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These are the 7 most dangerous industries in the UK…

JMW Solicitors has explored and ranked the UK’s most injury-causing industries, using the latest data from the government agency Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to share insight into the factors influencing a high rate of injuries.

Richard Powell, Head of Personal Injury at JMW Solicitors, explains the greatest risks of injury within each industry and shares expert safeguarding practices to prepare for preventable injuries… 

7. Waste

The waste industry accounted for three fatal injuries to workers in 2020/21. The causes of these fatalities were being struck by a moving vehicle, having contact with moving machinery, and being struck by a moving or falling object. 

Powell said: “The fatalities here were caused by hazards we see regularly across all industries; being struck by a moving object accounted for 17 deaths between 2020/21, while being struck by a moving vehicle resulted in 25 deaths. Ensuring that all personnel in the vicinity of a moving vehicle or object are aware of the mobile hazard is the best way to reduce the risk of injury.”

6. Transport and storage

The rate of death increases in the transport and storage industry – 10 workers were killed in 2020/21. Unsurprisingly, the leading cause of death was being struck by a moving vehicle, followed by falling from a height.

Powell said: “If working at a height, it is vital that extensive safety measures, such as rail guards and arrest blocks, are in place throughout the working site. We often see negligent practices and staff training, which often lead to injuries.”

5. Admin and support services

An estimated 65,000 workers in public administration and defence suffered from a work-related illness that was caused or worsened by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

There were a further 70,000 work-related cases of stress, depression or anxiety – or 3.1% of the workforce.

Powell said: “There needs to be better recognition of the dangers of work-related stress, depression and anxiety, and the impact this has on the workforce. There is a higher rate of such cases here than in any other industry, highlighting the need for mental wellbeing practices being instilled from the top-level down.” 

4. Wholesale, retail, motor repair, accommodation and food

Accommodation and food services see a rate of 2,460 injuries per 100,000 workers. The wholesale and retail trade sectors report an only slightly lower figure of 2,100. 

Both figures dwarf the all-industry average, which stands at 1,680. 

Powell said: “The figures represented here also include the motor repair sector, in which injury causes are led by being struck by a moving vehicle. When good communicative practices are in place, such as verbal and physical signals, the chance of coming into contact with a moving vehicle is greatly reduced.” 

3. Manufacturing

The manufacturing sector experienced 20 fatal injuries to its workers – a five-year high.

Fatalities were predominantly caused by falling from a height, closely followed by being struck by a moving object, and contact with moving machinery rounded off the top three. 

2. Agriculture, forestry and fishing

The industry saw 34 fatal injuries to its workers in 2020/21, a sizeable increase on the annual average of 28 in the four years prior. 

Of these, 30% were caused by being struck by a moving vehicle, and 16% by an animal. 

Powell said: “The agriculture, forestry and fishing industries face unique hazards, many of which are life-threatening. We have also seen a substantially higher rate of musculoskeletal disorders pertaining to this line of work than in any other industry. 

Cases of ‘farmer’s lung’ and occupational asthma are rife in the sector – the former causing an average of seven deaths a year. More has to be done to protect workers from such conditions, and ensure that they are aware of their rights should they suffer from an illness caused by working.”

1. Construction

The construction industry sees the highest rate of worker fatalities in the UK, with 39 deaths in the last year. Falling from a height caused half of these fatalities.

Powell said: “The rate of non-fatal injuries in construction does not deviate from other industries – but falling from a height causes half of all fatalities, which points to an area in which more pressure has to be applied. Organisations must endeavour to better protect their workers, revisiting the practices in place to train employees to work safely at a height.

The fact that the fatal injury rate in the construction industry is around four times that of the all-industry rate clearly bears additional work on employers to safeguard workers.”

123 workers killed in work-related accidents in 2021/22 

A hundred and twenty-three workers were killed in work-related accidents in Great Britain in the last year, according to figures published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The annual data release covers the period from April 2021 to March 2022, during which time most pandemic restrictions were lifted and the economy began returning to normal.

