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Fears of redundancy for Boots staff who took on dangerous roles at coronavirus testing sites – The Independent

In all around 7 per cent of the company’s workforce are expected to lose their jobs



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Ministers have been urged to act amid fears staff who took on dangerous roles at coronavirus testing sites could lose their jobs.
Boots employees have helped to man drive-in government test centres across the UK as part of the fight against the global pandemic.
But there are concerns some of those who worked taking throat and nasal swabs could be among those to lose their jobs.
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The High Street chemist has announced plans to cut more than 4,000 jobs and close 48 of its Boots Opticians stores.
Many of the Boots staff who have worked on the governments coronavirus testing programme are from its opticians arm.
In all around 7 per cent of the companys workforce are expected to lose their jobs.
The job losses come after Boots retail sales tumbled by 48 per cent over the past three months, despite many remaining open during lockdown.
Labour said it was deeply unfair that these workers should be facing redundancy.
Andy McDonald, who speaks for the party on employment rights, said: We owe a debt of gratitude to those who have worked in government testing sites and other workers who have played vital roles in the national response to the pandemic. It is deeply unfair that these workers should be facing redundancy. The government must do far more to protect peoples jobs, its one-size-fits-all approach is not good enough.
Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat business spokesperson, said: The government hugely relied on Boots staff to fill the gaps as they were failing to ensure we could test everyone during the peak of the coronavirus crisis.
We should all be incredibly grateful to all of those who risked their lives to help improve our testing capacity.
Daniel Adams, from the union Usdaw, which represents some Boots staff, said: After being on the frontline as key workers in the fight against coronavirus, it is a slap in the face to be put at risk of redundancy. This is deeply distressing news for Boots staff and their families, they deserve better. Our high streets desperately need the government to develop a sector specific recovery plan to get a grip of this crisis.
A spokesman for Boots said it was too early to comment on who would be made redundant.
On the governments Covid testing sites, he added that the company do not expect there to be an overall impact on the programme which we will continue to support as we have proudly done since we opened the first testing site in March.
More than 16,000 Boots employees were furloughed at its peak, but many have now come back.
It is thought there is no correlation between those furloughed and those at risk of redundancy.
There was an outcry in May when it emerged that Boots was advertising, on behalf of ministers, for unpaid volunteers to work at least 32 hours a week taking the swabs.
The company said a total of 1,000 people were needed, from a combination of Boots staff and the volunteers.
In response, Unison, the union, said the roles took the idea of volunteering too far.
Legal experts also warned that Boots could face an investigation under minimum wage legislation.
Within days the high street chemist had withdrawn the adverts.
But Boots staff who were also working at the sites continued to take the swabs.
Those who applied to be volunteers in the same roles were promised training and personal protective equipment (PPE), in line with NHS standards.
But they were also warned to consider the health of their relations before volunteering.
The adverts said the roles would involve standing for hours at a time and require the mobility to be able to reach into a vehicle to take swabs of both throat and nasal passages at potentially awkward angles.
The Department of Health declined to comment.

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