New Public Health England (PHE) data seen by the BBC indicates that offices are the highest risk workplaces for coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreaks. The news comes after the DVLA head admitted to the Transport Select Committee that she had barely been into work since September. Her staff, who had still been going in, reportedly suffered from an outbreak with 535 cases in the same period.
more than 500 outbreaks, or suspected outbreaks, in offices in the second half of 2020 – more than in supermarkets, construction sites, warehouses, restaurants and cafes combined
It was also reported that, between 6 and 14 January, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has received nearly 4,000 complaints about unsafe working practices related to coronavirus.
Several concerned workers spoke to the BBC anonymously.
One worker at a firm in Bristol said that his office still used hot-desking and shared toilets and kept windows closed. He contracted coronavirus in January and passed it on to his partner.
As Twitter users highlighted, this leads to questions as to why employers haven’t been letting people work from home:
So 500 outbreaks/suspect covid outbreaks have been linked to offices! Why tf have employers been forcing staff into work during a pandemic when they could have been working from home? Exploitative employers are scum.
— hate zine (@hatezine) January 29, 2021
Another person who works for Manchester police said that she was worried if she got coronavirus she’d pass it on to her partner, who is high-risk. She said:
I just stepped out of the office, and when I came back, somebody was sitting at the workstation on the computer and using the phone with no mask. I was really angry and very upset.
Alright for some
Meanwhile, head of the DVLA, Julie Lennard, admitted to the Transport Select Committee that she had only been into work “six or seven times” since September.
Wales Online reported that workers had complained about the absence of bosses and inadequate measures being taken to protect them:
…they had not seen the chiefs of the Government agency at the sites for some time, although they themselves were having to go into work.
They have complained of hot desking putting colleagues at risk, not enough cleaning or hand gel and wipes, and too many people in the building unnecessarily.
This is yet another example of the socio-economic reality of the pandemic, where bosses protect themselves while workers bear the brunt of unsafe working conditions.
Featured image from Wikimedia Commons/Diliff
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?