The industries with the highest deaths were construction (30), agriculture, forestry, and fishing (22), and manufacturing (22); though agriculture, forestry and fishing has the highest rate of fatal injury per 100,000 workers.

The three most common causes of fatal injuries continue to be falling from height (29), being struck by a moving vehicle (23), and being struck by a moving object (18).

The 123 worker deaths in 2021/22 is lower than the previous year, though it is in line with pre-pandemic figures. There has been a long-term downward trend in the rate of fatal injuries to workers, though in the years prior to the coronavirus pandemic the rate was broadly flat.

A further 80 members of the public were killed following a work-related accident in 2021/22. This is an increase on the previous year but below the pre-pandemic level. This is likely to reflect the various COVID-19 restrictions in place.

The release of the annual figures coincides with the 50th anniversary this month of the publication of the Robens report. The landmark report led to the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974, which ultimately led to the HSE being set up the following year.

Since then, Great Britain has become one of the safest places in the world to work with the number of workplace deaths and injuries falling significantly.

HSE’s Chief Executive Sarah Albon said: “While Great Britain is one of the safest countries in the world to work, today’s figures show we must continue to ensure safety remains a priority. Every loss of life is a tragedy, and we are committed to making workplaces safer and holding employers to account for their actions, as part of our mission to protect people and places.”

The figures relate to work-related accidents and do not include deaths arising from occupational diseases or diseases arising from certain occupational exposures (including Covid-19).

The HSE has also published the annual figures for Mesothelioma, which is a cancer that can be caused by past exposure to asbestos. The figures show that 2,544 people died from the disease in 2020. This is in line with the average of 2,523 deaths over the previous eight years. Current mesothelioma deaths reflect exposure to asbestos that mainly occurred before the 1980s and annual deaths are expected to decline during the next decade.

Only a third of employers offer financial support to all staff in the event of ill health, injury or death

As the cost of living continues to bite, new research from GRiD, the industry body for the group risk sector shows that only a third of employers say they offer their entire workforce financial support if they are long term absent2 (i.e. for six months or more), diagnosed with a serious illness, or die while being in employment. 

The figures rise by a third if the number of employers who say they offer support to some, rather than all, employees is considered but those employers who only offer financial support to those at a certain level of experience, seniority, or pay, are leaving those least able to cope financially the most vulnerable.

One third of employees and their families are currently left entirety without any financial support during times of a health difficulty or crisis.

 If an employee…
 is long-term absent (for six months or more) due to ill health, disability or injuryis diagnosed with a serious illnessdies while being in employment
Employers who offer support for ‘all’ staff35%33%34%
Employers who offer support for ‘some’ staff33%33%33%
Employers who offer ‘opt in’ insurance benefits8%8%6%
Employers who do not offer any support33%34%34%

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, said: “Wider industry statistics indicate that the number of employers who offer support is actually much lower in practice, and given the current squeeze on household finances, this highlights a woeful lack of financial support and security for many employees. 

“As individuals, we like to think that ‘it won’t happen to us’ and perhaps, as optimistic employers, the tendency is also to think that ‘it won’t happen to our employees’ but it can and does. Support for serious issues like absence, illness and death is affordable and accessible for employers to offer their staff. We would encourage those who don’t offer any support to do some investigation and those who only offer support to some staff to consider making it available to everyone.”

The UK Group Risk industry paid out £2.22bn in claims in 2021 to 30,932 employees – equivalent to £6.1m a day, demonstrating the extent to which these employee benefits help employees and their families to cope financially when their lives take a turn for the worse.

Debunking the myths on group risk protection insurance (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness benefits)

·       Many employers wrongly believe that providing this financial support is expensive but the cover is found in some of the most affordable benefits and can start from as little as 0.1% of payroll.

