UK watchdog warns employers over ‘no jab, no job’ policies

Equalities and Human Rights Commission says companies must avoid discrimination.

UK watchdog warns employers over ‘no jab, no job’ policies

LONDON — An equality watchdog has warned British employers to be careful about adopting blanket bans on unvaccinated workers, amid a growing debate on “no jab, no job” policies in the U.K and worldwide.

The warning came from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which oversees the application of equality and non-discrimination laws in the U.K.

“Employers are right to want to protect their staff and their customers — particularly in contexts where people are at risk, such as care homes. However, requirements must be proportionate, non-discriminatory and make provision for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons,” a spokesperson for the commission said via email.

The commission’s statement comes after multiple large corporations such as Google and Facebook said they would restrict office access to employees in the United States who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus. In the U.K., a major London plumbing firm, Pimlico Plumbers, has been among the first to say it will require employees to be fully vaccinated.

Firms in the financial sector such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan have required employees to report their vaccination status.

British government ministers have said it makes sense for employees to be double-vaccinated before returning to their workplaces but they will not legislate to make it compulsory.

The U.K.’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), an industry association for human resources professionals, said refusing employment or basing access to work on vaccination status could be “an intrusion on an employee’s body and may discriminate on the basis of disability, or religious or philosophical belief.”

Current U.K. law protects against such forms of discrimination, but amendments were made to oblige care home employees to be vaccinated.

Guidance from the CIPD published this month warned companies could be liable for claims of abuse and even criminal complaints if they impose vaccines on workers. “Enforced vaccination would be a criminal offence against the person and an unlawful injury leading to claims such as assault and battery,” the CIPD said.

A spokesperson for the institute said that it was “very problematic for employers to force it [vaccination] legally on a number of grounds especially for existing employees who could claim unfair dismissal.”

The spokesperson said insisting on vaccination could be “less problematic for new starters” but is “still not advisable — aside from other issues, any employee no matter how long length of service could claim discrimination.”

Even the new laws mandating care home vaccination did not guarantee claims would not be brought, although “employers will have that legislation to rely on,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s complicated and employers are exposing themselves to legal claims down the line. Much better to encourage than mandate,” the spokesperson added.

Source : Politico EU More   

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Poland’s waste blame game

The country tackles environmental crime, but fails to sort out its own waste management.

Poland’s waste blame game

Poland’s government is cracking down on illegal waste shipments and proposing new laws to toughen penalties for environmental crimes.

But those measures are unlikely to do much to improve the country’s poor record in meeting EU recycling and waste targets, activists and academics warn.

“The issue of waste imports is minor. We have much bigger problems with our own waste, we cannot deal with our 13 million tons a year. Half a million [tons] from outside Poland is not an issue here,” said Piotr Barczak, a board member of the NGO Zero Waste Poland.

That’s not the way Warsaw is playing the issue.

The environment ministry on Monday announced authorities had detected 30 locations where waste — largely soil mixed with rocks and construction materials — was illegally shipped from a German company located in Beeskow near the Polish border.

“The transports were taking place without any kinds of markings on trucks and without documents needed for the international movement of waste,” said Deputy Climate and Environment Minister Jacek Ozdoba, adding that the find “shows that further structural and legal change is necessary to tighten the international waste stream market.”

The government is working on measures to fight environmental crimes, including doubling the maximum prison sentence for illegal waste trading to 10 years and boosting fines for illegal waste disposal.

Illegal waste shipments to Poland have been a problem for years.

“Every week, there’s some truck found that is full of rubbish that is mixed or there’s a new place somewhere in the forest or on a farmer’s land that is now full of rubbish, or an old barn or some old storage space full of waste,” said Barczak.

Poland legally imported some 527,000 tons of garbage from the EU in 2019. Germany accounted for about 70 percent, with other exporters including Sweden, Denmark and Austria. There is also waste that can be traded freely in the EU without being declared. Then there’s illegal waste, in volumes that are hard to track.

“Waste is often wrongly declared or exported to Poland without a permit,” said Carsten Preuss, president of the environmental NGO Bund in the region of Brandenburg, which shares a border with Poland.

Some illegal waste is fraudulently registered as recyclable — in Poland, that is sorted plastic or paper, as the country has banned mixed waste imports — but the trash doesn’t meet those requirements and ends up being incinerated or dumped in landfills, according to Barczak. In other instances, garbage is simply driven across the border and dumped.

The issue came to wider public attention in 2018, when a series of fires broke out at disposal sites across the country, prompting the government to launch its fight against illegal waste trade and disposal.  

While that battle is garnering headlines, the country is having big problems meeting EU requirements for its own domestic waste.

In 2019, Poland generated 12.8 million tons of municipal waste, or 336 kilograms per person — less than the EU average of 502 kg per person.

The country started “from much lower levels than other, older countries in the European Union” to meet recycling targets, said Maciej Gliniak, a researcher at the University of Agriculture in Krakow specializing in waste management.

But only some 34 percent of municipal waste was recycled in 2019 — below the EU average of 48 percent — while 23 percent was incinerated and 43 percent ended up in landfill, according to Eurostat. That puts Poland out of whack with the EU’s circular economy goals to reuse and recycle as much waste as possible.

Under EU law, member countries were supposed to recycle 50 percent of their municipal waste by last year — a target Poland is almost certain to miss. It gets tougher from there. By 2025, 55 percent has to be recycled, followed by 60 percent by 2030 and 65 percent by 2035.

Even worse for Poland, the EU’s new method to calculate how much waste is recycled measures the weight of the waste entering the final recycling process and not just the amount of waste collected for recycling — making those goals even more difficult to hit.

“In Poland, the most important thing is to build new waste treatment plants,” Gliniak said, as the country lacks recycling facilities and incinerators.

Wojciech Kość contributed reporting.

This article is part of POLITICO’s Sustainability Pro service, which dives deep into sustainability issues across all sectors, including: circular economy, waste and the plastics strategy, chemicals and more. For a complimentary trial, email pro@politico.eu mentioning Sustainability.
Source : Politico EU More   

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