Government advert on working from home irresponsible

The Government has released a COVID-19 advert urging the nation to “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”, with the strapline ‘every online meeting is making a difference’. But the advert inappropriately uses a picture of a woman sitting on a sofa cross-legged using a laptop.

The British Safety Council is therefore urging the Government to withdraw this advert immediately, as it implies that people working from home should be working from their sofas. This shows a complete lack of understanding around health and safety, the musculoskeletal conditions that can arise from a poor work set up and the wider impact on worker health and wellbeing, which is well documented to have deteriorated during the pandemic.

By way of example, the Institute for Employment Studies carried out a home worker wellbeing survey between March and April last year.  The results, based on 500 responses, revealed a significant increase in musculoskeletal complaints. More than half of the survey respondents reported new aches and pains, especially in the neck (58 per cent), shoulder (56 per cent) and back (55 per cent), compared to their normal physical condition. Hunching and twisting while sitting or balancing laptops on sofas to work can be a material cause of these conditions.

We are also calling on the Government to adhere to and champion the guidance developed by its own regulator, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in the same way it expects employers to comply with the law. 

Mike Robinson, Chief Executive at the British Safety Council, commented:

“The Government should be leading by example on health and safety matters but has fallen well short with this advert, which sends the wrong message about worker health and wellbeing. The Government advert risks legitimising poor practice, the costs of which ultimately end up on the NHS, at a time it is hard pressed in managing COVID and the largest vaccine rollout programme ever in the UK.”

“The advert needs to be withdrawn straightaway. We would happily advise the Government on what is a more appropriate picture for its message.”