Dyson staff unhappy over request to return to workplace

Dyson Malmesbury plant, pictured a few years ago.
Photo: PA Images

Dyson employees have been told to return to their workplaces during the lockdown despite some telling management that they can do their jobs equally well at home.

The engineering and manufacturing firm told research and development staff to return to facilities in Malmesbury and Hullavington, Wiltshire, last week, telling employees they could only work at home in “exceptional circumstances”.

A similar situation developed at the firm in May, when the company backed down over plans to return staff to offices after strong objections from employees.

Under the lockdown rules staff are allowed to work onsite where it is not possible to carry out their work properly at home. Dyson is within its rights in making the return to the workplace request because business secretary Alok Sharma this week told the Confederation of British Industry annual conference that research and development activities should continue.

However, according to communications seen by the Guardian newspaper, a small number of staff objected strongly to the email they received from Dyson chief executive Roland Krueger, asking them to return to their workplaces adding that some colleagues were angry and upset.

Although many R&D roles require laboratories for testing, some staff engaged in computer-based activities feel they could continue to work from home, as they had during the previous lockdown.

The Guardian was told by an employee that the firm had threatened those who did not comply with the request with disciplinary action.

It is believed that about a third of Dyson’s 4,000 UK staff are covered by the order.

According to the Guardian, Krueger’s email, which it had seen, said: “I cannot hide that the impact of a lockdown is significant and that it will be damaging to Dyson. We all have a responsibility to ensure that projects do not fall further behind during this period and individuals must continue to come to campus when required.”

A Dyson spokesman said: “The government has stated clearly that people who cannot work from home effectively should go to work and that ‘it is vital’ for manufacturing and R&D organisations to remain open.

“Three-quarters of Dyson people, who normally work from our campus, are currently working from home. For those whose role requires them to attend, we have deployed safe working measures that go significantly beyond government guidelines, reflecting that the safety and health of our team is the priority. These measures include the mandatory wearing of face masks and they are audited by third parties on a regular basis.”

Dyson shed about 900 jobs to cut costs during the summer.

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