Four in five workers are think returning to work will put their family at risk, a GMB survey has revealed.
The poll which was completed by a sample of almost 3,500 workers across a wide range of sectors showed 60% are worried about being pressured into returning to work, with 95% worried about catching coronavirus.
The survey also revealed 80% of workers found that the return to work advice unclear – less than 8% found it clear.
Disturbing personal testimony from members included ‘terrified’ workers being bullied into returning, to ‘dangerous environments’ and suffering panic attacks with worry.
Husbands, wives and parents of people with cancer also feel forced back into the work place and are terrified of bringing the deadly virus home with them.
It comes as the majority of school support staff remain unconvinced by the Government’s messaging that schools in England will be safe to open to more pupils from June 1, a survey suggests.
Only 2% of school support staff said they felt reassured by Boris Johnson’s speech and recent Government guidance that it would be safe if pupil numbers increased from next month, according to a poll by Unison who have warned against rushing to reopen schools to meet an “arbitrary date”.
With just 10 days to go until schools could reopen more widely, ministers have come under increasing pressure from education unions and council leaders who have urged the Government to reconsider their plans to send pupils in nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 back to school from as early as June 1.
John Phillips, Acting GMB General Secretary, said: “We need a safe and managed return to normal working but that isn’t happening yet.
“Those facing going back to work need reassurance their welfare and those of their families is being put first but too many are living in fear of the danger they and their loved ones are now facing.
“The Government’s unclear advice and failure to enforce workplace standards means risky behaviour by some employers could see all of us punished with a resurgence of the virus that could destabilise our country’s recovery.
“It’s on Ministers to get this right – they need to be led by the evidence and provide clear plans for the safe return to work.
“Their responses to this crisis would be an international laughing-stock if the consequences of their failures were not so deadly serious.”
Selected testimony from survey:
“Feeling bullied into returning to work. Telephone calls asking and indirect emails.”
“I started getting panic attacks to hear that we have to return back to work.”
“Not ready to go back to work because my son just had his bone marrow transplant last week. I am scared to catch virus.”
“My main concern is my wife at home who is vulnerable, she has a rare blood cancer.”
“Very worried, my mother-in-law has stage 4 cancer, we have to take her to the hospital every week. We would be putting her at risk.”
”Just worried as my husband has leukaemia, and is very high risk, and I have asthma. Very scared of being with people, we have been isolating throughout the whole lockdown.”
“I am 70 and my husband has a bad heart – I am scared of catching it and passing it on to him I’m sure he wouldn’t cope.”
“I was pressured to return following an operation. I have a 91 yr old extremely vulnerable dad I am trying to shield. No PPE is given.”
“The manager where I work – who has not set foot on the premises since the outbreak of the pandemic – recently sent an email instructing staff not to use PPE (masks) unless service users are infected.”
“Gov. advice is to wash hands – we don’t even have hot water. I am being asked to be a martyr.”
“My youngest son is severely special needs and is shielding. I am concerned about him catching the virus and the risks he faces.”
“I have multiple sclerosis, so I am naturally concerned if we did have to return to work. Whilst It doesn’t mean I am more likely to get it but if I did then it would be a very long recovery.”
“I feel pressured to return, as though I do not have a choice. “
“Management need to come back to the yard instead of barking orders from the safety of their homes.”
“My daughter has severe mental health and she hasn’t left the house in two years. I worry about passing something onto her. If she needs medical help she won’t be able to access it.”
“Employer is constantly trying to find loopholes in the guidance. It is clear that our sector is not safe, but the guidelines are not clear enough.
“Returning to work on June 1st is ludicrous but I have no choice. Either I go or I lose my job.
“I received an NHS letter advising me to shield 25/4/2020 from my GP surgery. My manager is disputing the validity of the letter as my condition is not on the extremely vulnerable list.”
“I know that my employer will not listen to my concerns. A friend and employee has raised concerns regarding social distancing, the answer from management was ‘you can always be furloughed’.”
“My wife is 70 and has a heart condition. I feel the Government has a collateral damage figure to save the economy.”
“I feel uncomfortable about being pressured to return to my workplace by the Government, not my employer at present. “
“Our management have told us that we can’t social distance all the time as it impossible.”
“I’ve the choice of SSP of £94 per week or a full wage for a family of 5 and a mortgage hardly a choice no choice other to work.”
“I felt pressurised to come back to work in very dangerous environment.”
“Although not being told officially I have to carry on as normal there is an undercurrent of pressure to get back to work and visit sites. “
“Terrified at thought of going back to work… not left house for a week before lockdown.. vulnerable group but not extremely vulnerable group.”
“I am a single parent and this worries me a lot as my children’s father has passed away so only have me to depend on. “
“My anxiety level went through the roof when the PM said schools to open. How do we know who has got the virus and if people have followed the lockdown rules because I have and I’m scared.”
“I’m really anxious about going back to work with this virus still not under control, which is at times giving me sleepless nights.”
“We were told if we don’t make ourselves available for work when they need us it would go as an unauthorised absence.”