SA aged care workers banned from working at multiple facilities to stop coronavirus spread


The South Australian Government will ban aged care workers from working in multiple facilities as a precaution to stop the spread of coronavirus.

As of August 27, all personal care workers will only be allowed to work in one aged care facility.

The Government will also require staff — including doctors, nurses and care workers — to wear masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) when they come within 1.5 metres of aged care residents.

Premier Steven Marshall said the decision was based on the “devastating” infection rates and fatality rates experienced in aged care in other jurisdictions.

“We don’t do these things lightly,” Mr Marshall said.

South Australia has recorded no new cases of coronavirus since yesterday, while no coronavirus cases have been reported in aged care facilities in SA since the start of the pandemic.

Aged care staff requirements for PPE will be enhanced.(ABC News: Patrick Stone)

Mr Marshall said the restrictions could be hard for some aged care businesses.

“We understand this but they are far better than the alternative that we are seeing in other parts of the country,” he said.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said everyone working at aged care facilities would be required to undergo infection control training.

She said lessons had been learned from other states about how coronavirus tended to spread to aged care residents from healthcare workers rather than visitors.

“The evidence from Victoria is when you have people working across sites it is much more easy for the disease to spread between facilities and that starts as a small problem which quickly has grown to a very large problem,” she said.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said SA Health would work with public, private and non-profit aged care providers to “iron out” any issues, including allowing workers to trade shifts instead of working at one more than one place.

“We want to minimise the disruption to workers,” Mr Wade said.

“We are very keen to keep our workforce employed.”

He said Victoria and Queensland already had the same measure in place.

A brick sign at the entrance to an aged care home
All sectors of the aged care industry will be affected, including homes run by the State Government.(ABC News: Nadia Isa)

Shadow Treasurer Stephen Mullighan urged the State Government to provide financial assistance to affected aged care workers.

“These restrictions seem to make sense but there will be some impact on workers who will, as a result of these change, lose hours and lose incomes,” he said.

“Hopefully the State Government is working on some support measures for those workers who will be affected in their take-home pay.”



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Pinterest workers stage protest after discrimination allegations


Pinterest delayed the planned announcement of a new board member Friday amid a virtual walkout by employees demanding change after claims of discrimination by management.

More than 350 of Pinterest’s 2,400 employees signed onto a protest and virtual job action. Because they’re already working from home, instead of walking out of offices, they signed off the company’s computer system, borrowing a protest strategy from Facebook’s employees. Pinterest didn’t want its board announcement to compete with attention on the employee protest, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“We want systemic change so that we can remain proud of where we work,” the employees wrote anonymously in a petition asking for transparency on pay and on promotion and retention of minority workers.

Earlier this week, former Chief Operating Officer Francoise Brougher said in a lawsuit that she was fired after speaking up about gender discrimination by the photo-sharing website’s male-run leadership team. Her complaint escalated criticism of the management, publicly and internally. Pinterest had already responded to the allegations of two employees on its policy team who alleged racial and gender discrimination. When those claims went public earlier this year, Chief Executive Officer Ben Silbermann called parts of the company’s culture “broken.”

Pinterest told employees it won’t retaliate against them for Friday’s protest.

“Pinterest won’t dissuade any member of our community from showing their support for improving inclusion & diversity in our company, or within the broader industry,” the head of human resources, Jo Dennis, said Thursday in a message to all employees that was viewed by Bloomberg. “At our Q&A tomorrow we will continue our conversation from yesterday, and we are excited to let you know Ben will be introducing you to our newest board member.”

The San Francisco-based company declined to comment on the planned board announcement, but has previously said it aims to add more diversity to its leadership team. Currently the board is made up of six men and two women.

“We respect and hear the employees who want to see a clear commitment to action, and we will ensure an open dialogue that leads to progress to make Pinterest the place we all know it can be,” the company said Thursday in a statement.

More must-read tech coverage from Fortune:



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Virgin boss urges workers to ignore bondholder ‘noise’


“If for some reason an alternative proposal was allowed to be put to the meeting to be voted on, it would be very disruptive to the sale process and problematic for us,” Mr Scurrah said in a note sent to staff seen by this masthead. “Any delay to the administration process would mean we remain in administration for a longer period.”

