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Manufacturers welcome PM’s back-to-work message

11 May, 2020

Make UK, the body that represents UK manufacturers, has “cautiously” welcomed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that the government wants manufacturers which stopped production during the Coronavirus lockdown to return to work - provided their workplaces are safe.

So far during the lockdown, the government has been telling people in England to work from home if they can, and only go to work if they must. But in an address to the nation on 10 May, Johnson said that “anyone who can’t work from home – for instance, those in construction or manufacturing – should be actively encouraged to go to work.

“Work from home if you can,” he added, “but you should go to work if you can’t work from home. And to ensure you are safe at work, we have been working to establish new guidance for employers to make workplaces Covid-secure.”

“We cautiously welcome this,” says Make UK chief executive, Stephen Phipson. “However, it is critical that there is clear advice on how to do that, and an understanding that firms will be helped to comply as we navigate uncharted waters, and not punished for inadvertent errors. In many parts of manufacturing people will need to work much more closely than 2m apart.

"It is vital that the guidance is explicit about how this may be achieved safely,” he adds. “Where this requires PPE (personal protective equipment), employers across the country are seeking clear advice on what products are needed, what standard they should be produced to, and confidence that they can be sourced in ways which does not reduce supply to the NHS, care homes and front-line workers.

“Like any business,” Phipson continues, “manufacturers need demand for their product if they are going to supply it. Everyone should be clear that huge sectors like automotive and aerospace will struggle to return to normal levels of production, whilst retail stores remain closed and airlines remain grounded. The supply chains involved are likely to be under pressure for many more months and if we are to avoid mass redundancies and the loss of skilled jobs, Government support will need to continue for several months.

Make UK CEO Stephen Phipson: clear advice is critical

In his statement, Phipson also pays tribute to the victims of the pandemic. “We have not forgotten that many manufacturing firms have lost valued colleagues and friends over the last few weeks. They will not be forgotten.

“Government has been swift, pragmatic and supportive in recent months,” the Make UK CEO concludes. “We stand ready to work with them in partnership as we plan for the next stage of economic recovery.”

♦   The UK Government has published a guidance document for employers, employees and the self-employed on how to work safely in factories and warehouses during the Coronavirus outbreak. 

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