Volunteers’ health and safety not top priority for Jubilee employer


Many of those enrolled in the Government’s work programme are actively looking for an opportunity to show their skills in a professional environment, as this can increase their chances of getting hired and start earning an income. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee saw thousands of Brits participating in events that took place all over the country.

During the Jubilee weekend some of those enrolled in the work programme were offered the chance to volunteer for the company in charge of the security of the weekend’s boat pageant, which took place on the Thames.

Volunteering as a means to an end

Volunteering is often seen by workers as a chance to make a good impression on possible employers. Indeed, some of those workers participating in the weekend event had hoped that the private security firm, Close Protection UK, would consider offering them a job.

Disappointingly, the company did not seem to have any such plans and instead showed the volunteers a real lack of preparation for their day’s work. The participants were taken by bus to London, from different parts of the country, where they were to stay overnight so that they could be ready on time for work on the following day.

Upon the volunteers’ arrival, it was clear that arrangements for their stay had not been finalised. Some were asked to sleep, and later change into appropriate working gear, under London Bridge. Moreover, some of the 24-hour workers have said that there were no toilet facilities provided.

What consequences will this have?

The revelation that the free workforce was not treated well has raised concern about whether similar situations will arise during the Olympics. One result of the financial climate is that many unemployed are desperate for work experience and will agree to work for free in an attempt to get employed. However, this also means that they are often afraid of enforcing their rights as this might put employers off hiring them.

This is damaging in terms of publicity for the capital; the last thing that London needs is a bad reputation for treating workers dedicating their time to the Games poorly. But more importantly, any indication that employers are exploiting workers is a serious matter. It is important that employers are aware of their responsibilities towards any worker, regardless of whether this is a paid employee, a volunteer or an intern. Anyone engaging in employment-related practices has the right to do so in an environment where their health and safety is looked after.

The Olympics are a major event for London, which will involve hundreds of workers focusing on making the Games as good as they can. The incident that occurred during the Jubilee weekend will hopefully serve as a caution to employers that free labour should not be taken for granted and that they are responsible for their workforce’s wellbeing.

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