“From day one, the goal has been, and remains, to bring this business out of administration as quickly as
possible and avoid the potential outcomes of going into liquidation, which is not something any of us
want.”

Mr Scurrah said it was important staff knew that the bondholder proposal was “non-binding, conditional, indicative and incomplete”.

Virgn’s administrator Deloitte has, meanwhile, told members of Virgin’s creditors’ committee of inspection in a letter sent on Thursday that the sale deal signed with Bain on June 26 precluded it from considering or even discussing any other deal.

“This remains the position unless the asset sale to Bain Capital is set aside by the court,” joint administrator Vaughan Strawbridge said in the letter, seen by this masthead. “Currently, neither [Broad Peak and Tor] or any other party, have brought an application to court seeking to set aside the asset sale to Bain Capital.”

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He said the vote of creditors early next month would only determine how Virgin was sold – either via the asset sale or a deed of company arrangement (DOCA) – and not who it was sold to.

“We do not see how a competing DOCA that deals with the assets of the business that are subject to the agreement with Bain Capital can be put to the creditors,” Mr Strawbridge said.

A key reason Deloitte chose to enter an asset sale was to secure funding to keep Virgin out of liquidation, with Bain immediately taking over financial liability of the airline. Mr Strawbridge said Broad Peak and Tor had not shown any evidence of funding and that their proposal remained “highly conditional”.

Virgin went into voluntary administration with debts of $6.8 billion in April after the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to ground most of its fleet.



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High Court rules against union bid for more paid sick leave for shift workers


The operators of Tasmania’s Cadbury factory have won their bid to cut personal leave for shift workers, in a ruling which could have implications for other Australian workers.

The workers who took their claim for paid personal and carer’s leave entitlements to the High Court work three 12-hour shifts a week.

A year ago, two Cadbury workers won a Federal Court case arguing that because they worked 12-hour shifts, their 10 days of personal leave should be paid at 12 hours a day.

The company had argued it was entitled to pay the rate at only 7.6 hours.

Cadbury owners Mondelez International took the case to the High Court.

It has ruled the entitlement centred around two traditional weeks and since the Cadbury workers worked only three long shifts a week, they were only entitled to six days of paid personal and carer’s leave.

The High Court rejected the union’s argument that the reference in the Fair Work Act 2009 to “10 days” meant every employee, regardless of those of their work pattern and distribution of hours, could be absent without loss of pay on 10 working days per year.

“It would give rise to absurd results and inequitable outcomes,” the court said.

In its summary of the judgment, the court said “10 days” in the Act was two standard five-day working weeks.

“One ‘day’ refers to a ‘notional day’ consisting of one-tenth of the equivalent of an employee’s ordinary hours of work in a two-week period,” the summary said.

COVID-19 era demonstrates need for sick leave

The union representing the factory’s shift workers said the decision was a huge blow and would have implications for other Australian shift workers.

The Australian Manufacturers Workers Union said COVID-19 had shown the importance of personal leave

State secretary John Short wants the Federal Government to legislate that all workers get 10 days paid leave.

“They shouldn’t be paid less because they are having a sick day … they should be paid the same amount of hours that they should have been paid in sick leave and they should have got that on 10 occasions a year,” he said.

“I’d like to see the Federal Government make sure people get 10 days per year no matter what hours they’re working.

“What’s happened here is Cadbury and the Federal Government have taken sick leave away from workers.”

In a statement, the company welcomed the decision, saying it would ensure “continued equality between employees who complete the same ordinary hours in their working week, however on different rosters”.

It would also “provide certainty for all Australian employers with non-standard shift arrangements and those that employ part-time employees, including Mondelez International and others such as those in the nursing, mining, building and construction and transport and distribution industries.”

Exterior of Cadbury factory, Claremont, Tasmania.
Cadbury owners Mondelez wanted to pay workers sick leave based on a rate of 7.6 hours, even if they worked 12-hour shifts.(Facebook: Michael Della-Fontana)



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Young workers worse off than ever


The future for young Australian workers looks dire with news their income was well in decline before COVID-19. Sam Brennan reports.

