Eight out of ten PCS members feel unsafe returning to work in job centres

Eight out of ten PCS members working in job centres feel they will be unsafe, a union survey has found.

Last week the union warned that reopening job centres could create a perfect storm as staff and customers were faced with lack of social distancing, inadequate personal protective equipment and the real risk of Covid-19 being brought into workplaces.

The union also warned this was compounded by the fact that benefit sanctions, suspended during the pandemic, are set to be reinstated today and that around 2.5 million new claimants, many of whom received Universal Credit payments when their livelihoods were affected by the pandemic, will be navigating a system that few of them have experience of.

Members who work in job centres were surveyed over the weekend to gauge their concerns and of the 1,764 who responded, 84% said they would not feel safe if front-facing activity was increased, while 65% said they did not think there would be enough space in their workplace for 2-metre social distancing rules to be implemented.

In terms of safety, 59% said they felt attending their workplace would put them in serious or imminent danger and 73% said they would be prepared to refuse to enter their workplace if they felt that doing so would put them in serious or imminent danger.

PCS does not accept that all the safeguards required to make job centres safe are in place and that we should not be opening the doors for an increased service until they are. The union has also made clear its concerns for its black and minority ethnic members who will have real worries about this development, especially given the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on the BAME population, and the high numbers of BAME people in the country that have contracted Covid-19 and sadly died.

The union is also concerned that the DWP will try to reduce the 2-metre social distancing rule in the light of the latest government policy. Its position is clear that 2 metres must remain the rule in all our workplaces and will oppose any attempt to reduce this safety measure.

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