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Government condemned for ‘unconscionable’ back-to-work briefing that could threaten workers with redundancy

THE government was condemned today for an “unconscionable” back-to-work briefing,  with union leaders warning that it threatens people with redundancy unless they return to potentially unsafe workplaces.

In a round of interviews from his home, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed that there is a “limit” to working from home.

Mr Shapps was reinforcing the government’s message in the run-up to a major media campaign next week, which will encourage employees to return to their workplaces amid fears that town and city centres are becoming ghost areas as commuters stay away.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been calling for employees to start returning to their place of work for more than a month and Chancellor Rishi Sunak has ruled out extending the furlough scheme beyond October.

Labour shadow business minister Lucy Powell said: “It beggars belief that the government are threatening people like this during a pandemic. 

“Forcing people to choose between their health and their job is unconscionable.

“No 10 should condemn this briefing and categorically rule out any such campaign.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the PM needs “a credible plan” to help more people travel to work safely, “not a scare campaign.” 

She said: “Throughout this crisis, millions of people have worked extremely hard from home, often in cramped bedrooms with limited equipment or balancing work with childcare. 

“Many now want a better balance of office and home-based working. 

“But before this can happen, ministers must take responsibility for guaranteeing workers’ safety with a fast and reliable test-and-trace system and better enforcement of transport safety and workplace risk assessments.”

Ms O’Grady called on ministers to wake up to the fact that many working parents have lost all their childcare.

“Until proper support is provided, they have no choice but to keep balancing work and care by working at home,” she said. 

“And many disabled workers can only safely undertake their roles at home.

“Increased childcare investment and strengthened rights to flexible working are vital to protect these workers’ jobs.” 

Nine out of 10 people in Britain who have worked from home during lockdown want to continue doing so, according to a report by the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research.

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