The UK’s biggest public companies have disclosed only 18 Covid-19 deaths among their workforces, according to new research.
Investor advisory group PIRC has said its latest research of FTSE 100 firms shows that businesses are “typically silent” on the extent of Covid cases and deaths across their staff.
Deaths were only disclosed by five of the index’s 100 companies, representing 18 deaths among a global workforce of 4.5 million people.
The Office for National Statistics has reported almost 137,000 UK deaths from the virus within 28 days of a positive test.
We should not allow their deaths to disappear from the history of Covid because they are unpleasant facts to include in an annual report
Alice Martin, PIRC
Alice Martin, labour specialist at PIRC, said: “Official public health data shows thousands of Covid-19 deaths among the working age population in the UK alone.
“The death rates are higher in certain sectors and job roles, including those in which FTSE 100 companies employ people, such as in logistics, food manufacturing, catering and security.
“While annual reports provide extensive commentary on how businesses and profits have been affected by Covid-19, they are typically silent on cases, and fatalities, amongst the workforce.
“We know companies have data, it is deeply regrettable that they have not chosen to tell the story of how their employees have been affected.”
PIRC said its research included limited examples of reporting Covid-19 cases, with Spirax-Sarco engineering highlighting an employee case rate of 3.7% in 2020, while Antofagasta, BHP and Polymetal recorded a combined 3,123 cases.
However, it said it believes it is “fair to deduce” that overall Covid-19 case and death figures among all firms are caused by “an absence of data rather than inexplicably low case and fatality rates”.
Ms Martin added: “Many workers have died during this terrible pandemic, some of them having caught the virus in their workplace.
“We should not allow their deaths to disappear from the history of Covid because they are unpleasant facts to include in an annual report.”