You will no doubt have seen the message from the business in respect of the company’s plan to encourage more people back into the office. Indeed, the union uses the word “encourage” advisedly as the company has assured Prospect that staff who have been working from home, largely under the instruction or guidance of the government during the pandemic, will not be mandated to return to the office. However, the BT communications to managers indicates that the plan is to significantly increase the number of people attending the office from what we have seen thus far.
Prospect accept that this is very difficult issue for employers and members. Once again, we see the government urging businesses to get more employees back in the office against the backdrop of worrying news on Covid 19. Furthermore, yesterday’s communication from BT comes on the back of an announcement from the Prime Minister on Tuesday that if the pandemic continues its current trajectory, then restrictive measures will need to be considered, including guidance to work from home. Of course, we all hope that this will not be necessary and that the NHS is not overwhelmed. Unfortunately, experience during the pandemic tells us that when you remove restrictions the virus increases its spread. Therefore, we have continued to urge BT to take the measured and cautious approach they have maintained up until now and to continue to use encouragement rather than mandating to refamiliarise staff with office working.
Having seen the messages from the business the union is concerned about the speed at which changes are being implemented. Indeed, the messages say the changes will be in place by 1 October when the union had been assured that there would be no change in measures until after 1 October. Furthermore, we are confused by the company’s position on social distancing. For example, the message being sent by BT is that meeting room capacities will return to pre-pandemic levels yet only last week the business was informing us that capacity would be increased in some larger meeting rooms, but only where social distancing could be maintained. We have relayed these concerns to BT and have now received clarification of their current position on social distancing which you can read here.
Finally, it is essential that Prospect get clarity on what has been announced by BT as there are clear differences from what we were being told last week. Furthermore, we would caution the company against abandoning the sensible and measured approach they have taken in respect of Covid 19 up to this point. Moreover, if you do feel you are being unduly pressured to return to the office then please contact the Prospect Member Contact Centre.
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