When coronavirus restrictions first came into place last year, we saw our essential retail workers in supermarkets step up and do their best to ensure that our country kept ticking over. In order to give some level of protection to these workers, the Welsh Government was the first to create laws which placed a duty on employers to take all reasonable measures to stop the spread of the virus and keep their workers safe.
Systems were introduced and guidance was given to supermarkets on what was expected of them to keep their customers and workers safe. Sadly we have seen these practices slip in recent months, prompting many constituents to contact me with concerns about visiting supermarkets.
The Welsh Government has worked in partnership with trade unions and supermarkets, to introduce new laws which raise the expectations placed on supermarkets.
This includes having sanitiser available at the entrance for hands, trolleys and baskets, visible signage to emphasise social distancing and one-way systems, regular tannoy announcements and a limit to the number of people in store at any one time.
The new laws also place an expectation on any business which employs more than five people, to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments and to ensure that as many people as possible are working from home.
It will be a legal requirement for all workplaces with five or more employees to carry out a Covid risk assessment. All businesses will need to re-run their risk assessments to take account of the new strain of coronavirus and to cover ventilation, social distancing, PPE and face coverings, as well as making sure that the maximum number of people are supported to work from home where it is practical to do so. Crucially, staff and trade unions must be involved in the carrying out of risk assessments and they must be made available to staff.
This is in complete contrast to the UK Government, whose apparent plans to roll back workers’ rights was revealed by a Financial Times article, the same day that the Welsh Government announced their plans to strengthen the measures in place to protect workers.
I’m not just committed to working for better protections and conditions in work here at home but across the country as a whole, chairing the Wales Workforce Partnership Council and serving as Vice Chair of the Health and Safety Forum, working in partnership with trade unions and employers, on issues around rights and safety in the workplace.
There has never been a more important time for people to be aware of their rights and responsibilities at work, to that end I am pleased to have led on a Welsh Government ‘Know your rights and responsibilities’ campaign. Working with the Wales TUC, FSB, CBI and Chambers Wales, the campaign aims to increase awareness of and access to expert advice available for both workers and businesses.
To find out more about workplace rights and responsibilities please go to – www.businesswales.gov.wales/skillsgateway/workforce-rights-and-responsibilities
If any constituents have any questions around their rights at work, want to learn more, or have any general queries, then please get in touch with me on 01352 762102 or at Hannah.Blythyn@senedd.wales.