Metro Mayors say too many firms are putting staff at risk from virus

Liverpool City Region’s Steve Rotheram and Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham write to the Government to insist the two-metre rule between workers is more strictly enforced. Tony McDonough reports

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, left, with Greater Manchester counterpart Andy Burnham

 

Metro Mayors Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham claims too many businesses are not taking the threat posed by coronavirus seriously enough.

Representing the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester, Mr Rotheram and Mr Burnham have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the Business Secretary Alok Sharma to ask them to offer clear guidance to businesses.

In the joint letter they praise those companies and organisations that have pulled together and done their bit for their local communities. But they warn that some are “refusing to treat the situation with the seriousness it deserves”.

In recent days, stories and images have circulated on social media showing workplaces with workers clearly not socially distancing. Both Mayors say that they have received hundreds of complaints from concerned employees and members of the public.

Current Cabinet Office guidance for businesses states that Public Health England (PHE) advice on social distancing need only be followed where possible’. The Mayors are calling on Government to ensure that non-essential businesses should only continue to operate if they are complying fully with PHE advice.

Mr Rotheram and Mr Burnham also state that workers are worried that they are being forced to work in places where the two metre self-distancing rule is not enforced, where there is a lack of hand sanitiser and cleaning and hygiene measures, making others with whom they come in contact including loved ones vulnerable to exposure to the virus describing that as “unacceptable”.

Public Health England guidelines say businesses must ensure people are able to work while maintaining a two-metre distance from their colleagues “where possible”. The Mayors say the “where possible” gives licence to firms to ignore the advice.

In the letter to the ministers, they write: “Workers are worried that they are being forced to work in places where the two-metre self-distancing rule is not enforced, where there is a lack of hand sanitiser and cleaning and hygiene measures and they then return home to an elderly mum or dad or their family, making them vulnerable to exposure to the virus. This is unacceptable.

“Both of us have been in touch with those companies who have been identified to seek evidence and reassurance that they are taking all possible steps to protect the wellbeing of their staff. But we need Government to act to remove the ambiguity that the ‘where possible’ phrasing has introduced.”

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