UNISON launches guide to protect gig economy workers

Porters, care workers, security staff and parking wardens are at greater risk of physical and verbal attack, injury or illness, because they work alone for long periods, says UNISON today (Tuesday) as it launches the first union gig economy safety guide.

The union warns that staff cuts, the growth of zero-hours contracts and an increase in the number of home care workers has led to the creation of a vulnerable and isolated workforce.

Government regulations haven’t kept pace with the changing workplace, leaving staff unprotected, says the guide.

UNISON’s guidance is the first union health and safety document designed to tackle the dangers faced by lone workers in the gig economy.

It encourages employers to minimise lone working where possible and suggests how good health and safety management may reduce risks if staff have to work alone.

Guidance includes:

  • Identifying the times lone workers are most at risk so support and help can be targeted
  • Providing workers with contact names for use outside normal working hours
  • Sharing schedules so other people know where staff will be, with expected arrival and departure time
  • Creating procedures for reporting in and raising the alarm when workers fail to do so or can’t be contacted.

UNISON acting head of health and safety Robert Baughan said: “Working alone is inherently more hazardous than working with the support of colleagues. Public sector workers often visit people in their homes, which brings a unique set of risks.

“Lone workers get less support from colleagues and it’s more difficult for them to get help if something goes wrong. As the number of lone workers increases, employers must put safety above profit and put measures in place to protect workers.”

Notes to editors:
– Examples of lone public service employees include maintenance workers, porters, security staff, parking wardens, rent collectors, community and residential nurses, care workers, ambulance staff, homecare workers, librarians, receptionists and career advisors.
– UNISON has produced two health and safety guides on lone working – one for safety representatives and one for UNISON members. For copies, email press@unison.co.uk.

Media contact:
Garfield Myrie T: 0207 121 5546 M: 07432 741565 E: g.myrie@unison.co.uk
Anthony Barnes T: 0207 121 5255 M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk