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Employment

Pubs and clubs in Newcastle will have to provide free taxis for staff working late-night shifts

All staff finishing work after 11.30pm, when public transport stops running, will be provided with transport home under the new measures.

Pubs, bars and restaurants in nightlife hotspot Newcastle will have to make sure staff get home safely after a late shift if they want an alcohol licence.

Under new rules signed off by the city council, all late-night venues that serve alcohol will have to provide free transport home for staff finishing work after 11.30pm, when public transport ends in the city. 

The hospitality industry – which has been plagued by persistent staff shortages in recent months – frequently requires workers to finish work late at night, when they are at risk of violence after leaving.

Concerns for the safety of women walking home at night have been brought to the fore following the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa. The killing of 35-year-old Zara Aleena, who was attacked late at night while walking home in London last month, has once again placed violence against women in the headlines.

“Enforcement of the law against sexual assault, including up-skirting, on public transport is appalling and only 2 per cent of victims go on to report sexual harassment on public transport,” councillor Nick Kemp told the council. 

“This will significantly benefit the safety and wellbeing of our whole community, especially hospitality workers and particularly women, who often cannot afford, or access, safe transport options late at night.”

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The council is the first in England to make getting staff home safely a requirement for an alcohol licence, following in the footsteps of Scottish councils East Dunbartonshire and North Ayrshire.

Backing the motion brought by union Unite, Kim McGuinness, police and crime commissioner for Northumbria said: “Newcastle is a great night out. Workers in bars and clubs help keep it safe. They deserve to be safe too.”

Hotel worker and Unite Hospitality organiser Caitlin Lee told the Big Issue last year how she was sexually assaulted after a Friday night shift in Glasgow city centre while she searched for a taxi.

“I wouldn’t have been in that position had I not been at work,” she said. 

In a statement sent to Lee after she reported the assault, and seen by The Big Issue, her employers responded that they “are not responsible for your health and safety once you leave your place of work”.

Under the Get Me Home Safely policy, participating councils will force employers to “take all reasonable steps to ensure workers are able to get home safely from work at night.”

The new measure will be added to the list of criteria hospitality venues must meet to be granted a new alcohol licence, or when their existing licence is due for its yearly renewal.

“This sets an important precedent in contradiction to the council lawyers who claim that it would not be possible to make safe and free transport home a requirement for an alcohol licence,” said Bryan Simpson, industrial organiser at Unite. 

“We are proving that it can work and that it will benefit thousands of late-night workers who no longer have to sacrifice two hours wages to get home safe after a shift.”

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