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Covid-19: New Ways of Working

Volume 675: debated on Monday 4 May 2020

What support his Department is providing to businesses designing new ways of working to help safely mitigate the effects of the covid-19 outbreak. (902144)

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. We are engaging with businesses, business representative organisations and unions to get a shared view on how workplaces are made as safe as possible for when people return to work. We will work with industry and other key Administrations to help develop an understanding of how business can adapt to a world where restrictions may last for some time.

I welcome my hon. Friend to her place. I want to ask particularly about tourism and hospitality, as Montgomeryshire is a rural, countryside constituency. It is built for socially distanced tourism, but the industry, including our pubs, our hotels and our countryside pursuits, will need some support in putting together the new normal and the new way of working. What work are the Government doing to get the sector deal on its feet?

As the Prime Minister said, we want to get the economy moving as fast as we can, but we refuse to throw away all the effort and sacrifice of the British people and risk another major outbreak. We will be relying on science to inform us, as we have from the beginning. We will also be reaching out to build the biggest possible consensus across business, industry and all parts of the United Kingdom.

Yesterday, the Government gave trade unions just 12 hours to respond to seven consultation papers on safe return to work. The entire country wants the Government to succeed, but that is not how to build confidence or trust. The proposals talk about what the Government expect employers to consider and say that social distancing and hand washing should happen where possible to help, but insufficient attention is paid to personal protective equipment. Taking the necessary steps to protect employees is not a matter of expectation or guidance; it is the law. Will the Minister therefore confirm that covid-19 risk assessments will be mandatory for most businesses; that they will be made public and registered with the HSE; and that, given the lack of capacity to carry out inspections, workplace health and safety reps will be involved in settling assessments and then in their implementation and enforcement, and that they will be able to assist in non-unionised supply-chain companies?

We are engaging with businesses, business representative organisations and unions to come to a shared view on how to make our places as safe as possible for when people return to work. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are also involving Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive.