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Eight ways you can help return to work safely

11 June 2020

IN THE coming days and weeks, thousands more working people across the country will prepare to return to work and the TUC has published tips on how unions can help members.

The TUC have published guidance that states 'keeping the workplace safe is one thing. Getting there is another. And we know workers have fears around safe travel to work, childcare and other caring responsibilities.'

The union says it has been working hard with government, employers and other organisations to ensure safe workplaces. It wants to make sure that workers are protected. TUC is calling for workplace risk assessments to be published. These will give workers and public confidence that employers are following the rules and keeping everyone safe.

It went on to say, that the lockdown has had a serious impact on people’s mental health. And the disproportionate impact Covid-19 has had on the BME community. Or that we need more support for working parents. If we're going to keep workplaces safe and protect workers in the region, here are eight ways you can help and be prepared.

1. Join your trade union

The number one rule for protecting yourself and others whilst at work. Together, we have collective strength. It's an important time to stand together with your colleagues. Trade union membership has risen in the last 12 months. More members gives us a bigger voice in your workplace to get the changes we need.

Find your union today - https://www.tuc.org.uk/join-union.

2. Speak to your union rep….or consider becoming one

Once you have joined your union, or you already belong to one, find your local rep. If there isn’t currently a rep in your workplace then consider becoming a rep.

The life-blood of our trade union movement is the activists who stand up for their colleagues. Your workplace representative will be aware of the returning to work safely guidelines. They will ensure - with the employer - that safety measures are being put into place to protect you and your colleagues.

The role of the Health and Safety rep has never been as important as it will be when you return to work.

Have a look at the role of a workplace rep 

3. Know your rights

It is important to know your rights and when it’s right for you to be going back to work safely. There are existing laws already that protect workers. It is vital that employers carry out the required workplace risk assessments.

The TUC have plenty of resources available online. Shelly Asquith, our TUC Health, Safety & Wellbeing Policy Officer, produced a report on knowing your rights on returning to work and when you can refuse to return.

4. Know what safe looks like and what to expect

Safety is a top priority and concern for people returning to work after isolation. For those returning to their workplaces (as with those who have continued working as usual during this crisis), it is paramount that the appropriate measures are in place to keep workplaces safe.

Many are worried about the ability to social distance. Eighty per cent of workers expressing concern how this will be maintained in their workplace.

Here is what we're unions should be looking for when their members return to the workplace.

For a quick guide to returning to a safer workplace, check out this from our TUC Education team.

5. Covid-19 impacts BME communities more

There is a serious issue for working people from the BME community going back into the workplace. Covid-19 is disproportionately affecting BME workers.

Here, Riz Hussain looks into the possible reasons for this -  why structural racism is putting BME lives at risk 

The TUC wants to know from you about your experiences. Complete our survey to help understand the issue more. 

6. Hear more and ask questions

There will be lots of questions that you and your colleagues might have.

Join us on Friday 12th June at 11am to discuss returning to work safely. During the meeting there will be guest speakers including:

· Shelly Asquith, TUC Health, Safety & Wellbeing Policy Officer,

· Janet Newsham, Greater Manchester Hazards Campaign,

· Doug Russell, USDAW,

· Tony Saunders, TUC Education

who will be providing essential updates on returning to work safely. You will also be able to join in and ask the panel questions. You can register for the free event here.

7. Learn more about what you can do

Trade Union Education have produced a range of resources to support reps and activists in work and with going back to work.

Whether that is risk assessments for home workers or training for new health and safety reps, there is something for everyone.

Visit our TUC Education website and see what there is for you.

8. Make your workplace stronger

Talking to your colleagues and making sure they are aware of what is happening is important.

Here is our handy and shareable quick 8-point guide on organising throughout the crisis and beyond. Let’s make sure that we have strong unions in our workplaces to speak up for each other.