Protect workers, protect us all – Rachael Maskell letter to Boris Johnson. #COVID19


“We know that the escalation of Coronavirus is stretching vital NHS resources, however the thousands of examples of bad employment is just compounding the risk we all face.”

 Rachael Maskell MP

Dear Prime Minister

Re: Protecting workers, protecting us all

Last Monday, you made a strong announcement that people should only undertake essential work, and your Government have put in place measures for employees and the self-employed to receive financial protection when they cease to work. Further, financial support has also been announced for businesses. There are issues concerning the reach, timeliness and comprehensiveness of these financial packages, as there is with the level and access to Statutory Sick Pay, while workers still have no access to any form of financial protection.

Despite this, as the Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights, I have received thousands of examples of workers continuing to work in non-essential industries. Workers have reported the unsafe environments that they are working in where there is no appropriate PPE, often little or no hygiene facilities or appropriate deep cleaning, and in the vast majority of examples, no social distancing practices. As a result of this, workers are not only being exposed to the risk of infection, but risk spreading Coronavirus too.

Workers are travelling to and from work on crowded public transport systems. They are then clocking into work together, changing into work clothes together, working at communal work stations and physically sharing space all day, and then travelling back home to their families and our communities.

If people are at risk and have been asked to shelter, they have been told that they won’t be paid or will lose their job. If people raise serious health concerns they have been told to continue to work; some have been disciplined. If they have close family members who are in the ‘at risk’ category, no provision has been made for them. These workplaces will act as convectors for infection spread which will then escalate infection levels in the community.

The worst examples of these are in factories, warehouses, call centres, construction sites and reports have also come from cleaning staff, council workers and utility companies. Employers are clearly operating in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and are putting the lives of their workers and all of us at risk.

Meanwhile NHS staff, GPs, community pharmacists, food retail staff, and all in essential public facing roles are continuing to work without the necessary PPE, thus putting their health at risk. I have already written to the Business Secretary to call for this to be addressed, including for a national manufacturing effort to scale up the production and distribution of PPE, and yet this situation continues.

We know that the escalation of Coronavirus is stretching vital NHS resources, however the thousands of examples of bad employment is just compounding the risk we all face. I urge you to introduce strict and enforceable closure of all non-essential workplaces, ensuring that all workers lives are protected until it is safe for business to resume according to safe working practices. Labour would support such measures being implemented with immediate effect with adequate resourcing of measures to monitor and enforce this safety regime.

Yours sincerely

Rachael Maskell MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights

  • Rachael Maskell MP, Labour’s Shadow Employment Rights Secretary, has written to the Prime Minister demanding protection from all workers, highlighting that “bad employment” worsens the risk of coronavirus spreading. We reproduce her letter in full above.

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