#COVID-19 Update for #UNISON Members. 12/01/21


Important Information Regarding this Email:
As our COVID-19 Updates contain issues relating to Workplace Health & Safety, we are now sending them out to all members regardless of their communication preferences. If you have not been receiving these emails in the past, it may because your communication preferences do not allow us to email you. The branch only emails members with news and information that is relevant to your membership and if you would like to review your communication preferences, please visit https://www.unison.org.uk/my-unison/

In This Issue…
Non-Council Members
Council Members
Passenger Transport

Non-Council Members…
Your employer has a duty to keep you safe, wherever you work and whatever work you do. They need to have updated their risk assessments and talked to you about the risks you are facing. If you are shielding, then they need to honour that and if you are vulnerable but not shielding, they must consider what they can do to keep you as safe as possible.

We know that not all our members are able to work from home and that many are still supporting service users daily; however, your safety must be key in all of this and your employer has a legal duty to ensure that.
We would urge all our members to ask their managers what precautions they should be taking and to raise any concerns.

With the high virus rate in Coventry many more people are now at risk of contracting Coronavirus and we want to support all members to ensure that they are as safe as possible.

Council Members…
UNISON raised our concerns today that this lockdown is not being treated as seriously as the one last March.  In the corporate meeting today, which was supported by other Trade Unions, UNISON called for the employer to go back to the full lockdown that was introduced at the beginning of March last year.  

We also stated that this approach to full lockdown should not be any shorter than 3 weeks so that (a) the most dangerous period that Professor Chris Whitty has referred to will have started to pass and (b) it gives management and the trades unions time to assess the new level of risk and discuss what the most appropriate way of delivering services are.

Without this approach, UNISON is concerned that virus levels in the city will rise and that it will further endanger staff, service users, and citizens of Coventry.  We were clear and unequivocal that with the new strain of the virus the risks currently are too great to do anything but follow the most cautious approach by the employer.

We would advise members to carefully consider any requests to work outside their home and raise directly and urgently with the branch any issues that you believe would put youself at risk of contracting the virus.

UNISON reps met with library management to share concerns regarding the continual operation of services from Central Library. They have shared updated risk assessments with us this afternoon and these should also be shared with staff shortly.

We urge members to tell management individually if you have any concerns about your health and safety in the workplace. This can be done as part of your vera review or as a separate conversation. UNISON is happy to support you in this discussion if required.

We have asked for the number of times click and collect has been used, and management has assured us that they will provide the data but also review demand to inform their decision making.

We have made a number of requests, asking that the airflow report is reviewed in light of the new variant of covid. We have also asked that cleaning regimes be shared and a review of isolating of materials.

Management is reviewing staffing numbers to ensure that no more than the absolute minimum are in work to complete tasks. We have requested that management review their decision to continue with services and we will be meeting them on Monday.

Passenger Transport…
UNISON asked for a meeting on Monday last week because we were in tier 4, with the announcement that we would go into full lockdown on Monday evening it became more urgent that we made sure our members were safe and able to work confidently.  After a meeting early Tuesday with UNITE attending also we gained agreement that the service area would look to reduce service users. 

It was confirmed yesterday, after UNISON’s request, that the new risk assessment ensures that no more than 4 pupils will be on a bus and that the manifest should be consistent. There has also been, at our request, a firm commitment to encouraging the use of hand gel and masks where appropriate.

UNISON intends to respond to the new DfE guidance for schools in England on restricting attendance during the national lockdown. There will be a new risk assessment checklist this week.

Maximum class and bubble sizes
We are urging school leaders and headteachers to implement the following measures to protect pupils and staff from the new COVID strain, to reduce community spread and protect our NHS:

• Limit bubble sizes to a maximum of 15 pupils per class or 50% of the school’s usual class size, whichever is smaller, and ensure 2m social distancing
• Staff to remain within their bubble at all times with no crossover working.

Special schools and Alternative Provision
In special schools and alternative provision, it will not be possible, or even appropriate, for every child to receive face-to-face provision every day. We are therefore calling for schools to be given the flexibility to establish which vulnerable learners could be offered time in schools.
Additional guidance for special schools/colleges and alternative provision is on the national website at the bottom of this page: https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/education-services/key-issues/covid-19-closures/

Early years and Nurseries
The government has decided early years settings should remain open to all children.
UNISON is campaigning for them to be treated in the same way as schools. Support this petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/566718.)
The government is refusing to publish the scientific evidence for the different treatment of early years despite calls from across the sector.
If settings do remain open, we believe that they must;

• Undertake revised risk assessments, taking into account the increased transmissibility of new variant and the move to COVID alert level 5.
• Restrict numbers of children and ‘bubble’ sizes to 8 children, as was the case when settings re-opened after the first wave of the pandemic.

Section 44
In parliament last week Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, said that UNISON and the NEU had accepted that the advice we gave members about their health and safety rights was ‘incorrect’.
We believe it was the right advice to give at the time and we made this clear in our response to the government. After the government directed the closure of schools, NEU and UNISON removed the advice from our websites because the situation had changed.
But this emphatically does not mean we believe face-to-face work with full or near-full classes in schools is safe in the current circumstances. UNISON and the NEU have written to schools, setting the record straight and responding to messages coming out of the Department for Education. Members’ individual rights under health and safety law have not changed – see our health and safety guidance.

