Unions have said that employers are placing workers at risk and increasing Covid-19 infection rates as research shows that as many as one in five people have been going into their place of work unnecessarily.
Trades Union Congress (TUC) polling found that employees have been placed under pressure to come into offices when they could be working from home.
‘No one should be forced into the office’
TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “No one should be forced into the office or another workplace if they can do their job from home.
“Bad bosses are needlessly putting workers at risk and increasing transmission in local communities.”
The research was commissioned by TUC and conducted by YouGov was shared exclusively with the Guardian. It suggested that 19 per cent of all of those still working were heading into offices, or other workplaces, for part or all of their working week - despite being able to carry out their jobs from home.
The polling of nearly 1,000 employees found that pressure from bosses was the main reason why people who could work from home were still having to go into work. A little more than a quarter of participants said that they preferred being in the workplace.
A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) spokesperson said: “It is important that people stay at home wherever possible to minimise the risk of transmission so we can protect the NHS and save lives.
“Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees - this includes by supporting those who can reasonably work from home to do so.
“The Health and Safety Executive continues to investigate reports of unsafe working environments and carry out spot checks.”
‘Employers breaking Covid-19 rules should be named, shamed and fined’
The findings from TUC come as Interim Director of Labour Market Enforcement Matthew Taylor said that employers who are breaking Covid-19 rules should be named, shamed and fined.
Taylor explained that naming and shaming would be a “perfectly reasonable” policy.
He said: “It works. The Government does it for the minimum wage.
“I’ve argued they should do it for all companies involved in the supply chain where there’s examples of modern slavery or severe labour abuse. No employer wants to read their name on a list of companies who have not observed the spirit or the letter of the rules.”
‘Working from home message not strong enough’
While guidance from the Government has evolved over the course of the pandemic, under latest lockdown rules, the Government states: “You may only leave your home for work if you cannot reasonably work from home, to reduce the spread of the virus and protect others.”
The guidance adds: “Employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working.”
Shadow Business Secretary, Ed Miliband, said: “The evidence suggests the Government’s messages on working from home are still not strong or clear enough.”
Miliband added that Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng should “clarify the rules, including ramping up the messaging and making it clearer to people and businesses”.