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Non-essential Contact Centre Staff Working During Pandemic

Non-essential contact centre staff are sill working during the COVID-19 pandemic according to new study published by Professor Philip Taylor of the University of Strathclyde

The survey of over 2,000 contact centre workers across the UK by Professor Philip Taylor of the University of Strathclyde also raised concerns that social distancing measures have not been put in place in many contact centres.

The study suggests that two-thirds of staff still working in the sector have asked bosses to work from home, with just 2% of all requests being granted.

Roz Foyer, the general secretary designate of the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC), said:

“No-one doubts that many call centre workers are essential, frontline workers, they provide important advice and keep whole parts of our infrastructure going.

“But many others are working despite not undertaking essential roles. This reveals just how many non-essential call centre workers are being forced to carry on at a risk to themselves and the wider public.”

“Even where workers are essential vital safety precautions are not being taken. People report being crammed into lifts, working in environments with no proper ventilation, working face-to-face with colleagues and being required to continue to have meetings and ‘huddles’ face-to-face.”

Foyer has called on all call centres in Scotland to allow access to trade union health and safety representatives to allow a full assessment to be carried out.

Professor Philip Taylor of the University of Strathclyde said the survey

This survey lifts the lid on the nightmare being endured by many agents, with insufficient social distancing, multi-occupation workstations, overcrowded lifts, poor sanitation, re-used headsets, heating and ventilation systems spreading germs.

“Open plan office environments and face to face working will spread the virus and the evidence suggest that by and large home working is being denied.

“But alongside bad practice, there is exemplary behaviour where some employers are being highly responsive to requests for supportive home working and are implementing good procedure.

“We need a levelling up of practice and we need it urgently. The more workers complete surveys like the more likely we are to achieve that.”

– Only a third of workers reported that their employer was successfully implementing workplace distancing.

– Half of all workers surveyed said that they are working face to face with a co-worker, while over a third have been required to have face-to-face team meetings with a similar number describing being required to engage in team ‘huddles’.

Three-quarters were not provided with hand sanitiser, over half were dissatisfied with the cleaning of work surfaces and two-thirds were concerned about the sealed ventilation systems exacerbating the spread of the virus.

– Two-thirds of respondents had requested to work from home, but only two per cent were given permission to do so.