Council staff in Milton Keynes with underlying health conditions or with family members in vulnerable groups – who’ve previously been off at home – are being ordered back to work, in a move criticised today (Thursday) by UNISON.
UNISON says social workers, care staff, library staff, environmental health officers, school support staff and other council workers currently off because their health, or that of a family member, makes them vulnerable to Covid-19 are being forced to return to frontline duties.
This move, says UNISON, is in breach of national guidance drawn up by the Local Government Association covering councils in England and Wales. It is designed to protect workers and their families in high risk categories. UNISON is demanding the Milton Keynes Council steps back from implementing what it says is a rogue local plan.
The alarm was raised after UNISON was inundated with concerns from council workers in the government’s ‘vulnerable’ group that their employer was asking them to return to work. Previously they had been advised to stay off, even if their job meant it wasn’t possible to work from home.
UNISON South East regional organiser Ryan Slaughter said: “All week there have been numerous calls from concerned members of staff worried about the risks to both themselves and their families.
“This is a deeply stressful time for everybody, but especially those who are vulnerable to the symptoms of coronavirus or who are living with people currently shielding.
“Milton Keynes Council is not a special case, like every other council in the country it has a duty to protect those at most risk. Councillors must not break away from sensible national guidelines.
“UNISON is demanding that the council reverses this dangerous policy that will put lives at risk.”
Notes to editors:
-The guidance drawn up by the Local Government Association states that: “Employees in both groups [the ‘shielded’ group and the ‘flu jab’ group] should not be expected to attend the workplace. All options for working at home should be considered, as well as for those employees who live with and / or have caring responsibilities for people in the two groups. However, as previously advised, employers will have no option other than to accept that some employees will be staying at home on full pay for the duration of this emergency as they are not able to work from home”.
-UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public and private sectors.