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ARCHITECTURAL UNION CONDEMNS INADEQUATE RESPONSES TO COVID-19 OUTBREAK

The lack of care from some architectural employers for their staff’s health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 crisis is placing many architectural workers in unsafe and highly precarious positions. The architectural sector has been overwhelmingly slow to implement the necessary measures to ensure staff safety. 

United Voices of the World – Section of Architectural Workers (UVW-SAW) are demanding employers recognise the seriousness of this situation by: actively encouraging and facilitating flexible working, ensuring full salary (sick) pay for those not able to work because of the crisis, and by guaranteeing that no one is made redundant because of issues arising from COVID-19.  

The profession is dumbfounded and wholly unprepared to appropriately deal with this situation. It highlights so clearly the pre-existing vulnerabilities of workers in our profession” says Jake Arnfield, UVW-SAW member and coordinator. 

The stories we are hearing highlight how some employers neglect their duty of care to their staff in the sector compared to, for example, Higher Education where most universities have already moved all teaching to online platforms” says Kirti Durelle, UVW-SAW member and coordinator. 

Many practices are not sufficiently equipped to allow their staff to work from home, and most are still asking workers to continue to come into the office putting their own health and that of others at risk. The implementation of flexible working measures are frequently relying on employees’ own hardware, software, and domestic internet connection. Those without such are less eligible to work from home, and fear not being paid if they decide to self-isolate. Even if they recieve sick pay, many workers are only paid statutory sick pay which is not enough for them to afford to live. One union member, who wished to remain anonymous, said “If I fall ill, I have no safety net – I cannot pay rent and survive on statutory sick pay alone so I feel pressured to just keep working.” 

In light of these evolving circumstances, UVW-SAW is calling on employers to recognise the seriousness of the situation and act responsibility and in the best interests of the country by: 

1. Encouraging and facilitating flexible working arrangements: No worker should be pressured to go into the office if it poses a risk to their and others’ health. Flexible working arrangements need to be implemented immediately for all members of the workforce. In the event that this is not feasible, an employer should ask staff to remain at home and pay them their full salary.

2. Ensuring full salary sick pay for those not able to work because of COVID-19: If a worker has to self-isolate because they are experiencing Coronavirus symptoms, they should receive their full salary in sick pay for the full duration of the recommended self-isolation.

3. Guaranteeing no one is made redundant because of issues arising from COVID-19: No one should be dismissed or made redundant as a result of issues arising from the Coronavirus outbreak, particularly if they decide not to come to work without their employer’s express consent.

The union would like to hear from architectural workers in the sector about how their employers are responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Please fill in their survey here or email at: saw@uvwunion.org.uk

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