·       Some employers believe that it is not their responsibility to provide financial support but increasingly staff are looking to their employer for help in all aspects of their lives. Not only is it the right thing to do, but employers who do not take suitable action risk their reputation which could lead to recruitment and retention issues.

·       Employers sometimes assume that staff prefer more tangible or immediate gratification. While this may have been the case, the pandemic has meant many employees have revaluated their position and are now more likely to value financial support of this kind.

Reflecting on the disparity of only offering protection benefits to some staff, Moxham added: “I cannot imagine being on the HR team that has to tell one member of staff that they are eligible for financial support and then having to tell another that, for whatever reasons, they are not on the same scheme. When two individuals face a health crisis, they both deserve access to financial support.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the past two years, it’s that we should expect the unexpected. With the right support in place, however, when life does take an unexpected twist or turn, it does not need to have a detrimental financial impact on the employee or their loved ones.

Who cares for the carers?

June 6th marks the start of Carers Week the theme of which is ‘make caring visible, valued and supported’. With a growing number of employees now facing dual caring responsibilities, this is an important issue for staff and business alike. 

With this in mind Cream HR director Anthony Sutton is asking the question what can businesses do to support carers in the workforce whilst also operating a successful business?

Millions of people in the UK (and globally) are facing an incredibly challenging time in their lives.  Life expectancy has been growing for decades and the care of our elderly is therefore falling on offspring, who are generally of working age, and lasting for many years. When this is combined with the fact that people are now starting families later in life, the burden of caring for both children and parents is often falling at the same time.  Those for whom this is affecting, known as the ‘sandwich generation’ are carrying huge pressures that can threaten to overwhelm them.

According to a new poll commissioned by leading UK employee benefits provider Unum, it is estimated that more than 6 million people in the UK workforce — over 1 in 5 workers — are juggling dual caring responsibilities for children and elderly relatives and these numbers are expected to grow.

For the majority of these people the challenges of looking after children, ageing parents and maintaining a job can cause untold pressure – financial burdens, time commitments, stress and worry. 

With Carer’s Week approaching, and the challenges faced by this generation not expected to let up any time soon, it is vitally important that employers recognise the issues raised and find ways of supporting their employees, whilst also maintaining a successful business.

So what can businesses do to support carers in the workforce?  Anthony Sutton says “as always is matters of people, communicate and be flexible.”

  • Provide an open forum for employees to voice their concerns
  • Reassure them that you understand their situation
  • Be flexible with requests from employees to move their working hours to accommodate planned appointments or emergencies
  • Consider benefits packages that include healthcare support for employees and their families
  • Provide employees with access to wealth management or financial advice as the financial pressures can be a huge burden
  • Inform employees about childcare support options such as tax-free childcare
  • If employees run out of annual leave or other paid leave consider being more flexible around offering unpaid leave or working back hours at a later time
  • If an employee needs quite a bit of time off, you could consider offering a sabbatical
  • Consider fundraising/supporting/offering volunteering opportunities for a charity chosen by an employee e.g., a local hospice, children’s hospital etc to help your employee feel appreciated and understood at a difficult time for them.

Sutton says: “Whilst these steps won’t alleviate the dual caring responsibilities for your employee, they will undoubtedly help the employee feel supported and better able to manage the challenges they face.  This should mean that they are able to concentrate better when they are at work and will enable them to re-engage with work properly when the time comes. Whilst caring for the team is important it is also vital that employers put contingencies in place to look after themselves.”

It can be hard for employers to lose employees to other commitments when they have a business to run and so whilst they should keep communicating and aiming to understand that unforeseen challenges might occur, it is also vital to set some realistic expectations.  This could mean setting clear priorities and business critical deadlines for things that need to be completed by a certain time.  Employers should also be aware that discrimination by association is illegal.  This means that if an employee cares for someone with a disability then they will be protected by the Equality Act 2010, and any disciplinary action taken by the employer with regards to this may be unlawful.

