June 4, 2020 / 7:49 AM / a month ago

Unite urges finance firms to step up call centre COVID-19 safety

LONDON (Reuters) - Employee union Unite has called on finance firms to do more to protect call centre staff after a survey of almost 3,000 employees exposed widespread fears about catching COVID-19 in workplaces where social distancing measures were falling short.

Independent research conducted by Professor Phil Taylor of the University of Strathclyde showed 37.8% of respondents were seated less than required 2 metres from colleagues, with one-in-six reporting seating distances of 1.5 metres or less.

Some 78% of respondents said they felt it was likely they would catch COVID-19, while 73% said they believed walking round their workplaces was either ‘hazardous’ or ‘very hazardous’.

“Employers from banks and insurance companies must consider this report urgently and re-double their efforts to keep their workforce safe,” Rob MacGregor, Unite national officer, said.

Almost half the respondents said they considered management to have been either ‘ineffective’ or ‘very ineffective’ in taking the necessary steps to ensure workplace social distancing.

Some 65.2% of respondents have requested to work from home to reduce risk of catching the virus. Only 4.8% of those have had their request approved. Some 31.7% of work-from-home applications were rejected and 63.5% are still waiting for a decision from bosses.

Reporting by Sinead Cruise, editing by Maiya Keidan

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