Health and safety and working from home in the tech sector

Mike Saunders · 28 October 2020

The Scottish government have released COVID-19 guidance for reopening the Tech sector. Consultation took place with the cabinet secretary for finance, tech and games industry leaders, and Prospect.

As a trade union representing members in the tech and games sector, we had an important voice in this discussion.

Now that this guidance is published, what are the questions tech workers can organise around? What should the future of the tech and games sectors look like during lockdowns and beyond?

If you’re not sure how to bring it up with your colleagues, here are some questions union reps have been asking their members and each other:

How can you make sure working from home practices are safe, during lockdown and in the future?

Has your workplace aided in making your home office safe – a suitable chair, a suitable desk? Will these measures be enough as WFH continues?

What broad-brush changes could discriminate against workers?

Does a push towards working from home discriminate against BAME workers, disabled workers, LGBTQ+ workers, workers with caring responsibilites? How can workers influence and change WFH policy and guidance to mitigate against potential discrimination?

Think about freelancing, contracting, managed workspaces and incubators

These are shared spaces where physical visits can become complicated very quickly without open dialogue between different stakeholders. Can you and your union create templates for safe use of these spaces? How is your company working with other tenants in the building?

If you organisation is continuing to work from home, is anyone being asked to go into the office?

Are there critical operational roles that require physical access to offices? How do we protect these roles being arbitrarily assigned, and how do we ensure these workers are protected?

The STUC and TUC can provide roving Health & Safety reps

Where workplaces do not represent unions, employers or workers may request that a union representative from outside the workplace can evaluate or monitor the COVID-19 risk assessments. Is this something that would help put your members at ease? Is this something you would use as a chance to organising a union with your colleagues?

How do we protect the mental health of tech & games workers?

Prospect regularly run online sessions for members on mental health, isolation, and cyber bullying. Can you check on your members? Is your employer checking in with all members of staff?

Are there WFH considerations unique to Tech?

Can your home broadband cope with extended access to remote servers? Are you using significantly more electrical power at home? Are your members and colleagues concerned about this, and has your company set out a plan?

You might have answers to all these questions, but not all of your colleagues will. They might not know what they’re entitled to, and as a union you can help build the structure and communication to make sure everyone is included and treated fairly and equally. Join Prospect today, and encourage your colleagues to do the same.

Mike Saunders is a Prospect organiser in the tech sector

Union for tech workers

For a better, healthier and fairer tech industry.