86% of employers think employees require more support for health and wellbeing since the pandemic

Of the four pillars of health and wellbeing – mental, physical, social, and financial health – mental health has been placed as the top issue for concern from employers and also the area where employees would most like more support, with 40% of employers saying they are more concerned about the mental health of staff since the pandemic.  

That’s according to the results from Towergate Health & Protection’s research into the changes in health and wellbeing support needed by employees since the pandemic.

Increasing concerns 

Employers are also now more concerned about all areas of health and wellbeing:

  • 22% are more concerned about the physical health of employees, with difficulty getting to see GPs, pressures on the NHS, and delays in being diagnosed and treated for serious conditions. 
  • 17% are more concerned for the financial health of employees since the pandemic. 
  • 13% are more concerned about social health including, for instance, increased isolation.

Changing expectations
Over half (53%) of employers say their employees would like more mental health support since the pandemic. Forty-one percent feel that social support is needed more than previously. Over a third (36%) believe their staff now want more support for their financial health, and another third (36%) also think employees want more help with their physical health since the pandemic. 

Overall, this means that 86% of employers believe employee expectations have changed and that they require more support for their health and wellbeing since the pandemic. 

Larger corporates Vs SMEs
The impact of the pandemic on mental health effect appears to have been felt more by employees in larger companies. Nearly half (49%) of employers in companies with 250+ staff said they are more concerned about the mental health of staff since the pandemic. This compares to 37% of SMEs. 

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of large corporates said employees would like more mental health support than previously, compared to less than half (46%) of SMEs. 

Brett Hill, head of distribution for Towergate Health & Protection, said: “Employers need to re-evaluate their healthand wellbeing support in the wake of Covid. Working practices have changed and so have attitudes and expectations. It is important for any health and wellbeing programme to recognise the changing needs of employees and to be adaptable as we adjust to life post-pandemic.”  

Surveying needs
A good way to re-evaluate and reposition health and wellbeing is to start by asking employees what they want. This may be through a simple survey or a more complex mix of ideas forums, research, and focus groups. Being aware that requirements may have changed is an important first step.   

Making help available
While mental health has been highlighted as the biggest issue, the research shows that increased support is required across all four of the pillars of health and wellbeing. Employers need to ensure that employees have access to the support that will most benefit them and meet with their individual requirements.   A benefits platform can also assist here where employees can access all benefits in one place. 

Mental health support can be available in many forms, from talking with colleagues and managers, to offering access to specialist independent counselling. 

Health and fitness benefits have advanced greatly recently. There are now a great many apps, reward schemes and groups to help encourage staff to have a healthy lifestyle, including starting and maintaining fitness regimes. The pandemic has seen a rise in the use of virtual GPs and online consultations, and these can make appointments easier to arrange and quicker to attend. 

It is social lives that have perhaps changed the most throughout the pandemic. It is important for employers to look at new ways to allow employees to socialise together, especially if a move has been made to hybrid working. 

Financial health must not be forgotten. Financial concerns can cause a great deal of stress, leading itself to physical, mental and social ill health. Benefits that help people manage their finances, and that offer a direct financial benefit can be a great support to employees.

Hill concluded: ‘There have been a lot of challenges for businesses and their workforces to deal with during the pandemic, and these have affected all areas of health and wellbeing. Now is a good time for employers to look at solutions available for them to help their staff.’

73% of employees will choose next employer based on health and wellbeing support

A survey of UK employers and employees has shown that while just over half (56%) of employers admit they regularly check in with all employees to enquire about their health and wellbeing and 55% provide laptops, 73% of employees are ready to choose their next employer based on physical, health and wellbeing support and flexible technology provision.

The Future of Work survey by Ergotron, a global company designing and manufacturing ergonomic solutions to improve workspaces and interaction with technology, revealed that despite 88% of employers seeing the importance of bringing  IT devices when working in different rooms, almost a quarter (23%) of employers disagreed that the provision of the right ergonomic work conditions and support in employees’ health and overall well-being would be a strong asset in talent acquisition.

