matter that no right has actually been infringed. Neither does it matter whether or not the employee actually had any ‘right’. The key point is whether the employee, acting in good faith, asserted to have a relevant statutory right.

 

 

If you are not yet a member of Unite 

Can you afford not to be?

 

join unite 2019

 

Join online today!

Unite is the largest trade union in the UK and Ireland with members across the private, public and voluntary sectors including manufacturing, public services, transport, food, finance and construction.  Even if you are not in work, there is a place for you in our community or retired member sections.

Have a voice, take action and make change happen.  Join the union today!

What you will need to join online today

  • Personal and employment details (if applicable).
  • An email account
  • Bank details – to set up a direct debit

The sign-up process

Joining the union could not be easier.  Just follow our simple steps below.

1. Complete the Join Online form

Complete the simple form with your personal information and current job details, if applicable.

2. Find out the cost of your membership

The online application will work out your monthly membership fee based on the information you give us. *

3. Set up a direct debit

If you are happy with a monthly fee, you can complete the Direct Debit and activate your membership right away.

4. Receive email & instant MyUnite access

You’ll receive an email telling you how to gain access to the MyUnite portal.  A membership pack will follow in the post which will include your Unite membership number.

* The online application will calculate your joining fee prior to any payment being requested.

Further membership information and contribution rates