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Union ‘outrage’ after DVLA staff are asked waist size as part of risk assessment

A union has said it is “outrageous” that DVLA workers were asked to confirm details about their waist size to help decide if they should work in the office during the coronavirus pandemic.

The general secretary for the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS ) said it was “demeaning and insulting” to staff and accused the Government agency of trying to force more staff into the workplace.

But the DVLA said the risk assessment followed Welsh government guidance, was for workers’ safety, and individuals did not need to give out their exact waist measurements.

The DVLA has been following guidance in the Welsh Government’s All Wales Covid-19 Workforce Risk Assessment Tool, which does include a question on waste size.

Staff at the DVLA have been complaining the agency still has 100 people working on the same floor despite the ongoing controversy at the Swansea site.

A Covid-19 outbreak was declared in December at the centre, which has a 6,000-strong workforce, after 352 cases were confirmed in four months. There have been around 535 cases in total.

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In a message seen by the Mirror, a number of staff at the driver licensing headquarters were asked to state if their measurement was larger than 34 inches for women or 40 inches for men.

The email asked the staff members to “all” reply “ASAP” confirming if their waists topped the threshold.

It is not known how many workers were sent the request. But it was part of a “points-based” system DVLA has been using since last month to decide which staff should be kept at home during the pandemic.

Staff score a point each for risk factors that can lead to worse Covid illness – like having a high Body Mass Index, being from a BAME background, being male, or being pregnant.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka claimed: “It is outrageous that DVLA are trying to force more staff into the workplace by demanding workers provide their waistline measurements.

“It is demeaning and insulting to staff who are already being put at unnecessary risk by being forced into work in their thousands.

“The points based system is extremely controversial and senior management are using it in order to force even more staff into the workplace.

“DVLA senior management are trying to duck their responsibility to keep staff safe and should be immediately sending thousands of staff home.”

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The DVLA denied the assessment would be used to get people back into work – saying more staff members, not fewer, had been put on paid leave since it was carried out.

The agency insisted some staff were already working from home if their role allowed, and other workers were in “operational” roles that could not be done remotely.

A spokesman for the DVLA said: “We adhere to guidance set out by the Welsh Government in the ‘All Wales Covid-19 Workforce Risk Assessment Tool’ when carrying out the risk assessments for our staff.

“The tool asks a range of questions about age, health, weight and ethnicity which may increase risk of serious illness following an infection with COVID-19. Individuals do not need to give their waist measurement and can choose not to answer any question they wish.

“Our focus throughout the pandemic has been and continues to be on the safety of our staff.”


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