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Covid-secure Working

Volume 689: debated on Tuesday 9 February 2021

What recent steps he has taken to strengthen and update his Department's guidance to employers on covid-secure working. (912046)

We keep the safer workplaces guidance under continuous review. Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive advise that the guidance remains robust on the basis of current scientific advice.

The answer that the Minister has given does not reflect the situation facing a lot of my constituents who work at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea. If the Government themselves cannot put in place suitable infrastructure to protect employees and substantially change their practices at the DVLA, how can they expect other companies to do so? Will he commit to speaking to his Secretary of State about the issue?

I regularly speak to the Secretary of State about such issues. In the event of a workplace outbreak, businesses should follow the advice outlined in their action card guidance, and that includes departments such as the DVLA. The guidance is designed by the Department of Health and Social Care for specific out- break situations, and businesses should contact their local PHE health protection team if necessary.

“The effects are non-permanent or reversible, non-progressive and disability is temporary”.

Those are the words of the Minister for Employment in justifying why covid-19 has not been categorised as a “serious” workplace risk. Some 112,000 British citizens are dead, tens of thousands are experiencing long covid, and many more have permanent damage to vital organs, but only 0.1% of complaints result in an enforcement notice. This is serious, and re-categorisation is urgently needed. The UK continues to suffer the highest covid death toll in the world, but with such a disregard for workplace safety, is it any wonder?

We work with Public Health England and with the Health and Safety Executive to ensure that we have the best safer workplace guidance, and if there are specific examples where that is not working, I would be happy to take that on board, but with 12.3 million first-dose vaccinations undertaken to date, hopefully we can get through this period and have even safer workplaces as the economy comes back to normal.