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Staff tell MPs they’re forced to work in office, amid lockdown

Employees have alleged to MPs that they are being forced to work in the office by major banks and broadband providers, despite their fears about the spread of COVID-19.

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“We have not had any option to work from home”
“We have not had any option to work from home”

Employees of Barclaycard, BT, Sky and Concentrix have shared their experiences with the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee, after it issued a call for worker’s experiences with their employers.

 

BEIS have received more than 1,000 emails and tweets in the past few days and said the selection of submissions published exhibits a series of themes running through many of the wider group of emails received.

 

Below are a selection of the comments received as part of the BEIS inquiry into the impact of coronavirus on businesses and workers:

 

An employee from The Range, a retailer selling home, garden, and leisure products, said workers haven’t been provided with any hand sanitiser or personal protective equipment.

 

The individual said no restrictions have been put in place for customers and that most of the essential items are out of stock, so they are now selling more and more leisure items.

 

They added: “The only communication we’ve had from head office was an email saying they are looking into extra cleaning methods, but (the shop) will be staying open.

 

“Anyone who chooses to self isolate can do so for two weeks at statutory sick pay, but is then expected back at work. No mention of help for vulnerable people and not even a thank you at the end.”

 

Another individual still not working from home, was an employee of Concentrix, an outsourcing company for HSBC.

 

The individual said HSBC emailed staff to say they should be working from home if possible, but the PPI refunds team was still in the call centre doing calculations and sending out letters - a task the worker said is “clearly not essential or urgent work”.

 

The Concentrix employee said the company is also refusing to consider using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

 

Several more comments were published from call centre workers.

 

A Barclaycard employee said their job is to, solely, collect money off people who have arrears on their credit card.

 

They added: “They (Barclaycard) are insisting our work is essential and making people come in. People with children are being told to use the schools open for key workers, which is putting an additional strain on the schools and teachers.

 

“Anyone who phones up and says a member of their family is sick with virus symptoms are not given any assurances that they won’t be penalised if they stay off and self isolate, so they are coming into work. Call centres in general are a hotbed for disease as people share desks.”

 

In response to these comments, a Barclaycard spokesperson said: "The safety and wellbeing of our colleagues, customers and clients is our top priority. We have encouraged as many colleagues as possible to work from home and only ask people to come into the workplace when it is essential to supporting customers and clients.

 

"We have a range of measures in place to help protect colleagues, and incentives such as additional financial support for childcare. In addition, any colleagues presenting with symptoms or linked to those with symptoms are following government guidelines. We recognise the extraordinary effort colleagues are making to maintain service during this unprecedented period of time."

 

A BT call centre worker also said they have been advised that they are key workers, but they are unsure they are because they are in the sales/retention department.

 

They added: “It’s just more people in one call centre, shoved in like sardines, possibly infecting or spreading COVID- 19, or symptoms, to the people who work in the centre that take the 999 calls.

 

“We have not had any option to work from home either.”

 

Rachel Reeves, chair of the BEIS, said: “From the evidence we’ve received it’s clear that many businesses are still not doing the right thing. This must change now. This is a health emergency – it cannot be business as usual. Workplaces, even those deemed ‘essential’, should be doing all they can to ensure that their workers are able to work from home or, if they do have to attend work, that they can undertake social distancing.

 

“The government came forward with an income replacement scheme – there can be no question of workers being, in effect, forced to take annual or sick-leave when they are doing the right thing and keeping themselves safe.

 

“Businesses need to stand by their workers and keep them safe. In time, businesses will have to answer for their decisions during this pandemic and whether they did the right thing.”

 

Reward Strategy has contacted the employers mentioned for a response to these comments.

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