THERE IS AN assumption that people become better off over time.

This is a fair assumption, too, considering for 100 years every new generation of Australians has moved out of their parents’ house with a good wage and started the climb up an ever-growing job ladder.

But now, young people have been pushed off that ladder, are unable to afford a house and in what could be the first time in Australian history – according to a Grattan Institute report – young people’s real income has declined over the previous ten years.

At the same time, Productivity Commission research paper‘Why did young people’s incomes decline?’, found those above the age of 35 have seen their real income increase.

Source: Productivity Commission 

This decline has occurred: to men and women; to those in the city and the outback; to people who went to university; to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and to those with a disability and those without — nearly every way you cut it, young Australians are making less. 

Not only was this decline seen in wages, but also in government payments and investment returns. Every form of income has declined, with one exception — young people have seen a rise in money transfers from their parents.

This raises the questions: Why are young Australians facing a situation not experienced before? Why are they worse off?

Australia’s two economies

Australia emerged from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in pretty good shape when compared to the rest of the world. This was due in part to the stimulus policies of the Labor Government as well as the mining boom.

But if we emerged from the GFC relatively unscathed, as is widely believed, how come wages were stagnating? Why were people working fewer hours? Why was growth sluggish?

The Productivity Commission report showed that after 2008, Australia was split into two economies.

People older than 35 who entered the GFC with a job, house and financial security, saw their wages grow. They invested in housing and even saw an increase in benefits from the Labor Government. But if you were under 35, then the only jobs around were part-time – in a profession that you didn’t study – for low pay, with no prospect of promotion and dwindling government benefits to back you up.

Victory for Andrews Labor Government as anti-wage theft law is passed

The lack of other options means that workers also accepted worse conditions, as director of Young Workers Centre Felicity Sowerbutts told Independent Australia:

“Since our community legal centre was launched in 2016, 65 per cent of what we’ve been dealing with relates to wage theft. Many bosses believe they can get away with underpaying wages and superannuation.”

How did these two economies form in parallel with each other?

Breaking into the job market

During the GFC, government stimulus allowed businesses to keep a lot of their staff, but businesses were not likely to expand. Therefore, young people were unable to break into the job market. This was exacerbated by women entering the workforce and people working longer – thanks to increasing retirement age – meaning labour supply was on the rise without a corresponding demand.

Employers coming out of the GFC decided it was better to keep their current workers rather than expand and hire new employees.

But Australia’s unemployment rate has been steady. In the face of terrible job prospects, young Australians, instead, accepted part-time or casual contracts, working fewer hours as shown by the underemployment rate.

The graph below shows that underemployment for young people has grown since the GFC and is currently double the rate of older people.

 Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Lifelong learning 

The Productivity Commission report noted that after the GFC: ‘Faced with high youth unemployment rates, young people were spending more time in education as an alternative to unemployment.’ This resulted in increasingly educated young people accepting work that didn’t utilise their skills while pushing less educated people out of these jobs.

Furthermore, wage decline was a generational phenomenon, not an industry-based one. The Productivity Commission report also said, ‘most occupations contributed little (or negatively) to wage rate growth for workers aged 20-34, while all occupations contributed positively to wage rate growth for workers aged 35-54’.

The stagnation in wages is not a matter of lack of education or even studying in the wrong area. It is strange that the Morrison Government pushes reform based on the principle that young people can get better jobs if they study more, in specific areas. This won’t fix the issue that there are too few jobs that pay too little.

It will not be the first time government has failed Australia’s youth.

The government won’t help

The myth of the lazy youngster, dependent on government handouts, was also dispelled by the Productivity Commission report.

A series of government decisions has slowly chipped away at government payments to young people. Recipients of student Youth Allowance, aged 15-20, decreased by 60 per cent between 2002-2019 due to tightening eligibility. Lower payment for Newstart – now JobSeeker – as well as restrictions for Parenting Payment, only further reduced youth benefits.

