The prospect of some jobcentres reopening to the public this week has led to PCS members expressing their fears that they won’t be safe at work, our survey reveals.
Last week we warned that reopening jobcentres as early as this week could create a perfect storm as staff and customers were faced with lack of social distancing, inadequate personal protective equipment and the real risk of Covid-19 being brought into workplaces.
We also warned that this was compounded by the fact that benefit sanctions, suspended during the pandemic, are set to be reinstated on Wednesday (1 July) and that around 2.5 million new claimants, many of whom received Universal Credit payments when their livelihoods were affected by the pandemic, will be navigating a system that few of them have experience of.
We surveyed our members who work in jobcentres over the weekend to gauge their concerns and of the 1,764 who responded, 84% said they would not feel safe if front-facing activity was increased, while 65% said they did not think there would be enough space in their workplace for 2-metre social distancing rules to be implemented.
In terms of safety, 59% said they felt attending their workplace would put them in serious or imminent danger and 73% said they would be prepared to refuse to enter their workplace if they felt that doing so would put them in serious or imminent danger.
Lack of safeguards
PCS does not accept that all the safeguards required to make jobcentres safe are in place and that we should not be opening the doors for an increased service until they are. We have also made clear our concerns for our black and minority ethnic members who will have real worries about this development, especially given the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on the BAME population, and the high numbers of BAME people in the country that have contracted Covid-19 and sadly died.
We are also concerned that the DWP will try to reduce the 2-metre social distancing rule in the light of the latest government policy. Our position is clear that 2 metres must remain the rule in all our workplaces and will oppose any attempt to reduce this safety measure.
Read further information on our response to the coronavirus outbreak on the employer group pages of this website.
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