This morning, UVW-SAW members from two architectural offices exercised their legal right to individually refuse to return to their respective offices over COVID-19 safety concerns. They did so pursuant to Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 because of their belief of the very serious and imminent risk COVID-19 faces to their safety that they cannot reasonably be expected to avert.
UVW-SAW demands that all architectural employers immediately cease compelling workers to travel and work in unsafe offices – directly contravening recent Government instruction to work from home in all reasonable circumstances.
On 5 January, the Government announced a third Nationwide Lockdown to minimise the ever increasing rapid spread of Covid-19 across the UK. RIBA has since issued guidance specifying that Chartered Practices have a duty “to provide their colleagues & employees with a fair, safe & equitable working environment”. There is increasing evidence that Covid-19 is being spread in inadequately ventilated indoor spaces such as in architectural offices where workers spend long periods of time in proximity to each other. The problem lies not only within office buildings themselves but workers’ necessity to travel across cities on public transport, increasing the threat to themselves and the general public.
At this stage in the second wave of this deadly pandemic, where Covid-19 infection rates are rising at an unprecedented rate, we renew our demands for safety and responsibility within the architectural sector. Employers should immediately wholly embrace and facilitate working from home arrangements for all architectural workers.
Speaking in response to the walkouts, Jake Arnfield, Elected SAW Organiser, said the following:
“SAW stands ready to assist all members to exercise their individual legal right to protect themselves from working in unsafe and poorly ventilated workspaces during in this COVID-19 pandemic. We urge all those working in the sector who are not already members of SAW to join UVW today. You have the right to a safe working environment and SAW will hold all employers to account how fail to respect this fundamental and non-negotiable right”.
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UVW-SAW is a grassroots trade union for architectural workers in the U.K. SAW takes action and fights against the negative impacts of architectural work on workers, communities, and the environment. You can join SAW as a member here.