While payments for youth decreased, pensions and family payments for older people grew. As such, young people not only saw wages go down while their elders saw a rise, but saw the same thing happen with government payments.

 Source: Productivity Commission 

COVID-19 and the future for youth workers

Predating COVID-19, the Productivity Commission report draws on figures up to 2018. All the issues it found – casualisation of the workforce, declining hours and a slump in labour demand – have significantly worsened.

This is well known by Sowerbutts who also told Independent Australia:

“Many young workers have never had a secure job in their lives. COVID-19 has really highlighted these issues.”

However, she added:

“It’s certainly an opportunity to rebuild and reimagine our future, dealing with the negative impacts of insecure, low paid work and investing in our workforce with quality and affordable education and training.”

Correcting these issues will be monumental. The Productivity Commission report shows that any attempt at reconstruction post-COVID-19 which simply seeks to return to the norm will be woefully inadequate.

First step to economic recovery is a change in political thinking

For young people, the only hope is for labour demand to increase.

Previous recessions have shown us this can be achieved through comprehensive and far-reaching programs. Proposals such as the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ plan for economic reconstruction or a version of an employment-focused “Green New Deal” could offer some hope.

Sam Brennan is a freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @samkbren.

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Melbourne’s coronavirus work-from-home rules may have saved outer-suburban workers thousands of dollars


Sandra Steven’s family has had four people working or studying from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but she says that has been more relaxing than her usual long commutes to work from Melbourne’s outer south-east.

The software consultant would normally leave her house in Berwick about 7:00am and wouldn’t return home until about 6:00pm.

But that changed when she moved to working from home full-time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Now I get to sleep in, I probably get up at 7:30am and am at work in the loungeroom by 8:00am,” she said.

And Ms Steven said when she finishes work at 4:30pm she is available straight away to spend time with her family, or help out around the house, because she no longer has a commute.

In the past, she has had travelled for up to 90 minutes each way to get to and from work.

“I am a lot less tired,” she said of her experience working from home.

Ms Steven said she now didn’t have the stress of juggling work and making sure she was able to pick her son up on time and she was saving money she would normally spend on petrol and buying lunches and coffee.

She is not the only person in her house who has shifted to working from home.

Ms Steven said her family was lucky they had the space to spread out.

She said she had previously worked about a day a fortnight from home, but had enjoyed the experience of working from home full-time during the pandemic.

Push to allow people to work from home after restrictions ease

The National Growth Areas Alliance — a peak body representing councils in Australia’s outer suburb growth areas — commissioned a study into people working from home during the pandemic.

The study included a survey of more than 6,000 Australians and nearly 2,000 people from outer-suburban growth areas.

It’s executive officer, Bronwen Clark, said the study found more than half-a-million Australians living in outer suburbs could work from home after restrictions ease.

“That’s over 500,000 people off the roads, and not overcrowding trains and public transport, and they’re saving a lot of money every year,” she said.

She said of the people surveyed from outer suburbs, more than half said they would like to continue working from home at least one day a week, after coronavirus restrictions ease.

She said working-from-home options had particular benefits for mums living in outer suburbs.

A woman with shoulder length brown hair stands in a driveway with houses behind her on a sunny day.
Bronwen Clark says the shift towards people working from home could have an enormous impact on where infrastructure is built in Australia.(ABC News: Andrew Altree-Williams)

“Women in outer suburbs quite often just don’t have the time in a day to combine getting children to childcare, commuting into the city for work and getting back in time (to pick their children up),” she said.

Ms Clark said she hoped the move to working from home during the pandemic for many Australians, led to long-term changes.

“People from the outer suburbs working from home were more productive, they are happier, they are healthier and they are experiencing much better relationships with other people in their households,” she said.

Ms Clark said her organisation hoped to see more workforces using decentralised or satellite offices in the future so workers didn’t continue to have extremely long commutes.



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Coronavirus infects 24,000 South African health workers

Some 24,000 health personnel in South Africa have contracted coronavirus, 181 of whom have died, due to the fact the pandemic strike the state in March, the health and fitness minister announced on Wednesday.

