DVLA centre has 'UK's worst Covid workplace outbreak' with 535 cases

Staff at a DVLA centre in Swansea have allegedly been encouraged to come into work even if they are displaying coronavirus symptoms.

In total 535 employees have contracted Covid-19 at the site in Wales since September, the Observer reported.

People who are deemed vulnerable have also not been allowed to work from home, the newspaper added. 

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has rejected the claims and said it followed ‘relevant guidance and advice to help keep our offices Covid secure’.

Public Health Wales’ outbreak control department is said to have received a complaint alleging DVLA workers were told to turn off their NHS Track and Trace apps when working so they would not receive a ‘ping’ notification.

The complaint is also said to accuse bosses of counting Covid-related absences against sick leave, leading to a warning if an employee is off for more than 10 days.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘It is a scandal that DVLA are not doing more to reduce numbers in the workplace when Covid infections are on the rise.

‘Our members are telling us they are scared to enter the workplace for fear of catching Covid 19.

‘Ministers must intervene and ensure DVLA are doing their utmost to enable staff to work from home and temporarily cease non-critical services.’

Welsh Wellbeing Minister Eluned Morgan admitted they had been concerned about the site in Swansea ‘for a while’ and had been ‘putting pressure on them’.

He told Radio Cymru: ‘The situation is one of the reasons why we’ve introduced new rules, new legislation, to tighten the restrictions on people at work.’

The Hazards Campaign Janet Newsham told the Observer the DVLA centre had experienced the biggest reported workplace outbreak.

She added: ‘These workers should have been working remotely, not being packed into offices.

‘They have been put at risk of death and long-term ill health – and the outbreak is still going on.’

The DVLA said in a statement: ‘Staff safety remains a priority for DVLA, as it has throughout the pandemic, and we continue to follow all relevant guidance and advice to help keep our offices Covid secure, including the latest advice from Welsh Government.

‘Staff in roles that enable them to work from home are doing so and have throughout, in line with current government advice. 

‘However, in view of the essential nature of the public services we provide, some operational staff are required to be in the office where their role means they cannot work from home.’

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