The Suffolk workplaces remaining open during coronavirus lockdown
PUBLISHED: 18:30 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:13 06 April 2020
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
Some Suffolk firms are remaining open during the coronavirus lockdown, sparking fears from staff about spreading Covid-19.
The shutdown, which the Government is imposing for a minimum of three weeks, has seen a raft of non-essential firms closing their doors, furloughing employees and ceasing trade.
Essential shops such as supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and newsagents are among firms allowed to remain open.
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However, the Prime Minister also recommended staff only travel to work “where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home”.
This has created confusion and left many employees anxious about whether their workplaces should remain open.
Xpo in Stowmarket, which delivers paint, is open and trading – with bosses giving staff letters to show police proving they cannot do the job from home.
Some workers questioned whether their work was essential during the current medical emergency.
“By distributing the product, it encourages customers to make unnecessary journeys, resulting in unnecessary contact with others, buying paint in retail stores,” one employee said.
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The staff member also raised concerns over cabs being double-crewed due to a shortage of workers – adding that with cabs being just 2.5m wide, there are growing fears about the spread of Covid-19.
“It is impossible to ‘social distance’ in a lorry cab,” they added.
A spokeswoman for the company said they were following Government guidance, and double-crewing of vehicles was now being stopped.
She added: “As the situation evolves, all appropriate health and safety measures are being put in place, alongside regular two-way communication, which ensures staff are kept informed and we’re listening to any concerns they may have.”
MORE: Most Suffolk businesses will furlough workers during coronavirus, survey finds
Woven, a call centre in Ipswich, remains open at Ransomes Industrial Estate.
Concerned employees have been in touch to raise fears about hot-desking and moving around the office during the Covid-19 outbreak.
One worker also said more should be done to help employees work from home.
They said some of the firm’s clients include lots of retailers including luxury outlets like Selfridges, which is currently closed.
A spokesman for the company said its clients also include gas and electricity companies, adding that a programme is due to be rolled out in the next few weeks to enable everyone to work from home.
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“Each day we closely monitor and implement official guidelines from the Government and other health organisations in respect of Covid-19 as they are released in terms of how to best protect our colleagues at all our sites,” the spokesman said.
“In all our offices we have fully implemented the social distancing requirements by ensuring all our staff sit two metres apart.
“We also have stringent and regular cleaning protocols in place.
“As of today (Wednesday) we have approximately 50 staff in our Ipswich site, and we are able to make the most of the space we have available to ensure this protocol is being adhered to.
“The vast majority of our colleagues in our Ipswich site are very supportive of the measures that we have put in place.”
Delphi Diesel Systems, in Sudbury, had most staff coming in until the end of last week – but nearly 200 employees have since been made redundant before the company shuts.
A company spokesman said: “Delphi Technologies Sudbury site is rapidly winding down operations as customers and suppliers lock down their operations for the time being.
“In order to limit the numbers of employees on site and reduce exposure, the vast majority of the 190 employees have had their redundancies brought forward.
“The few remaining people on our Sudbury site have been briefed on coronavirus safety guidelines and are following government, and our own, health and safety procedures.”
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Meanwhile, some employees at the Claydon business park branch of online designer furniture retailer Made.com, in Great Blakenham, said they did not feel it was necessary for the firm to remain open.
They also fear sharing a warehouse with other employees could increase the spread of Covid-19.
Under Government guidance, online retailers and distribution centres can stay open if they follow social distancing procedures.
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A spokesman for the firm said: “We’ve put measures in place to keep our warehouse staff safe in respecting the social distancing for the nine employees in our 15,000 sq ft warehouse in Great Blakenham.
“We have also implemented temperature checks and increased hygiene processes to ensure that handwashing and cleaning are much more frequent.
“We are closely following the Government’s advice to retailers during this time that online retailers should remain open, and that postal and delivery services continue. We continue to monitor this daily.”
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The Bonnie Blue Oak, in Oak Road, Tiptree, has been ordered to stop serving customers immediately after ignoring the Prime Minister’s ban on trading during lockdown.
Colchester Borough Council officers said they and Essex Police were tipped off about the pub’s front windows being covered – with patrons being allowed into the venue through the back entrance – on March 30.
It is one of the first firms to be rapped with a prohibition order under new emergency coronavirus legislation.
MORE: Pub ordered to stop serving after flouting coronavirus shutdown
Suffolk Trading Standards said it has been receiving a high number of complaints about businesses being open during the pandemic.
A spokesman said: “Not all non-essential businesses have to close. In fact, the government has made it clear that it is important for business to carry on.
“Businesses can remain open if they are not on the current list of businesses that must close.
“We have spoken to a lot of business owners and have been able to advise them on whether they can remain open, as well as discuss ways in which they can diversify to enable them to close their doors to the public, but continue trading.”
The following Government guidance lists all businesses that must close, with some exceptions.
People reporting firms to Trading Standards are encouraged to read the above before getting in touch.
To report a business, call 01473 264859 (option 3) or email the team.
The Health and Safety Executive said most employers are going to “great lengths” to ensure social distancing.
However, they warned actions will be taken against firms not complying with government guidance.
Workers with concerns that cannot be resolved through their union or employer can contact the HSE via this link.
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