Unions tell civil servants not to go back to the office over ‘health and safety’ fears

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UNIONS have told civil servants not to return to the office over ‘health and safety’ fears – despite Boris Johnson ordering them back in.

The PM scrapped his ‘work from home’ message in a bid to get officials to clear a backlog in public services – but they say they won’t be used “as an example to get everybody back to work”.

Civil service chief Alex Chisholm said in a letter to all Whitehall departments that it was time to “change the default” and “accelerate the return to the workplace from August 1”.

But the UK’s largest civil service trade union, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), has told its members not to listen, the Mail reports.

A spokesperson said: “We told the Cabinet Office in a meeting yesterday that this was completely unacceptable. 

“That demand is not based on our members’ health and safety, or on helping our economy, it is based entirely on political pressure being exerted by some Tory MPs who are demanding that the civil service is used as an example to get everybody back to work.

“People should only go back to work when it is safe to do so. Everyone’s health and safety must be the top priority. 

“We told the Cabinet Office that we weren’t prepared to accept this and they agreed to a meeting next week to start looking at the type of things that can be done to ensure that everyone can be safe.

“Our advice to members is clear. If you are working from home and you get approached by anyone in your department asking you to now go back to work, don’t just accept that’s what you have to do.”

They added that it was not time to “throw away members’ safety because of the demands of politicians”.

Many of Britain’s biggest businesses have told hundreds of thousands of office workers to stay at home, despite growing fears for the economy.

Only 10 per cent of staff at several top firms have returned to the workplace after switching to remote working during lockdown, a Mail audit revealed.

Unilever, BT, and the Royal Bank of Scotland are among those who have no immediate plans to bring employees back in.

But Whitehall departments have been told to prepare assessments of “productivity impacts associated with remote working” and “plans to address any backlogs in service fulfilment that have built up as a result of enforced absence from office working”. 

Thousands of Brits are struggling to register births or get passports due to Covid-19 delays. 

More than 150,000 babies are thought not to have legal status because parents have been unable to register births.

Grieving families are struggling to obtain probate to wind up their dead relatives’ estates.

And holidaymakers looking to make trips abroad face huge delays in getting new passports. 

Boris Johnson blames remote working for the public service backlog and has told officials he wants it cleared by the end of September. 

But last week the government’s top scientist crushed the PM’s plans to get people back to the office by insisting there is “absolutely no reason” for people to stop working from home.

Sir Patrick Vallance contradicted Downing Street by saying working from home remained a “perfectly good option because it’s easy to do”. 

And Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested earlier this month that bosses could be forced to offer everyone the chance to work from home if they want to.

He said he would consider changing the law to force employers to offer staff the option after the pandemic is over. 

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