However, unlike last week, the risks facing members may differ between workplaces and therefore we are now asking them to speak to their branch first if they have serious health and safety concerns about being in the workplace.
Petition: Shut all nurseries and early years settings during lockdown

Urgent call for the government to close all nurseries and early years settings considering the new lockdown to protect early years staff.

Please sign the petition…

UNISON Coventry City Branch

Call us on 02476 550829
email us at office@unisoncoventry.co.uk

#COVID-19 #Coventry #City #UNISON Update 08/01/21


All Members…

The branch is starting to receive numerous queries from staff who under previous lockdowns have been directed to work from home but are now being told that they are “key workers” and should be coming into office locations.  UNISON is clear that this lockdown is even more serious than the November lockdown given the new strain of the virus.  If your manager is now insisting that you come into the office, please re-iterate to them the advice given by the government that if you can work from home then you should.   Then get in contact with us and ensure that we are aware of what your service area is proposing.

Adult Social Care Members…
UNISON is aware of the issues arising in day ops and are discussing with management ways in which risks are managed and minimised for you. Please check with your manager that risk assessments have been reviewed to reflect risks posed by the new variant of Covid 19. Please get in touch if you have any concerns.

Library Members…
We are due to meet the management team on Monday to discuss the level of service being offered during this latest lockdown and the issues raised by members as a result of this.

Due to the level of concern raised, the advice of UNISON nationally and CILIP we have written to the head of service today, copying in the Kevin Maton, the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills. We have requested that Libraries cease services from Central Library as is their plan and enable staff to work from home or remain home if this is not possible.

Are you a key worker? Can you request your child goes to school because of your role?

This question has been raised because of verbal information received from Libraries management by some staff. To date, the critical worker list on the government website does not specify that Library staff are key workers.

Management has confirmed that the DCMs guidance has not been updated to reflect this. Therefore we would not advise members to exercise a right to a place for their child on this basis at the moment

We will update you as soon as we receive a response.

Schools Members…

Do all staff need to be at school during lockdown?

No. Schools and colleges should ensure they have sufficient staff on-site to operate safely and support the on-site provision but all other staff should work from home where possible. A rota system would be the safest and fairest way to implement this. Some employees may prefer to work on-site – that’s a reasonable request. Despite the requirements for remote learning provision, it is not sensible to expect all staff to be on site.

Why are nurseries still open?  

UNISON is continuing to press the government to treat nurseries the same as primary schools.  We have seen a copy of the letter sent to Gavin Williamson on this matter.  It notes that SAGE member Prof Semple is on record as saying he couldn’t explain why nurseries were open and the decision was not a scientific one.

What are doing about the wide definition of vulnerable children? 

Nationally UNISON is arguing that only those children assessed as vulnerable in their COVID EHC plan should be attending school.  Employees should be asking for individual pupil risk assessments for all SEN pupils who have a EHC.

What’s happening with risk assessments?  

We’ve had very clear advice.  We cannot tell you a school is safe if we have not seen and agreed a revised risked assessment. Employers must communicate changes to RAs to you as a matter of urgency.

Why did I get an email from the NEU?  

NEU sent emails to all who signed its petition asking for school closures, asking them to join NEU.  If you received such an email, contact us.  You should have received an apology from the NEU for this misuse of data.

Why is my head saying UNISON has retracted the section 44 advice?  

The DfE sent a letter to the director of education telling them we had done this.  We haven’t.  We expect a national statement from UNISON on this.  It appears Gavin Williamson is misrepresenting UNISON views.  We have informed the local authority of this.

My head is saying that DfE has now given clearer advice on how to manage the risk?

The DfE did issue new guidance yesterday.  UNISON has stated nationally that they are dismayed that is does address our concerns about the definition of vulnerable children, keyworker children.  

The current advice is:

1 – Limit bubble sizes to a maximum of 15 pupils per class or 50% of the usual class size, whichever is smaller.
2 – Staff should remain within their bubbles at all times with no crossover working.
3 – In special schools and alternative provision, it will not be appropriate or possible to give every child face to face provision every day.

What happens if the school isn’t following UNISON advice?  

Contact us. Tell us. We have received further advice from head office on escalating issues which we are currently considering.

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable staff should be working from home.

UNISON Coventry City Branch

Call us on 02476 550829
email us at office@unisoncoventry.co.uk



The DfE has informed the LA that UNISON has withdrawn section 44 advice to its members. We’ve seen a copy of this letter. (Section 44 is the legislation on the statute books that gives employees the right to withdraw from an unsafe workplace without detriment, as used in our model letter for school employees).

We have been told by national UNISON that Gavin Williamson has misrepresented UNISON’s views.

The LA has advised schools earlier today that the section 44 advice has been withdrawn.

The branch has received no advice from head office that our section 44 advice has been withdrawn.

