Capita employee died from coronavirus just two weeks after 16 Yorkshire MPs demanded better workplace safety

A Capita employee has died from coronavirus just two weeks after MPs issued a stark warning over the safety of call centre workers at the firm.

Capita confirmed a person based at their Dearne Valley site in South Yorkshire had died from coronavirus.

And while there is no evidence the virus was contracted at work, employees at both their Leeds and the Dearne Valley sites had raised concerns with their MPs, unions, and The Yorkshire Post that they were still having to go to the office in recent weeks.

It prompted a letter from 16 Yorkshire MPs - led by Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel - demanding better protection for a number of workers, including singling out Capita specifically, and a firmer definition for key workers.

Capita call centre, on the Manvers Industrial Estate near Rotherham. Photo: JPI Media

At the time Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn wrote to Capita and Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey said: "Many employees of Capita have been contacting me telling me they’re worried the company is not following Government health advice or doing enough to protect staff.”

And Mr Sobel - after denials that telecoms workers were at risk - commissioned a survey of employees.

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Some 13 of those who responded were Capita workers who disputed that their roles were “key”, and said working from home was not being offered.

One told Mr Sobel: “They sent us home after your initial contact with [Chief Executive] Jon Lewis, as an attempt to make themselves look like they are following Government guidelines. When in fact, it was to avoid bad publicity. They were unwilling to furlough or pay us a salary in this situation, whilst still protecting our health.”

Another said: “They say they are looking into enabling people to work from home. Nobody as of yet has been able to.”

But a Capita spokesperson said: “As stated previously, our top priority is the well-being of our people, while ensuring we maintain the essential services we provide to millions of people every day.

“Capita colleagues continue to remain at home, unless they are key workers as defined by the Government, or who are within an exceptional category of people providing other essential services – and for whom it is not possible to work from home.

“We continue to effectively carry out social distancing across all our offices, in line with government guidance, and have increased our cleaning and hygiene routines across all our sites. We are increasing our capacity to support remote working, and every day we are seeing more and more colleagues moving to home working.

“We are unable to comment on the results of this ‘survey’. It is unclear how it was drawn up and to which of Capita’s offices it relates, while it appears to have been based on a very small number of people questioned.”

Mr Sobel said: “I am very sorry to hear about the death of this Capita employee.

“Obviously we don’t know the circumstance behind this particular tragedy.

“Several Capita employees have written to me to complain about Capita’s use of key worker status. Many have complained about being forced to come in unnecessarily and being made to feel unsafe.

“It is vital that all organisations large and small ensure that everything is in place to allow workers to work from home unless absolutely necessary. I am in contact with Capita senior management and I will continue to push them on this issue.”