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Infection remains workers’ top concern

01 September 2020

BRITISH EMPLOYEES feel positive about returning to work – but concerns run deep and businesses have work to do to make workplaces safe to return to.

Half (49%) of employed British adults feel positive about the prospect of returning to their place of work after lockdown, with less than one in five (18%) feeling negative, an Aviva study shows*.

The findings paint a relatively positive picture for businesses that have supported their people through lockdown, such as regularly communicating with workers and taking necessary steps to manage the risk of infection in the workplace. However, where businesses have not embraced risk management and prevention strategies, employees may decide not to return to work at all.

Further, it is clear that there is a long way to go before businesses are compliant with the practical guidance from the government to make work safe for employees and customers.

Safety first

The survey of more than 2,000 employed adults working in the UK found that 61% of those returning to work believe their employer will make the work environment safe to return to. However, in a clear warning to businesses that don’t put safety first, the survey found that 35% of employees returning to work don’t trust their employer to make the workplace safe and may not return to work for their employer.

Top concerns for employees returning to work

For workers who feel neutral or negative about returning to work, infection remains workers’ top concern as they come back to their place of work. Whether from colleagues (44%) or customers (33%), employees are most concerned about virus transmission in the workplace, which underscores the need for employers to embrace clear prevention strategies to protect their people and the public.

Chris Andrews, head of risk management solutions at Aviva, commented, “As Britain gets back to business after lockdown, employees want to know that their employers have taken all the necessary steps, and what those steps are. That means not just taking action but engaging with employees on their concerns and clearly communicating what is in place and addressing anything that remains unresolved.

“Our research shows that the biggest employee concern for returning to work is infection from colleagues and customers. Risk management and prevention strategies, once perceived as red tape, are now essential for businesses in order to keep their people and their customers safe as they open their doors again. Whether devising safe working conditions in a factory, or ensuring orderly social distance in a retail setting, businesses need to consider how they will minimise the risk of infection for their employees and their customers.”

How have businesses made work safer? 

In Aviva’s survey more than 2,000 employed UK adults were asked about their attitude towards returning to work. Of these, 42% spent lockdown working from home, 26% continued to work in their usual place of business, 21% were furloughed and 6% continued to work in different locations in a key trade (e.g., plumber, electrician, etc.). A further 5% were not working and not on furlough.

Of the workers that continued to work in their usual place of business, or continued to work at different locations, 80% said that their employer had taken some steps to improve their safety, and the safety of customers entering the premises.

The top three changes implemented by businesses were easy access to hand-washing and hand sanitiser (65%), reducing the number of employees and/or customers allowed in the workplace (50%) and sign-posting traffic flow through the premises to support social distancing (42%).

*All data is taken from a survey of 2,024 employed adults (aged 16+) across the UK, conducted by Censuswide Research from 26 – 30 June 2020, on behalf of Aviva