Ian Hodson writes:
Doctors are to be instructed by Government to stop signing people off sick from the workplace. In a new move to get people into the workplace it’s expected that Jeremy Hunt will announce measures that will include returning those who have taken early retirement and those who are currently seen as not medically fit, back to work. This comes on top of a bonfire of regulations. It’s expected that by December 2023 the government, through its Retained EU law (Revocation and Reform) bill, will have either scrapped or reformed hundreds of pieces of legislation that came into the UK through membership of the EU. These include rights to holidays, management of health and safety often referred to as the six pack and maternity rights amongst many more. So our workplaces are not going to be becoming safer environments to return to, but potential death traps with workers forced into an environment that will help spread disease and illness. You would think following Covid and its impact on our economy that politicians would want to avoid any major health risk in the future, but alas this is not the case. They have tanked the economy and are desperate for profit at any cost. This is the driving force. “If people die so be it” is now the mentality of this government and with no opposition, too afraid to speak up for working people in case they get a bad press headline, we cannot expect any voice in Westminster to be able to make a difference.
So, like we have had to do in face of the cost of living crisis, we are going to depend on the trade union movement to organise the resistance. During Covid it became clear that employers who don’t pay company sick pay and force workers to rely on Statutory had the biggest outbreaks in the workplace. Those who provided full company sick pay faired significantly better. During Covid we launched a campaign for the government to introduce a scheme that would force employers to either pay full company sick pay or be levied an additional sum so workers’ wages can be covered for up to 6 weeks, after which they would fall into a fully funded SSP scheme. The worry now is, far from supporting workers, this latest move could see the ripping up of any support for sick workers.
Forcing sick people into the workplace will have an impact on morale and performance, as will making the retired work. Its absolute madness that any right thinking person could even consider such a move. Yet here we are in 2023, no longer sending kids up chimneys but sending the aged back to pick fruit and vegetables.
Ian Hodson is the National President of Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU)
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