• International Workplace
  • 16 September 2020

DWP found guilty of insufficient social distancing measures

The government’s Department for Work and Pensions has been fined by the HSE for failing to implement sufficient social distancing measures at its Leeds office.

During a visit to the office on 25 August, the HSE was reported to have found "contraventions of health and safety law" – photos showed staff congregating round a computer screen and a narrow walkway that passed close to desks where people could work.  

It is also reported that there had been at least two positive COVID-19 cases among staff.

In its report to the DWP, the HSE demanded urgent changes. It stated:

"You are failing to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of your employees at work because you have not implemented necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19."

The HSE said "you (DWP) have not, where possible maintained social distancing."

The report also highlighted that there was:

  • No “consideration or assessment" of the potential for crowding at entrance and exit doors;
  • No "do not use" signs on tightly-packed breakout pods and areas where staff might sit; and
  • Many walkways that were “little more than 1m wide and pass very close to desks that are designated as useable".

The PCS union, which represents many DWP staff, responded angrily to the findings.  General secretary Mark Serwotka said the government has "failed staff and the wider community by not adhering to basic health and safety legislation”.

A DWP spokesman said:

“We take the health and safety of staff extremely seriously, and have implemented COVID-secure measures across our sites to ensure they comply with government guidelines. We have taken urgent action to rectify all issues identified by the HSE.”