Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, is calling on the Government to provide urgent clarification on essential work in the coronavirus crisis, and support for self-employed and contract workers, to avoid putting workers and the general public at risk.
“The Government is understandably concerned about keeping as much of the economy going as possible, but at the same time not providing clear enough guidance to employers to ensure they are protecting their employees as well as the public.
“Whilst guidance to individuals has been to minimise social contact and movement outside home, the lack of clarity on what counts as essential work is creating too much ambiguity for employers. This is exacerbated by the still-awaited support initiatives for the self-employed and contract workers.
“We must reiterate that the primary guidance is for individuals to self-isolate if they show symptoms or have been in close contact with others with symptoms, but that appears to have been lost in how some employers are telling employees that it is their choice of whether or not they come in to work.
“Employers must work through their plans and communicate clearly to all parts of their workforces on what options are available to support them if they can no longer work, or if there is a lack of work for them to do. This is also why the Government has to be much clearer on what counts as essential work, and must also set out its plans to provide more financial support for the self-employed and contractors.
“At the outset of the crisis, the Government said that no one should have to lose out for doing the right thing. We now need the Government to see through on that promise. Without this clarity, too many people will continue to go to work in non-essential businesses and public safety will be put at risk.”