UNISON urges HSE to improve COVID guidance for employers

The union is highlighting the particular risk to vulnerable workers.

UNISON has written to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) this week, calling for improved guidance for employers on how to protect their Black and other vulnerable workers during the pandemic.

The union had previously written to the HSE on these issues last summer, but since then, with the spread of more contagious variants of COVID-19, the deathtoll has passed 100,000.

Large numbers of UNISON members work in occupations most affected by the virus, with Black & disabled workers among those most vulnerable.

The letter calls for stronger, clearer and unambiguous guidance for employers, noting that this needs for be backed up with a concerted and co-ordinated proactive inspection programme.

Pam Sian, the chair of the UNISON national health and safety committee and a member of the national Black members’ committee, said: “As a Black worker, this is of concern to not only myself but also my friends, family and Black colleagues.

“Employers and the regulatory authorities must stop paying lip service and do more to protect staff. Staff are risking their lives to keep vital public services going, and the minimum they can ask for is that everything is done to keep them safe.”

UNISON head of health and safety Robert Baughan added: “Since we wrote to the HSE in the summer it has provided guidance on protecting Black, disabled and vulnerable workers.

“However, it does not go far enough – especially with so many workers being asked to risk their health to keep key public services going. That is why have once again written to the HSE asking that it does much more to protect Black, disabled, and other vulnerable workers.”