We expect that UNISON will make a national statement on this later.

COVID-19 Update for #UNISON Members in #Coventry City Branch


In light of the Prime Ministers’ announcement of the latest lockdown, we would like to update you on what we are doing to support you in the workplace.

For Council employed staff we have requested an urgent meeting to discuss with the employer steps that need to be taken to keep staff safe during this lockdown.

We intend to review by service area management expectations but we would ask that members update us regarding any communication and response that may have been received in response to these new concerns.

With the development of the new strain of COVID all risk assessments and VERAs should be reviewed to ascertain what additional steps may need to be taken.  The key message is if you can work from home you should do so.  We will support any member, wherever they work, who wishes to raise concerns about being asked to attend an office location unnecessarily

For non-council members, we are aware that many of you continue to work in front-facing roles that do not allow working from home. Your employer should be reviewing risk assessments in the workplace and sharing them with you to ensure your safety. If you are a vulnerable employee who has concerns about shielding we urge you to talk to your employer about furlough and if you need further support to get in contact with us.

Our national website is regularly updated with information and advice for all members in all sectors and is well worth checking if you have a query.

For school-based staff, we continue to meet with the local authority on a regular basis and keep raising our concerns over safety and workplace practices. The new lockdown comes in no small part due to the activity of our trade union and others over the past week. There is a further guide available for those who work in special education.

Should any member be struggling financially during the period please do get in touch; however, we will be sending out further communications in the next few days about the support you can get from UNISON.

We have proved this week that together we are stronger and the activities of our members can and do effect positive change. If your colleagues are not members then encourage them to join now at https://joining.unison.org.uk or if you know of any members who have not received this email please ask them to get in touch and update their contact details with us.


UNISON Coventry City Branch

Call us on 02476 550829
email us at office@unisoncoventry.co.uk

#Schools Update – 04/01/2021


It has been brought to our attention that some school members have been receiving a letter from some heads about attending the workplace. The tone of this letter is causing some members concern. We have seen similar letters from several schools. It appears to be based on a template, possibly from the LA, as its contents are similar to an email the branch had from the LA late yesterday.

We will raise it with the LA first thing this morning. We would like to reassure members that if they have used the model letter to inform the head of their reasons for working from home they have fulfilled the necessary conditions of section 44 to protect your right to withdraw from the workplace for safety and to suffer no detriment as a result.

URGENT Schools Advice!


This advice applies to all primary schools, special schools, SEND and early years settings in England.special schools, SEND and early years settings in England.

In UNISON’s view, it is unsafe for you to attend the workplace at present if your school is fully opened to all pupils.

Our advice is that you should decide to advise your head teacher or employer that you will not be attending the workplace but will be available to work remotely from home or only being in school supporting provision and the learning of key worker and vulnerable children if necessary.

Here is a letter for to send to your head teacher or employer:

Your model letter

When sending this letter, you will also be asserting your legal right to be protected against any detrimental action by your employer, including to your pay. This right is explained in full in the model letter.

Our advice applies for at least the first two weeks of term, the same period for which secondary schools and some primary schools have already been instructed by the government to move to remote learning.

UNISON is issuing this advice after careful consideration of the advice which was apparently given to the government by the SAGE advisory group and the current position on infection rates.

Safety in schools

We understand that SAGE has advised the Government that schools should move to remote learning in order to help reduce the rate of spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The advice given by SAGE has only been adopted in relation to secondary schools and to primary schools in some Tier 4 areas.  Given the overall increase in infection rates, however, we believe it is unsafe for schools to reopen in any area at present.

Infection rates are far higher than at the end of last term. This increase has been promoted by the new variant of the COVID-19 virus which was not properly understood at that time.  These developments mean, in our view, that the risk assessments in place in schools at the end of last term cannot now be relied on by employers to demonstrate that workplaces are safe in these changed circumstances. We are calling on all employers in all schools, whatever age group they serve and whatever the local tier of restrictions, to review their risk assessments and safety measures before asking employees to return to the workplace.

Face to face provision

We accept that schools may need to provide face to face provision for vulnerable students and the children of key workers and are also expected to open for some exam groups.

This should happen after risk assessments have been reviewed and appropriate measures taken to ensure safety, including for necessary social distancing and limits on group sizes.

We are advising members that they should agree to make themselves available to attend the workplace to support these students on a rota basis. The model letter you can send to your headteacher/employer makes clear you are making yourself available to work from home or to support with this limited in-school provision.

Petition to make schools safe and protect communities

Along with the teachers’ union, the NEU, we have launched a public petition calling on the government to use this period of remote learning to establish how quickly the new variant of the virus is transmitted, and to establish measures to keep schools more “COVID secure”.

Sign the petition

Next steps

UNISON’s national schools committee meets on Monday 4 January to decide next steps and we will keep you updated via email. Please also follow our Facebook page for the latest information.

In the meantime, please use the model letter to notify your head teacher or principal of your position.

UNISON Coventry City Branch

Call us on 02476 550829
email us at office@unisoncoventry.co.uk