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Workplace Safety

Volume 676: debated on Monday 11 May 2020

What steps her Department is taking to ensure that people who cannot work at home are able to work safely at their place of work during the covid-19 outbreak. (902424)

What steps her Department is taking to ensure that people who cannot work at home are able to work safely at their place of work during the covid-19 outbreak. (902426)

What steps her Department is taking to ensure that people who cannot work at home are able to work safely at their place of work during the covid-19 outbreak. (902434)

The Health and Safety Executive is involved in safer workplaces and, across Government, this work is being led by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The DWP has put a number of measures in place itself. We have closed jobcentres to the public; suspended appointments, except in exceptional circumstances; introduced social distancing, extensive communications and a route for staff to raise concerns; and deployed up to 15,000 laptops to allow people to work at home.

Trade bodies play a key role in helping businesses to comply with coronavirus workplace safety measures. What engagement has my hon. Friend had with the major trade bodies to keep workers safe?

I thank my hon. Friend for that. It is vital that we work with trade bodies, which play a vital role in supporting businesses and ensuring the right messages reach employers within their sectors. In the last few weeks, I have been listening to and engaging with key stakeholders such as the Federation of Small Businesses, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and UKHospitality. One key theme in getting across the message is confidence for both employers and employees to be able to come back to work together.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is clear from the Government’s publication today that many employers that closed initially, out of an abundance of caution, can actually stay open provided they can do so safely. I welcome the covid-secure guidance that is going to be published. Could the Minister set out how the covid-secure guidance will be publicised, and will there be a PR campaign to make sure that employers that can be open do open?

As the Prime Minister announced yesterday, those who can return to work safely should do so, and I do encourage all employers and employees to use the safety at work guides due to be published later this week to help, support and inform decisions about safety in the workplace. Colleagues will have an opportunity to hear more from the Prime Minister when he makes his statement to the House shortly.

Many employers and employees in my constituency in the Scottish borders are very keen to go back to work. They want to do so as safely as possible, so could the Minister outline what the Government are doing to foster good relations between employees and employers to allow that to happen, and also to allow them to adjust to the new normal way of working?

As I said previously, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is leading the way on safer workplaces. There are lots of opportunities to build relationships between employers, employees and trade unions as we open up the economy, and the guidelines will be published in due course. The Health and Safety Executive is an arms-length body of the DWP. It has been actively involved in each of the work strands in the sectors. Our Department takes an interest in recruitment, helping to build confidence so claimants can return to work or take up new employment.

That concludes what are referred to as questions to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. The arrangements for hybrid proceedings allow Departments to reorder questions according to the answering Minister, but I do not believe that it was the House’s expectation that this would lead to the Secretary of State not answering any questions and to important issues raised by Members from the Opposition parties being relegated to the bottom of the list. I will raise this matter with the Leader of the House, and I do not expect to see this repeated.