View from City Hall: Clearer guidance is needed over new rules

News Desk (21 May, 2020)

Work from home - and if you are at risk refuse on the grounds of Section 44 employment rights

34310Florence Eshalomi, MP for Vauxhall and Southwark and Lambeth assembly member

As we continue to navigate our way through this devastating pandemic, I would like to thank Southwark residents for coming together and continuing to play their part in fighting the virus, writes Florence Eshalomi…

Last week saw some new rules regarding the lockdown come into place. Whilst some restrictions have been eased slightly, it is absolutely crucial that we all continue to follow social distancing guidelines.

We are also now seeing more Londoners return to work. It is vital that employers step up and continue to allow their staff to work from home wherever possible. If this is not a viable option, then employers need to make sure their workplaces are safe environments to return to.

It is important to underline that if employees feel that they are being put at risk, they can complain to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or refuse to work on the grounds of Section 44 employment rights.

Trade unions have continued to play an indispensable role in improving conditions for workers through the COVID-19 outbreak, and I would strongly encourage signing up to one.

The government also need to issue clearer and perhaps stricter guidance around this issue. Concerns are rightly being raised about the impending pressures on our transport services, which will need to run at a reduced capacity to facilitate social distancing.

Southwark is host to some of the busiest roads, train and tube stations. This is why I am urging local people to rethink how they get around the capital, wherever possible, as we start to recover from the first wave of this pandemic.

To make this easier, the Mayor and TfL have introduced a new London Streetspace programme, which will transform town centres, create additional segregated cycle lanes and expand pavements for pedestrians.

Elsewhere, the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has now become available for freelancers and contractors, who can apply up to 80 per cent of lost earnings, through HMRC. The government also announced that the job retention scheme will be extended to October.

This will provide a lifeline to many households in the borough, but sadly too many, such as those with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF), are still falling through the gaps in the government’s schemes.

Finally, I would like to thank all of our key and essential workers, who continue to put themselves at risk day-in, day-out. Beyond our weekly applause, we must also stand up for their right to adequate PPE and better conditions at work.

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