Put pressure on businesses to reintroduce home working

The full extent of the problem can be seen here in St Pauls Square. The only dark floor in the building is that where the Liverpool Echo operates from. Why can’t other businesses which are clearly office based adopt the same safe working practices as the Echo?

Today I have written to the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, asking for his support in encouraging employers to adopt safe home working practices.

The letter comes after I received emails from employees saying that although they had worked from home successfully during the first lockdown their employers were making them come in on normal working conditions for marginal increases in efficiency. I spent an hour in the City Centre between 7.45 and 8.45 this morning and talked to people about this issue and has suggested a possible link between forced office working and the fact that the two lowest groups of people coming in to be tested are white middle aged men and young professionals.

In the letter I point out that his thinking and mine on these issues entirely overlap, The Government advice, which we both support, is “work at home if you can, go to work if you must”. Of course, that is only advice. It has been left to employers to interpret this. Most employers have interpreted that to maximise the safety of their staff. Others claim that their Covid secured premises are safer for employees than working at home. This is untrue. Going to offices with hundreds of other people is not safe. Even if it were true then it ignores the fact that people have to get to and from the office.

I’ve asked Mayor Anderson what we can do about this. “Can the Council put pressure on the Government to strengthen the lockdown which applies to most of us to one that applies to all of us? Can we publicly draw attention to this appalling state of affairs? Can we name and shame businesses that won’t conform to decent standards?

Every business must come to their own conclusion about this if clear guidelines are not given by central government. But employees this morning were pointing out alternatives such as changing office hours to make transport safer or allowing staff to work from home 2 or 3 days a week but coming in for the remaining time. One suggested that staff should only be allowed in the office if they could show that they had a current negative test reading.

Work situations were the cause of 30% of virus infections before lockdown. If lockdown does not work as well as we all hope it will then one of the reasons for it will be selfish employers who put marginal profit gains before the health needs of their employees and the wider Liverpool community

The full letter to Mayor Anderson is appended here:

Dear Joe,

Businesses forcing their staff to work from the office

Last night you told us at the briefing that the 2 biggest categories of people not taking up the testing opportunities were young professionals and middle-aged white men. I told you that that I had been getting many complaints about people being forced to work at the office when in the first lockdown they had been able to work well from home. I think the two facts are connected.

This morning I spent an hour in the City Centre between 7.45 and 8.45. I spoke to about a dozen people who were predominantly middle-aged white men and young professionals whose employers were making them work standard hours from the office as if the pandemic meant nothing. Of course, the City Centre was not as busy as it usually is but it was a lot, lot busier than I expected it to be.

The Government advice which you and I support, is “work at home if you can, go to work if you must”. Of course, that is only advice. It has been left to employers to interpret. Most employers have interpreted that to maximise the safety of their staff. Others claim that their Covid secured premises are safer for employees than working at home. This is untrue. Going to offices to meet people is not safe. Even if it were true then it ignores the fact that people have to get to and from the office.

You will recall that prior to the Tier 3 lockdown which became the national one 30% of infections were arising in business settings outside the leisure and hostelry sectors. I have no doubt that if the numbers do not come down as much as we need to a major reason will be the moral indifference that some employers have shown to their staff. It is quite clear that this leads straight on to the testing question. Most of these people have not been tested. Their view was, “if we’re safe to work we don’t need to be tested”.

I know you agree with me on this so the question becomes, “what can we do about this?” Can the Council put pressure on the Government to strengthen the lockdown which applies to most of us to one that applies to all of us? Can we publicly draw attention to this appalling state of affairs? Can we name and shame businesses that won’t conform to decent standards?

I have copied this to the Chief Executives of the Chamber of Commerce and the Liverpool Business Improvement District and asking them to take urgent and immediate action on this matter.

We all want to return to normal and the sooner we can all work together in the lockdown the sooner that we can return to that new normality.

I am happy to work with you on any suggestion that you and the team come up with.

Kind regards,

Kemp sig

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

Lib Dem Leader,

Liverpool City Council

Cc:       Liverpool BID

            Liverpool Chamber of Commerce

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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