Test workers – or risk virus spreading

Covid-19 testing for construction workers vital, warns Unite

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Construction workers must be included in the government’s targeted Covid-19 testing of key workers in order to help halt the disease’s spread, Unite said today (April 28).

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail has written to secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock calling for construction workers – many of whom have worked through the lockdown or are being brought out of furlough early – to be offered testing for Covid-19.

Cartmail believes including construction workers in the government’s testing regime is “one of a number of measures necessary to prevent the spread of Covid-19”, particularly in light of newly relaxed social distancing guidance for building sites.

“Many construction workers continued to work through the lockdown and furloughed workers are being phased back ahead of other sectors,” she reports.

“The recently relaxed guidance from the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) on social distancing while at work is undermining efforts to get agreement on safe working practices.


“Operating advice for building sites based on CLC guidance states that construction workers can work face to face within two metres of each other as long as it is for ‘15 minutes or less where possible’,” she said.

Unite believes with good practice social distancing can be maintained for most tasks and where this is not possible the task should not be undertaken.

But Cartmail’s concern is that “to date there is evidence of confusion and if the 15-minute relaxation persists it will heighten concerns about spreading Covid-19 into communities and workers’ homes.”

Financial pressures bearing down on workers to go back to work are very real – over 50 per cent of all construction workers are self-employed. Unite has lobbied and won financial support for self-employed construction workers – but the long delay in accessing support is a real issue that many are grappling with.

Cartmail continues, “Unite believes construction workers should be included within the sectors designated for Covid-19 testing as one of a number of measures necessary to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“Government needs to understand that construction workers have travelled to and from work among these other key workers and will continue to do so. For testing to be effective within the key worker group construction workers must be included.”

  • Unite has guidance for construction workersand for all workers on keeping safe and protecting your income during the pandemic 


 By Ryan Fletcher

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