The Workers Union is urging employers to protect vulnerable staff from the risk of contracting COVID-19.
The announcement came after a coalition of major charities, including Kidney Care UK and Age UK, wrote an open letter to company chiefs asking them to put extra measures in place for employees that receive less protection from the COVID vaccines.
People in this group mainly include those receiving treatment for diseases that suppress the immune system, such as cancer treatments and some treatments for inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
The letter proposes that affected employees should be offered flexible working hours, so that they are able to avoid rush hour congestion. The charities argue that other options to consider are home working and continued use of the furlough scheme for those people who are unable to carry out their duties remotely.
The letter also says that there is ‘developing scientific evidence that the current COVID-19 vaccines give much less protection to certain individuals, particularly those with a weakened immune response due to a specific health condition or because they receive certain treatments.
‘Many people living with health conditions have told us they are worried that their needs will be forgotten as the general population return to something more like normal life.’
The Workers Union on Protecting Vulnerable People
The first duty of any employer is to look after the health of their staff. In the midst of a global pandemic, this has never been more important – not least because COVID vaccines fail to offer cast-iron guarantees for anyone, let alone those in vulnerable groups.
In truth, this is a learning curve for everyone. Businesses are used to obeying health and safety legislation in environments that they control, but most of them have little experience of auditing the safety of remote workers, still less those whose health may be compromised by regular commuting.
The good news is that sensible, reasonable adjustments can be made to remove stressors from people who are already dealing with so much. The technology is in place and there are other support schemes available, including financial support through furlough.
The bad news is that some companies are failing to acknowledge this new reality. By dragging their heels, they expose staff to heightened risks and create the impression that returning to business as usual is more important than meeting the needs of the individuals that make them a success.
Let’s not go down that route. Bosses must continue to follow Health and Safe Executive (HSE) guidance and offer flexible options for people who need them.
COVID is here to stay, but we have the tools to manage it our working lives. So let’s use them to create better, safer workplaces for everyone.
The Workers Union – fighting for social justice, fighting for you