Britain’s biggest trade unions have warned they will not recommend their three million members return to work unless the Government guarantees they will be safe.

Unite, Unison, the GMB and the USDAW claimed that significant numbers of their members have died while engaged in essential work during the pandemic.

The “big four”, together with TUC, want ministers and bosses to agree a nationwide health and safety “revolution” to save more lives.

In a letter to the Observer, the union leaders are now insisting that health and safety needs to be radically overhauled and stepped up in all workplaces if they are to be able back the Government over easing, and eventually ending, the lockdown.

They want all employers to draw up and publish risk assessments and state what measures they have taken to make work safe for their employees.

Millions of workers could be told not to return to work unless it's safe
Millions of workers could be told not to return to work unless it's safe

They also demand sanctions be imposed on rogue employers and call for Government investment in health and safety inspections.

“The trade union movement wants to be able to recommend the government’s back-to-work plans,” they say.

?“But for us to do that we need to ensure that ministers have listened and that we stay safe and save lives at work too.”

The letter is evidence of the dilemma facing the Government as it tries to balance safety with getting as many people back to work as possible.

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said the Government’s message needs to encourage people to resume their roles at work while staying safe.

“We’re not going to take risks with the public. I understand people are anxious about the future but we want now to have a message which encourages people to go to work,” he told Sky.

“Staying home will still be an important part of the message but you will be able to go to work and you will in time be able to do some other activities that you’re not able to do today.”