Two nights ago the Prime Minister announced a new lockdown in England. Top line being that people should stay at home and only leave their homes for work if the work cannot be done at home and is essential. The rest of this article talks about what employers must do and who to report them to if they don’t. It ends with a warning to get advice if you plan to “blow the whistle”.
Any businesses remaining open must be made covid secure, which means that a risk assessment must be made, and that the business justifies that it is essential and that it makes its premises are safe. The risk assessment must be shared with the work force. The Govt have listed those businesses that are considered essential. 80% furlough support of wages remains available until the end of March.
We congratulate the NEU in their campaign to #makeschoolssafe which is part of an expression of the popular will. As in March ’20, popular opinion precedes government decisions and it has been forced take safety seriously. The temporary income support programmes remain inadequate and the pandemic has exposed known holes in the social security net.
We know that in many businesses bosses will seek to dance on the edges of the policy or completely ignore these constraints and that sometimes we as a union are not strong enough or prohibited by law from taking up these cases. Non-essential businesses that remain open can be reported to the Competition and Markets Authority or, in London, the Met Police. Organisations that fail to make their premises safe can be reported to the HSE & Police. Furlough fraud can be reported to HMRC or the Police. Reporting a crime or a conspiracy to commit a crime to an appropriate authority is a ‘protected disclosure’ and people that do this are protected by law against retaliation although, should it occur, it may take many months to get a hearing. Whistleblowing law is complicated and contains many pitfalls, anyone considering doing so should take advice.
Posted: 6th January 2021