Claim that Covid work-related deaths are hugely under-reported

25 May 2021

The number of people who have died from exposure to Covid at work is being “massively under-reported” by employers, according to a new TUC report.

The report identifies a huge discrepancy between Covid work-related deaths reported by employers and data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Public Health England (PHE).

Between April 2020 and April 2021, the ONS reported that 15,263 people of working age died from Covid. According to reports filed by employers, however, just 387 (2.5%) of these deaths came from workers contracting Covid at work.

The union body says this under-reporting has badly undermined health and safety regulation enforcement during the pandemic, with employers less likely to face action from regulators for putting staff at risk.

In particular, it points to sectors with high numbers of deaths during the pandemic — such as food production and transport ― where only a small fraction of deaths have been reported as work-related by employers.

The TUC highlights that employers are required by RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) to report deaths, injuries and illnesses that take place at work or in connection with work.

It is, however, left to the employer to decide whether a Covid-19 diagnosis is the result of occupational exposure or from exposure outside of work premises.