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Serious concerns about high-risk workers being forced back onsite – CTU

Reports of employers requiring immunocompromised workers to return to work in Auckland are highly concerning, and risk putting workers’ health in danger and undermining New Zealand’s public health responses, says Acting Secretary of the Council of Trade Unions Tali Williams.

“It is very disappointing and inappropriate that certain employers including The Warehouse Group, which includes Torpedo7 and 1-day, are forcing high-risk people back to work at a time when Auckland, in particular, is seeing increasing transmission of COVID-19 in the community.

“These are workers with cancer, heart conditions, diabetes and asthma, as well as those with high-risk children at home who are too young to be vaccinated themselves.”

“It is not the decision of an employer whether it is safe for an immunocompromised or other affected person to attend work, that’s for a medical practitioner to decide.

“Requiring’ someone to attend work that may put them or someone else at an inappropriate risk of severe health risks or even death is a breach of an employer’s obligations under the Health and Safety Act at Work Act.

“Threatening workers with dismissal or cutting their income if they do not comply with an order that puts their health at risk is unreasonable.

“These are the very people the team of five million has sacrificed to protect over the past 18 months. It is unfathomable that they should now be forced back into the community when COVID cases are higher than ever

“There’s also no good reason for businesses to require this – the Government has made the Leave Support Scheme available as a subsidy to help assist at-risk workers. Businesses should be taking advantage of this support instead of putting their workers’ health at risk,” says Tali Williams.