South Africa is the hardest-hit country in Africa with at the very least 521,318 infections diagnosed so considerably, accounting for more than fifty percent the continent’s cases.

Health and fitness Minister Zweli Mkwize explained to a news convention that the figures of well being staff who analyzed beneficial for coronavirus stood at 24,104 with 181 fatalities.

The tally translates to all-around 5 p.c of the country’s overall caseload, as opposed to the international fee of some 10 p.c, he said.

Unions have considering the fact that the commence of the pandemic been boosting problems about basic safety in hospitals as effectively as the availability, good quality and dimensions of protective equipment.

The minister warned he would act towards hospital administrators who failed to ensure place of work security. 

South Africa’s general caseload has risen speedily in recent months, whilst the every day raise has lately started to sluggish.

Mr Mkhize cautioned it was far too early to attract conclusions about this. 

“We are not out of the woods still,  but so far we have fought a great struggle,” he reported. “We haven’t got to the stage where by we don’t have clinic room for clients.”

Health and fitness authorities have been anticipating a surge in bacterial infections right after the easing of a rigid lockdown imposed on 27 March.

Mr Mkize suggested the state “may possibly be around the surge by the stop of August” but warned that the possibility of a 2nd wave remained and containment actions should not be abandoned.

South Africa sits in the best five globally in terms of the range of bacterial infections.

People today in Australia will have to remain at least 1.5 metres absent from others. Check out your state’s limitations on collecting limitations.

If you are encountering cold or flu indicators, keep dwelling and set up a test by calling your physician or make contact with the Coronavirus Health and fitness Info Hotline on 1800 020 080.

News and information is out there in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus



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A new executive order escalates Trump’s attack on H-1B visas for foreign workers


On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring workers on H-1B visas from replacing American workers on federal contracts.

The executive order makes it harder for federal agencies to hire workers in the U.S. on H-1B visas, requiring employers to prove they are not replacing qualified American workers with people from other countries and preventing federal contractors from shifting H-1B workers to other job sites in a manner that would “displace American workers.”

The new order does not represent a significant policy shift but rather escalates Trump’s assault on the U.S.’s H-1B visa program for high-skilled foreign workers, the vast majority of whom are from India. The president has ramped up his criticism of the H-1B program in recent months as the coronavirus pandemic has led to widespread joblessness and decimated the economy on which he’d hung his reelection bid. In June, he ordered a temporarily halt to visas for foreign workers through the end of the year, a moratorium that targeted the H-1B and H-4 visas issued to workers in the tech industry and their families. Monday’s order also made an example of a single organization, the Tennessee Valley Authority or TVA, which had planned to outsource some of its technology contracts to companies with foreign workers.

“H-1Bs should be used for top, highly paid talent to create American jobs, not as inexpensive labor program to destroy American jobs,” Trump said on Monday.

The Tennessee Valley Authority

Monday’s order pilloried the TVA, a federally-owned corporation that generates electricity, aids in flood control efforts, and provides economic development in the southeastern United States. In introducing the new hiring directives, the order cited the TVA’s recent decision to lay off dozens of workers and outsource 20% of its technology jobs to companies based outside the U.S., using H-1B visas

On Monday, Trump fired TVA chairman Skip Thompson, whom Trump appointed to the job, and another member of the TVA board, referencing TVA’s plans. Trump said he was made aware of the TVA case after seeing an ad aired on Fox News by the U.S. Tech Workers, an organization that advocates for U.S. limits on visas for foreign technology workers.

At the White House on Monday, Trump said TVA chief executive Jeff Lyash called to tell him that it had a “strong willingness to reverse course” in its decision to outsource the technology work.

Later, in a statement on Tuesday, the TVA said, it “understands and supports” Trump’s order, and that “all jobs related to TVA’s Information Technology department must be performed in the U.S. by individuals who may legally work in this country.”

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican, came to TVA’s defense following Trump’s announcement.

“TVA may have shown poor judgment hiring foreign companies during a pandemic, but, on most counts, it does a very good job of producing large amounts of low-cost, reliable electricity,” Alexander said.

