Draft guidance for getting people back to work during the coronavirus pandemic could compromise worker safety, the head of the TUC has warned.
Frances O’Grady, who leads the group representing UK unions, said it cannot back the advice in its “current form”.
She said there were “huge gaps” over protective kit and testing.
Reduced hot-desking and alternatives to social distancing where it is not possible are among measures being considered by the government.
The document, seen by the BBC, is one of seven draft plans to ease anti-virus restrictions.
It also urges employers to minimise numbers using equipment, stagger shift times and maximise home-working.
The guidance covers the whole of the UK – but the devolved governments have the power to make their own decisions on how businesses can get back to work.
Buzzfeed has seen all seven draft documents.
Ms O’Grady said the Trades Union Congress had seen some documents on Sunday.
She said workers’ safety must not be compromised and called for “robust direction and enforcement” so employers can “do the right thing” and action can be taken against those who do not.
She told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One: “The problem is the government is asking us to trust to employer discretion, use words like ‘consider social distancing’, ‘consider having hand sanitiser or soap available’, and frankly that’s just not good enough.”
Asked whether the government’s current advice will compromise worker safety, Ms O’Grady said No 10 has time to “get this right” and it should work with unions to ensure “a proper job” and “not a botched job”.
According to one of the seven draft documents seen by the BBC, firms are told to enact additional hygiene procedures, as well as physical screens, and protective equipment should be considered where maintaining distancing of 2m (6ft) between workers is impossible.
However, the section marked PPE contains only a promise that “more detail” will follow.
The BBC has also seen a second document with advice for the hospitality industry, which says bar areas, seated restaurants and cafe areas must be closed, with all food and drink outlets serving takeaway food only.
It adds hotels should consider “room occupancy levels to maintain social distancing, especially in multi-occupancy dormitories”.
It also says “guidance to follow” on the use of PPE and face masks.
Some of the other guidance featured in the document includes:
- Allowing access to as few people as possible into kitchens
- Spacing workstations 2m apart as much as possible
- Minimising contact between kitchen and food preparation workers and delivery drivers or riders for example by having zones from which delivery drivers can collect packaged food items
- Using front of house staff to serve customers in walk-in takeaways, with tills 2m away from the kitchen and ideally separated by a wall or partition
- Creating a physical barrier, such as a screen, between front of house workers and customers where possible
- Asking customers to order online, on apps or over the telephone to reduce queues and stagger pick-up times
- Providing handwashing and hand sanitisers and encourage visitors to wash their hands regularly
- Considering room occupancy levels to maintain social distancing, especially in multi-occupancy dormitories.
- Taking measures to avoid crowded reception areas, staggering check-in and check-out times
Boris Johnson is to reveal a “roadmap” out of lockdown on Sunday, but in a video message on Monday he said the the UK must not lift restrictions too soon.
In the video, posted on Twitter, Mr Johnson said: “The worst thing we could do now is ease up too soon and allow a second peak of coronavirus.”
Mr Johnson said the UK would only be able to move on to “the second phase of this conflict” when the government’s five tests had been met, including a sustained and consistent fall in daily deaths and being confident any adjustments would not risk a second peak which could overwhelm the health service.
Many companies have been shut since widespread limits on everyday life were imposed on 23 March, in a bid to limit the effects of the virus’s spread on the NHS.
Ministers are obliged to review those restrictions by Thursday.
How might workplaces reopen with social distancing?
Finnebrogue Artisan, which makes sausages and bacon in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, has kept operating throughout the pandemic.
Director Declan Ferguson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was “totally doable” for other companies to reopen.
He said they had introduced physical markers to keep staff 2m apart, take workers’ temperatures when they arrive, and issue them with masks and visors on the factory floor.
Doors are kept open wherever possible to reduce the number of things staff need to touch, and social distancing marshals ensure the rules are being followed.
The number of coronavirus-related deaths in the UK stands at 28,446 with 14,248 people currently being treated in hospital.
However, admissions have fallen, along with the number of critical care beds being used.
On Monday, a further 204 deaths were announced in England, along with 14 more in Wales, six in Northern Ireland and five in Scotland.
The latest UK-wide figures – which use a different timeframe to those of individual nations – will be published later.
Meanwhile, London’s NHS Nightingale hospital is expected not to admit any new patients and be placed on standby in the coming days.
The ExCel Centre was turned into a 4,000-bed facility to increase the NHS’s capacity for treating patients with Covid-19.
In a briefing to staff, the hospital’s chief executive said it was “likely” the hospital would not need to admit patients in the coming days while the virus remained under control in London.
The BBC understands fewer than 20 people are currently being treated there.
In other developments:
- A coronavirus contact-tracing app aimed at limiting a second wave of coronavirus will be trialled on the Isle of Wight this week
- A partial list of the membership of the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage), which is helping shape the government’s response to the pandemic, has been published by the government, following calls for transparency
- Labour is urging the government to plan to stockpile masks, in case official advice on wearing them changes
- Businesses including sole traders and limited companies are able to apply for “bounce-back” loans of £2,000 to £50,000, 100% guaranteed by the government
- Boris Johnson will urge countries to “pull together” and share expertise as he co-hosts an international conference to drive the race for coronavirus treatments, tests and vaccines
- France, Italy and Spain register their lowest daily death tolls for weeks as they prepare to ease restrictions
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