Some civil servants fearful ahead of return to work

THERE seems to be fear among some public sector employees, who have been working from home since March, of being infected with the novel coronavirus as they prepare to return to their offices next week.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Hugh Shearer Labour Studies Institute at The University of the West Indies, in collaboration with the Jamaica Civil Service Association, 104 of the 289 public sector workers surveyed from across the island said they fear being in contact with individuals and possibly contracting and spreading the virus to others unknowingly, since some carriers of the virus are asymptomatic.

Another 90 were worried about the limited supply of personal protective equipment, enforcement of social distancing rules, sanitising and conducting of mandatory testing, while 87 expressed uncertainty with return to work and work operations as well as the unavailability of online access to conduct work activities, when asked about the aspects of work environment or situation they were most concerned about with the advent of COVID-19.

“Another biting concern of some respondents is the the lack of concern for employees who have to still commute to work. The risk and safety of staff are not taken into account, as business places are closed to the public yet workers are being asked to expose themselves on a daily basis to come into the office. The travel restrictions and curfew cause a hindrance, as some respondents live out of parish while others have to contend with the reluctance and unreliability of taxi drivers or other public transportation workers to carry passengers,” the survey’s authors wrote.

It was recommended by the civil servants that the Government consider providing transportation for those employed to the public service.

The survey was collected over an approximate period of three weeks (April 22-May 8, 2020) and the data analysed using coding, with any questions that were unable to be quantified being analysed descriptively. Seventy per cent of the respondents were female, and majority, or 51 per cent, were in the 36 to 50 age group, 28 per cent in the age group 18 to 35, and the others were 51 t0 65 years old.

Danny Roberts, who heads the Hugh Shearer Labour Studies Institute, told the Jamaica Observer that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the face of the workplace. In fact, he warned that calling back employees who had been working from home should be done based on proper analysis.

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