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Covid inquiry must include impact on workers, says TUC

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The consultation into the government’s draft terms of reference (ToR) for the forthcoming public inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic has closed today (8 April).


Issues covered in the draft are wide ranging. They include the impact of the pandemic on industries and the economic support given to businesses. Also, the procurement and provision of equipment like personal protective equipment and ventilators.

However, in submissions to the consultation which were shared publicly, organisations have expressed disappointment that the experience of workers have been omitted.

The Covid inquiry should look at how some workers – especially Black and minority ethnic, disabled and women workers – were hit hardest. Photograph: iStock

The TUC says workers faced greater risks because they remained in place during lockdowns. Unions are concerned that many of them were impacted by a lack of adequate PPE, lax workplace safety, and inadequate enforcement.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The inquiry must take a deep dive into workplace safety – especially into those workplaces and sectors where outbreaks occurred, and where government Covid safety rules fell short.

“And the inquiry must look in detail into how some workers – especially Black and minority ethnic, disabled and women workers – were particularly hard hit by the response to the pandemic.”

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists said the inquiry’s terms of reference must examine the impact on healthcare workers, including on their mental health and wellbeing, from issues including redeployment.

The draft terms of reference were published following consultation with the Inquiry Chair, Baroness Hallett, and her legal team.

The inquiry aims to produce "a factual, narrative account" covering decision-making at all levels of government and the response of the health and care sector as well as identifying the "lessons to be learned".

The Chair has committed to recommending any changes to the ToR as quickly as possible, so the Inquiry can begin.

However, any learnings will take longer than that. Writing for Kennedys Law, partner Danny McShee, also chair of the Health and Safety Lawyers Association, said. “Despite reports being published in a timely manner, it is likely that any lessons to be learnt or changes in public policy, or indeed legislation, are going to be a long time coming.”

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