This rose to 43% in organisations with 250-500 employees, and a staggering 64% of HR industry respondents. However, the finance and tech sectors most appreciate the significance of these factors, with 80% of those in IT/telecoms and 75% of those in finance agreeing the importance.

However, employers appear to have the ambition to make a success of remote working, appreciating the importance of an agile working environment. 73% think it’s important for workers to be able to switch between sitting and standing to support their physical needs while at work (87% of businesses with 250-500 employees) and over half (52%) of workers consider it important.

Due to the need to collaborate with remote teams, and to work from home, the office or other locations, flexibility of technology, and portability of devices, has become critical too. 77% of employees and 88% of employers agreed on the importance of being able to bring their IT devices with them when working in different rooms. Yet only 55% of employers claim they are supplying a laptop to workers for home, office or third space.

Results of the survey showed a clear disparity in terms of equipment employees deem essential  and what employers provide. Despite 89% of workers and 89% of employers citing a laptop as important, only 65% of all employees claim to have been provided one and 55% of employers admit to providing one. 75% of workers and 81% of employers concurred on the importance of an ergonomic chair, yet again, only 19% of workers claimed employers had supplied them with one.

With an increasing amount of technology applications required for typical work roles, 65% of employers said it’s important to have a large screen monitor (between 30 – 49 inches) but less than a third (28%) of employees have been supplied one and 30% of employers admitted they had provided one. 15% of workers claimed employers had not provided any equipment at all – including a laptop, ergonomic chair, large monitor, or a subsidy for equipment. While 30% of employers claim to offer a subsidy to workers to buy their own equipment, only 17% of employees claim they have been offered this.

Richard Guy, Country Sales Manager UK & Ireland at Ergotron, said: “We’re now in the third year of a new workstyle for most organisations, and business leaders should by now have assessed their workspaces and at least be in planning to deliver for workers’ needs – their organisation’s biggest asset. The importance of the need for adaptable workstyles has grown hugely to build safe, healthy, productive, and collaborative working environments – and workers’ needs sit well above what their employers are currently providing. Most alarming is the lack of attention to workers’ comfort and wellbeing while at work. In addressing this and other dedicated resources for a remote or hybrid workstyle, employers will provide supportive working environments which attract and retain staff, which is the making of a business. Given the business need for digital agility, deferring remote working provision will hold organisations back regardless of size or sector.”

Whistleblowing increasing in workplaces as staff empowered to report wrongdoing

Culture changes and new hybrid working patterns created by the global pandemic are raising unforeseen HR and health and safety issues among employees, according to a new report.

The pandemic and frequent changes in rules and guidance have created uncertainty and increases in misconduct in many workplaces, resulting in higher reporting rates of whistleblowing.

Safecall’s Whistleblowing Benchmark Report 2022 highlights the rise in reporting rates, the trends, and areas of reported wrongdoing in different sectors. The data contained within this annual report – based on anonymised data from more than 750 organisations with 2.5 million employees – is aimed at helping companies and organisations understand the trends in misconduct.

Report author Greg Ogle, client account manager at Safecall, said: “The data is designed to inform and help organisations make better decisions when it comes to establishing whistleblowing arrangements. It should help HR and health & safety managers or departments to determine and measure performance of their organisation against their peers.

“There are many factors associated with an effective whistleblowing management system. Working across an extensive client base, in 108 countries, we have established best practice guidance to help organisations get the most from their whistleblowing arrangements.”

While legislation (EU Whistleblowing Directive) and compliance are among the drivers of change, many businesses and organisations see that whistleblowing establishes an improved workplace, where employees are respected, which has the added benefit of improving overall wellbeing.

Greg explained that more employees are being encouraged and empowered to do the right thing and report wrongdoing at work; likewise, more employers are recognising the ethical benefits of supporting staff to report wrongdoing safely.

