On 13th May 2022 a coalition including Independent SAGE, groups representing those who have been impacted by the pandemic and Trades Unions launched the new ‘Covid-19 Safety Pledge’.
The Pledge is designed to ensure that workplaces – and specifically those which are also public spaces such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, libraries etc. – adopt measures designed to minimize the spread of Covid infections and make public the fact that they have done so. This will both meet legal Health & Safety requirements and reassure all customers/service users that they can visit in safety.
At a time when levels of Covid infection remains high but legal obligations (notably to self-isolate when testing positive for Covid) have been removed, the Pledge is particularly important. It is critical that employers do abide by public health advice, that they do urge and support workers to stay at home when infected, and that the public know that they will not be served by staff who are carrying the virus.
Specifically, the Pledge calls upon employers (both in the private and public sectors), in consultation with their workforce, to sign up to three commitments:
· To protect workers, service users and customers from Covid-19
· To risk assess their premises and practices in order to ensure that they are designed to safeguard against the spread of infection
· Specifically, to ask any workers who test positive for Covid to stay at home while infectious and to provide the support necessary for them to do so.
On doing so, their name will be displayed on the Pledge website and they will be entitled to display the Pledge sign in their premises.
The Pledge launch took place at the Independent SAGE weekly briefing which you can watch here:
01:45 Presentation of figures by Deepti Gurdasani
13:10 Janet Newsham, UK Hazards Campaign
20:35 Tracy Edwards, Public & Commercial Services Union
28:15 Imogen Dempsey, Clinically Vulnerable Families UK
33:45 Ondine Sherwood, Long Covid SOS
The Pledge is accompanied by an open letter to employers and also by individual letters to a list of prominent employers such as supermarkets and hospitality chains. Several Trades Unions (e.g. Unison, PCS, UCU) will be asking all branches to get their employers to sign. We also call upon the public to promote the Pledge and to inform us if employers are putting them at risk by ignoring public health advice.
Quotes from those organising the Pledge:
Stephen Reicher, on behalf of Independent SAGE: “we hope every employer will support our Covid Safety Pledge. It obviously makes good public health sense to ensure that the shops and restaurants and offices we use are properly ventilated and that no-one is working while infected. But it also makes sound economic sense to give the public confidence that they can use these spaces in safety”
Ondine Sherwood from Long Covid SOS: “Recovery from Long Covid is usually very slow and comes at great cost, so those affected are in a particularly vulnerable position. Many are unhappy about mixing in public places because a reinfection could lead to worsening symptoms and a reversal of any progress made. The Pledge will help reassure them that safety measures are in place”
Tracy Edwards, who is Health and Safety Officer for the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), who will be speaking at the launch: “what we are asking for is no more than what is required by law and what public health experts are calling for. We want workplaces to be safe, we want the public to know they are safe and we want employers to work with us to ensure that happens. The Pledge will help us achieve that”.
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “PCS is happy to support the Pledge because the safety of our members is paramount. Civil servants have worked hard, keeping the country running during the pandemic, and we are determined to ensure their workplaces are safe."
Lara Wong, from the Clinically Vulnerable Families: “Vulnerable people have effectively been excluded from shops, restaurants and other public spaces over two years now due to a lack of safety protections. We welcome this Pledge, which we see as an essential first step to restore our confidence and our freedoms”.