Banks risking call centre staff’s lives with work from home bans

Workers are scared.

Call centre workers fear catching coronavirus and spreading it to their families as their bank and insurance company employers refuse to let them work from home, a report has found.

The report was commissioned by the Unite union and conducted by Professor Phil Taylor of the University of Strathclyde.

After surverying 3,000 staff in financial call centres across the UK, Taylor found:

  • 78% of staff thought they would catch coronavirus
  • 38% sit less than two metres from a colleague
  • 50% said there was often only a short distance and a low panel seperating them from the colleague opposite
  • 73% said moving throughout the building was hazardous. Corridors and walkways are often narrow, Taylor said.
  • 45% said management have been ineffective in enforcing social distancing
  • 62% had requested to work from home. Of these, 4% had been told they could, 32% were told they couldn’t – the rest were waiting for an answer.

The report concludes that, even with the best intentions, social distancing is flawed. Risk factors include inadequate cleaning and sanitisation, hot-desking, bad ventilation and air-con systems and demanding workloads. This makes “homeworking a necessity not an optional benefit,” the report concludes.

Professor Phil Taylor said: “Organisations now have an urgent responsibility to re-assess the configuration of their services and swiftly home locate those many who are in a position to do so and want to. Rapid action will save some lives. Inaction will cause further deaths and serious illness.”

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

“Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis the staff in contact and call centres have worked tirelessly as key workers to serve customers, often despite their own safety fears. The report today makes clear the areas where urgent discussion between employers and trade unions must be stepped up.

“Unite the union representatives will be raising the findings of this research with employers and pressing for action to ensure the highest possible safety of our members as they work hard to serve finance sector customers.”

Joe Lo is a co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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