- Follow-up meeting held with BT to discuss members’ concerns
- Appropriate social distancing remains in place in England
- Staff to be positively encouraged to return to the office
The union wrote to you last month about BT’s plans to have more staff working from the office and how the company proposed to manage this process. In that communication we expressed concerns that the messages being issued by BT were different from those Prospect had received during consultation on the return to office working. As a result of those concerns and following feedback from members we held a further meeting with the company on 1 October.
A key concern expressed by Prospect was around social distancing. Whilst the Government have abandoned the mandatory nature of social distancing in England (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still have government restrictions in place) the company had assured us that some form of social distancing would continue to apply in BT offices. However, it was noticeable that when the Snow Hill building in Birmingham recently featured on national TV news there was very little if any social distancing being observed. Furthermore, the union received reports from members that meetings were being held in rooms where at times it was standing room only.
At our recent meeting the company once again assured Prospect that appropriate social distancing should still apply in BT offices. Indeed, the company made it clear to our representatives that one metre social distancing applies where colleagues are sat adjacent to each other and two metres when they are meeting face-to-face. Moreover, BT stated that meeting rooms are configured to ensure that these measures of social distancing are observed.
Notwithstanding what the company have told us about social distancing the union has received feedback from members that they have felt uncomfortable when being asked to attend meetings where rooms appear crowded. On this point the union received an unequivocal assurance from BT that staff will be fully supported if they challenge a failure to observe social distancing and then choose to remove themselves from meetings if it is not remedied. Moreover, the union will give our full support to members who take this action and welcome any feedback from you on where breaches of social distancing may be taking place.
Finally, both BT and Prospect are agreed that there must be a risk assessment approach to how each individual building is managed. Our union safety reps are playing a key role in ensuring that appropriate risk assessments are in place and are being applied correctly. The union continues to have a concern about different approaches from individual CFUs in managing the return to what is essentially a shared space. However, we continue to support BT’s approach to returning to offices, one that is based upon positive encouragement at the individual level rather than a blanket mandate.