H-1B visas

The U.S.’s H-1B visa program provides a pathway for foreign workers with specialized knowledge to work and reside in the U.S.; it’s favored by U.S. tech giants. In 2019, the U.S. had nearly 400,000 H-1B visa holders and they were predominantly made up of tech workers and Indian citizens. Of the visa holders, 72% were from India and 65% worked in ‘computer-related’ occupations, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Compared to high-tech private employers, the U.S. government is a small beneficiary of H-1B visas but it does still rely on the program. Following a Trump executive order in 2017 to ‘hire American,’ the U.S. Department of Labor conducted a review of private companies and federal contractors to assess their dependence on H-1B visa holders. In 2019, it found that the DOL had issued 2,000 H-1B visas for federal contract work in the first nine months of the year, according to a Bloomberg review of DOL data.

More changes may soon be in the pipeline for the H-1B visa program. Last week, Trump said the White House is working on a merit-based immigration bill. According to new federal proposals, potential changes to the H-1B visa program may include wage requirements for applicants and restricting the ability of visa holders’ spouses to work in the U.S.

More must-read international coverage from Fortune:





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The Whitehall workers who STILL aren’t back in office: Number of civil servants at desks plummets


The Whitehall workers who STILL aren’t back in the office: Number of civil servants at their desks plummets despite Government pleas for their return

  • The largest drop was at the 800,000-square-foot Home Office headquarters
  • Only one per cent of Dept for Education’s London workforce seen entering office
  • The offices are understood to be running at a reduced capacity of 30 per cent
  • It  comes after officials investigated outbreak at Cabinet Office and Home Office

Just days ago civil servants were urged to return to the office by the Government – but far from leading by example, the number back at their desks in Whitehall has plummeted further.

MPs called on staff to show the way for the rest of Britain last week after a Mail investigation revealed ministerial offices were like ‘ghost towns’ with only a fraction of staff turning up.

But despite Boris Johnson stepping in to reassure employees it was safe to go back, the number of people arriving at ministerial offices yesterday morning was down by up to a third on last week.

It comes after health officials investigated a coronavirus outbreak at the Cabinet Office and Home Office last week (file photo of Lunar House, which houses a division of the Home Office)

The largest drop was at the 800,000-square-foot Home Office headquarters where only 94 staff arrived – 50 fewer than last Wednesday.

Meanwhile only one per cent of the Department for Education’s London workforce were observed entering its seven-floor offices, which held up to 2,000 staff before lockdown. The two dozen seen arriving yesterday was down from 34 last Thursday.

Offices are understood to be running at a reduced capacity of 30 per cent. But just 112 people were counted going in to work at a 100-year-old Government building that would normally house thousands of staff from five ministries, including the Treasury. Last week the average was 140.

Treasury staff, who must book a space 48 hours in advance if they want to go in, have reportedly been assured they will get two months’ notice before any collective return to work. Only the Department for Work and Pensions, which has space for around 1,700 workers, saw a slight uptick in staff turning up to work – from 31 last Thursday to 33 yesterday.

It comes after health officials investigated a coronavirus outbreak at the Cabinet Office and Home Office last week.

Workers are reportedly being reassured privately by some department bosses that they will be able to continue working from home this month and only need to come in if they want to.

Just 112 people were counted going in to work at a 100-year-old Government building that would normally house thousands of staff from five ministries (file photo of HM Treasury)

Just 112 people were counted going in to work at a 100-year-old Government building that would normally house thousands of staff from five ministries (file photo of HM Treasury)

There are growing fears city centre shops and eateries which rely on custom from office workers face ruin if more employees are not encouraged to return. Last week Alex Chisholm, second-in-command at the Civil Service, told departments it was time to ‘change the default that civil servants should work from home and accelerate the return to the workplace from August’.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union representing civil servants, said the Government should not be using officials to ‘virtue-signal’ to the private sector.

A Government spokesman said: ‘We are consulting closely with employees on ending the default that civil servants should work from home and have ensured workplaces are Covid-secure so civil servants can return safely.’

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