The latest Report, which covers 2021, reveals that trends during the year appear to have reverted to more normal patterns after the shock of Covid-19 in 2020. Dishonest behaviour and general misconduct reports were back to similar levels seen in 2019.

However, the ongoing pandemic meant the number of health and safety reports remained higher than in past years and HR reports continued to rise.

Reporting rates vary year on year for every organisation with whistleblowing arrangements. The company culture, the current change agenda and growth strategy all contribute to the number of concerns raised by employees. Those companies that regularly promote, refresh and talk about their ‘Speak Up’ services receive more reports year on year.

Safecall evaluates reports into four classifications – HR, general, dishonest behaviour, and health & safety. During 2021 the number of health & safety reports decreased as Covid rules became more normalised and widely accepted. This was replaced by an increase in the number of general reports, mainly related to company policy and procedure. Reports continued to be predominantly HR related, accounting for more than 55% of all reports in 2021.

Within the HR classification, reports from employees are categorised under bullying, discrimination, harassment, racism, unfair treatment, and victimisation. The data reveals that ‘unfair treatment’ is the main complaint with slight increases in bullying and harassment reported in 2021.

When it comes to health & safety reports, the number of reports remains higher than pre-pandemic albeit slightly lower than in 2020. Substance abuse continues to be the main issue, particularly within certain sectors.

Dishonest behaviour reports remained consistent with 2020, albeit with a decrease in the number of integrity and fraud issues raised.

Within the general classification, there continued to be an emphasis on reputational issues along with policy / compliance matters.

The vast majority of industries receive the largest percentage of their reports in the HR category, with health & safety, and general following.

Tim Smith, Safecall operations director, said: “The pandemic seems to have accelerated different patterns of working and behaviour. This, in turn, has made more employers look at culture change and that has prompted greater interest and use of whistleblowing services.

“More companies and organisations see the benefits of creating a safe space for employees to live and work. Employers are increasingly seeing how such services protect the integrity of an organisation as well as the reputation of a brand.”

For more information, visit: https://www.safecall.co.uk/en/whistleblowing-hotline/whistleblowing-benchmark-report-2022/

Scotland air pollution ‘concerning’

The British Safety Council says it is concerned by data analysed by Friends of the Earth Scotland, which showed that air quality breached legal limits during 2021 in Glasgow despite traffic levels continuing to be lower due to Covid restrictions.

Peter McGettrick, Chairman of British Safety Council, said: “It’s concerning to see how air pollution levels in Glasgow and elsewhere in Scotland rose again last year, having fallen back in 2020, and on Hope Street levels of Nitrogen Dioxide even broke the legal limit.

“It’s why I took to the streets of Glasgow in November during COP26 to show people the impact air pollution has on our health, and especially people whose work means they don’t get to choose the air they breathe.

“It is also why British Safety Council wants the UK Government to be ambitious when it sets new air quality targets later this year and match the World Health Organisation’s new and ambitious limits.”

British Safety Council says it has been campaigning since 2019 to raise awareness of the impact that air pollution can have on the health of outdoor workers.

One of the drivers of its campaign, Time to Breathe, has been the call for more and better data on how air pollution affects people such as outdoor workers. There is little research on the impact air pollution has on workers like street cleaners, refuse workers, traffic police, cycle couriers, construction or maintenance workers, newspaper sellers, gardeners, teachers or security guards working on busy roads.

For more on Time to Breathe, visit: https://britsafe.org/campaigns-policy/time-to-breathe-air-pollution-campaign/time-to-breathe/

You can read the analysis by Friends of the Earth Scotland here: https://foe.scot/press-release/pollution-levels-rebound-in-2021/

1.7 million workers suffering from a work-related illness, says HSE

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published statistics that cover work-related ill health, non-fatal workplace injuries and enforcement action taken by HSE, in the 2020/21 period.

In total, 1.7 million workers are suffering from a work-related illness, around half of which were stress, depression or anxiety.

