19 November 2021

PCS opposes mass return to DWP workplaces

PCS believes it is irresponsible for the DWP to choose this moment to try to force a mass return to workplaces for staff currently working from home, as scientists make it clear that Covid-19 still poses a very serious risk to public health.

PCS has continuously opposed DWP’s decision to force most jobcentre staff into delivering services face-to-face since the department began to fully open jobcentres in April. The department has so far focused on getting staff back into jobcentres but increasing pressure is being put on our members to get back into workplaces in non-customer facing roles.

Despite the mass vaccination programme infections are once again rising and the virus is still as prevalent in society today as at any time during the past 12 months. With the winter months throwing up additional health risks, now is not the time to be ramping up the return to workplaces.

Our members have shown during the pandemic that it is entirely possible to deliver vital services from home to the most vulnerable in society. It is irresponsible for the DWP to choose this moment to try and force a mass return to workplaces for members currently working from home.

Now is not the time to introduce hybrid working

We support the principle of hybrid working and the possibility for members to have the greatest possible choice and flexibility over how and where they do their jobs. But now is not the time for DWP to use hybrid working to force a mass return to the workplace, considerably increasing the risk of our members catching and transmitting Covid.

Request a 1-2-1 meeting

All staff must have 1-2-1 meetings with their line managers before there is any possibility of returning to work. Be open and honest about your concerns. Contact your PCS rep if you feel that you are being forced back to your workplace. You can find their details in PCS Digital.

Know your legal rights

We are not telling you refuse to work but the law offers certain protections to workers in respect of their health and safety. For example, where you have a reasonable belief that there is serious and imminent danger that you cannot avoid, workers who do not attend work or leave their workstation may not be placed at any disadvantage because of their action. Workers are protected in these circumstances from “being subjected to a detriment by the employer” as a result of such action.

If you are told to work in a DWP office that you feel is unsafe and you want to talk to a PCS representative, email leeds@pcs.org.uk giving your name, membership number and telephone number. We will contact you as soon as possible.

We will continue to do all we can to protect your safety at work. Your union is here for you at this difficult time. If any member feels that they are in serious and imminent danger due to the increased risk DWP is placing you under speak to your representative. The union will support any member that needs to remove themselves from such danger.

Members and reps should register for and log into PCS Digital to read the full legal advice on PCS Knowledge. 

If you haven’t registered for PCS Digital all you need to do on the online form is enter your surname, your first name and then your PCS membership number, which has 7 digits and starts with a P. You then enter your personal email address and click on the sign-up button. You will then receive an email from us with instructions on how to set up your password.

Need more help? Watch our video.