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BOSSES are “massively under-reporting” the number of Covid-19 deaths involving workers who contracted the virus on the job, the TUC said today.
In a damning report, it warned that the system of reporting coronavirus deaths is “letting bad bosses off the hook” and that under-reporting has badly undermined health and safety enforcement during the pandemic.
The study is based on data from the government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Public Health England.
According to reports filed by employers, only 2.5 per cent of the 15,263 working-age people who lost their lives to Covid-19 in the year ending this April died after exposure to the virus at work — 387 workers.
The TUC report shows that in sectors known to have suffered a high number of deaths during the pandemic, such as food production and transport, only a small fraction of deaths have been reported as work-related by employers.
ONS figures show that more than 600 people working in the transport sector died of coronavirus in the nine months from March to December last year.
But according to employers, there were only 10 Covid-19 deaths in the transport sector in the year-long period of April 2020 to April 2021.
Figures from the ONS also show that 63 food production workers died of the virus between March and December 2020.
But according to the data supplied by employers, only three of these deaths were as a result of work.
The TUC believes that the true number of work-related deaths in these and other sectors is far higher, especially considering the high number of breaches of safety protocols and workplace outbreaks seen during the pandemic.
General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everybody deserves to be safe at work. But this pandemic has exposed a crisis in health and safety regulation and enforcement.
“Employers have massively under-reported Covid work-related deaths and infections.
“This has made it much harder for regulators to track where outbreaks are happening and allowed bad bosses to get away with flagrant labour rights abuses.
“It’s staggering that not a single employer has been prosecuted for putting workers at risk of contracting Covid-19.
“The government must fix the deficiencies in how workplace deaths, illnesses and injuries are reported. The current system is letting bosses off the hook.”
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