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Coronavirus - your rights at work

8 April 2020

TSSA has today written out to all members providing them with a guidance document on your rights at work during the coronavirus crisis.

Download the guidance document here:   Covid-19 Your Rights at Work 14 04 20

By law, employers must take steps to protect you and your colleagues from the risk of infection by Covid-19. Companies and public organisations have the same obligation in respect of the employees of other employers that are working on or visiting their premises or infrastructure. The law also requires employers to manage those risks by undertaking appropriate risk assessments specifically addressing the risk of infection from Covid-19 whilst undertaking their work tasks.

During this Covid-19 crisis, TSSA is continuing to work with employers to ensure that vital transport services are maintained so that vital rail freight can move around the country, and key workers such as NHS staff, social care workers, food shop staff and of course transport workers can get to work.

In the message to members, TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Our union has been pressing and will continue to press the British, Scottish, Irish and Welsh governments and the employers to maximise the numbers of staff working from home or being stood down at home and reduce to a minimum the numbers of you who are required to travel to attend workplaces.”

He continued: “Our view is that, at a time when rail passengers are around 5% of their usual numbers, staff such as those engaged in ticket sales and revenue protection are simply not necessary. The only staff that should be attending workplaces are those that are absolutely necessary to ensure that safe and secure transport services can operate.”

One of the biggest risks of being infected arises from having to use public transport to get to and from work. There is also a significant risk involved in mixing with colleagues in the workplace, even if the government’s recommended two metre separation between individuals is observed (social distancing). That is why the key message from the government, strongly echoed by TSSA, is to stay at home unless you are essential for the safe running of essential transport services.

Commenting on this, Manuel Cortes said: “Sadly, the British Government in the form of the Department for Transport (DfT) is instructing train operators to keep booking offices open and continue with revenue protection operations whilst saying something completely different to the general public.

“Many transport employers have fully engaged with our union and our reps, and have got many of their staff working from home, or have stood down many staff and sent them home on full pay. However, there has been a lack of consistency, especially across the rail industry.

“Too many transport employers have adopted a ‘business as usual’ approach, and forced their staff to attend their workplaces unnecessarily. Too many have failed to undertake appropriate risk assessments. And in too many cases, despite their legal obligations, consultation with health and safety reps about risk assessments and other Covid-19 related matters has been non-existent.”

TSSA is a part of the Rail Industry Coronavirus Forum along with the other rail unions, Network Rail, and all franchise train operating companies (except TfW Rail Services). The members of the Forum have signed a national Emergency Working Principles agreement that amongst other things commits the employers to consulting with TSSA staff reps on temporary working arrangements at the earliest possible opportunity. However, there has in some companies been a marked lack of engagement with our reps including on issues of health and safety.

Manuel Cortes explained: “Our union has also been in constant contact with the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the health and safety enforcement authority for our rail industry. Our union has arranged for the Chief Inspector of ORR to speak regularly with the rail union General Secretaries to address the issues arising from the Covid-19 crisis. And we have been supporting the Trades Union Congress in its engagement with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The ORR and HSE are both committed to ensuring that the two metre social distancing is observed in workplaces and on work sites.

“You can rest assured that our union will continue to put pressure on the Department for Transport and the British government to take necessary steps to ensure that rail services are open only to key workers. Too many other passengers are travelling to non-essential work such as on construction sites, causing crowding on some trains, particularly on the London Underground. Transport workers must be protected from the risk of infection from non-essential travellers.”

TSSA has provided members with a three page guidance document, which sets out advice on protecting yourself and your colleagues in order that you are clear, not only about how you should work during this crisis, but what your rights are.

Our Helpdesk remains open and you can call it on 0800 328 2673 9am-5pm Monday to Thursday and 9am-4pm Fridays. If you didn’t receive the email, please also ensure we have the right contact details for you by updating them at or contacting our Membership Department on 0207 387 2101 or by email on:

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