In addition, two new estimates have been developed to measure the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic;

  • 93,000 workers self-reported catching COVID-19 at work; 52,000 of these worked in the human health and social work sector
  • 645,000 workers reported that their work-related illness was caused or made worse by the coronavirus pandemic; 70 per cent of these were cases of stress, depression or anxiety.

The HSE says the pandemic has affected certain data collection and impacted on assessment of trends, therefore there is no new data on working days lost and the associated economic cost for 2021.

It is not known whether some of the people reporting a coronavirus-related ill health condition would have developed and reported an ill health condition if pre-pandemic working practices had continued. The HSE says it is therefore not possible to assess the scale of work-related ill health independent of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

HSE’s Chief Executive, Sarah Albon, said: “These annual statistics are important to give us a clear picture of the health and safety risks faced by workers in the Great Britain and help to inform the measures HSE, employers, policy-makers and workers themselves need to take to ensure everyone can go home from work safe and well.

“The 12-month period in question coincides with the first national lockdown and the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. There have been significant impacts on the labour market, which is reflected in our reporting.

“We worked differently too in responding to the challenges posed by the pandemic, advising across Government, helping to shape guidance for businesses and implementing our Covid Spot Check programme to ensure workplaces were kept as safe as possible.”

Of the 1.7 million workers who suffered from a work-related illness (new or long standing) in 2020/21, 800,000 were stress, depression or anxiety, and 28% were musculoskeletal disorders (500,000 workers).

Albon added: “The latest figures on work-related stress reinforce our previous concerns around the scale of this issue in workplaces. Just last month we announced our new Working Minds campaign, in partnership with a number of key organisations, to help employers make recognising the signs of work-related stress routine.

“HSE continues to act as a proportionate and enabling regulator taking the most appropriate actions to achieve the best and quickest result. However, where employers fall short of expected standards, HSE will not hesitate to hold those responsible to account.”

Majority of UK & Irish workers want to stay away from the office

67% of UK and Irish office workers are reluctant to return to the office post-Covid. That’s according to a new European study by global workplace creation experts Unispace.

The study – which combined the results of an in-depth survey of 3,000 office workers, 2,750 employers in leadership roles at organisations with 50+ employees, and interviews with global senior leaders in Real Estate, HR and Operations – also revealed that business leaders themselves are concerned about returning to work, with 71% reluctant about going back into the office.

When asked why employees are reluctant to return, the commute was cited as the greatest concern. 41% of respondents welcomed the extra time available when not having to travel to work; 31% stated they did not want to spend extra money returning to the workplace. This concern is reflected in the number of employees looking for employers to pay for their travel costs, with 75% of workers indicating this would encourage them back to the workplace. The data also revealed that having free lunches provided would entice 73% of employees back to the office.

While 41% felt they were more productive in the workplace than at home, almost all – 93% – of UK and Irish office workers would make changes to their current workplace – one of the highest of all countries surveyed. The most popular amends included creating more private spaces (cited by 25% of employees), improving the lay-out (23%) and adding more amenities (22%).

According to the study, the steps being taken by UK and Irish employers to entice employees back into the workplace are not aligned with what employees themselves actually want. Business respondents reported introducing a number of new measures including heightened safety protocols (cited by 40% of respondents), having flexible start times (36%) and separate spaces for collaboration and quiet working (32%), which do not align with the preferences indicated by the office workers themselves.

Lawrence Mohiuddine, CEO EMEA at Unispace, commented: “The UK and Ireland were two of the few countries polled across Europe where employers were more reluctant to return than their employees. While we can certainly see a clear trend in concerns around the commute for workers in these two locations, the mismatch between the incentives that businesses are implementing and what employees really want to feel encouraged back to the workplace does suggest some employers only understand their workforce at a surface-level.

“With so many employees indicating a desire for workplace improvements, there is clearly a need to re-think workspaces across the UK and Ireland to encourage employees back.”