UNISON is seeking clarity from the local authority about receiving updated risk assessments where schools have experienced a COVID incident.
If you have experienced a COVID incident and are not clear about any changes to processes and procedures as a result of the incident please get in touch with us.
The government has decided that advising people to work from home (where practicable) is one of the approaches essential to reduce the threat of rising COVID-19 numbers. If your manager is encouraging you go back to your workplace please get in touch for advice and support.
Our Branch continues to support members on a variety of workplace issues both COVID related and more general problems. If you are experiencing any workplace issues please get in touch for advice and support.
All employers should have risk management policies and procedures in place to deal with the current COVID crisis. If you have not been made aware of them ask your employer and get in touch with the branch
UNISON has been working hard supporting colleagues in discussions with management around Library staffing, VERA’s, reasonable adjustments, and more. As a result, as Libraries move toward stage 3 of opening. Management have reviewed their VERA process and updated their guidance to staff. UNISON would like to reiterate that any member with health or other concerns should request a VERA and a meaningful discussion of the issues with management. We will be happy to support this process if required. Do not delay in contacting the branch for advice and support if you have any concerns.
A return to school with full classes, while coronavirus remains a threat, is a key moment for the nation. Members will have mixed feelings. We have an opportunity to address education inequalities made worse by the lockdown but government guidance on full opening has not been ‘world-beating’.
School leadership teams have been working hard to upgrade their risk assessments and have the necessary arrangements in place for September.
It will not be perfect. Schools are complex environments and the risk assessments reflect this. Inevitably, some things may have been missed unintentionally. The large changes required to working practices make it likely there will be some omissions and errors.
The start of the school year is a time to set expectations and routines for the children. These boundaries get tested and are reinforced and refined.
The same is true of risk management. The risk assessment and associated documents are a ‘work in progress’, they can and should be amended as needed.
If YOU become aware of a potential hazard that does not appear to be covered by the school’s risk management, UNISON encourages you to respectfully bring it to the school’s attention, or to UNISON, so that the matter is considered.
Don’t assume that leadership already knows about it, or that it is just something that has to be put up with. Your safety is important and it is your responsibility as an employee to report hazards. A good employer will value employees who work with them to improve workplace safety.
If you become aware of a positive test result in your workplace please contact the branch for advice and support.
The branch has worked through the summer to encourage the creation of robust risk assessments. Equally important to these documents is their implementation on the ground.
Again, if YOU become aware that the risk assessment is not being followed, please draw it to the attention of the school, or us. Mistakes will be made, and we would expect schools to be sympathetic to inadvertent and minor errors. We think it best that these issues are dealt with promptly and vigilance is maintained; to keep you safe.
UNISON has got your back.
You should check that the following points are being observed in your workplace;
- Your employer will have consulted you and shared with you an updated risk assessment and related documents for September opening. You will have received training on all the current risk management arrangements for the school.
- Vulnerable employees, or those living with vulnerable people, will have had a Vulnerable Employee Risk Assessment (VERA). This should address employees with underlying medical conditions, employees with characteristics known to put them at higher risk, caring responsibilities and travel plans. Additional measures must be in place to mitigate the increased risk these employees are at.
- The school will have secured ample supplies of PPE, cleaning materials and facilities to support regular hand washing, good hygiene, enhanced cleaning and protection for staff working closely with students.
- All staff should be allowed to wear a face covering at work if they so wish. We will support any member to exercise this wish. We strongly recommend that staff working across classes consider this. Regrettably, the government advice on this has been confused, and we have seen risk assessments stating there is no need for staff to wear masks.
- All support staff should be undertaking their normal duties, within their job description. We know TAs have been teaching full classes previously (we don’t support this), and that roles like HLTA’s do have additional responsibilities. However, we are concerned that workload pressures on staff are likely to increase. We don’t know how long we will be living with the COVID-19 threat, blended learning may increase workload, there could be pressure on staffing if we have virus outbreaks and staff have already suffered considerable stress since March. It is crucial that we try to prevent further education disadvantage to children, so the working arrangements and wellbeing of staff must be sustainable.
UNISON’s advice goes beyond the governments, and we’ve noticed that school risk assessments have not picked up our advice on monitoring workload and wellbeing. Take care of yourself by working within your job description.
Contact us for our support on that and let us know if your workload is becoming a problem.
As management begins communicating with staff about the reopening of #Friargate and other council buildings we would like to update you on the discussions held thus far.
Corporate management have been very clear that in opening these buildings there is no instruction to staff to return to them if they can continue and would prefer to work from home or in a more agile manner.
Corporately management have shared the work done in preparation of opening, including engineer reports on air ventilation systems, floor layouts, and changes to work practices to support a safe return to the office for those who would benefit from it. This information needs to be supplemented by service area rationales for return and local risk assessments and UNISON is waiting on some of this detail.
If you have concerns about a return to your workplace please get in touch with the branch as soon as possible so that we can offer advice and support.
Some services have been operating, albeit very differently, through this crisis. We are increasingly having managers trying to talk to us about returning to a more open model in many service areas.
UNISON is clear that COVID has not gone away and that numbers of cases have increased recently in Coventry. With that in mind, we need to challenge rationales and ensure that members are kept safe at work.
We will be having these conversations in the coming days and weeks and if you are concerned about your work area then please contact us.
We have had many of the school risk assessments sent to us and we are now working through them. However, this does not negate the duty to those vulnerable employees and we urge all members who are concerned about their return to work to ask for risk assessments and take advice as necessary from us.
For Council employees, the corporate message received is that although buildings may be opening and steps being taken to open more, this does not negate the overarching message which is “if you can work from home, you should continue to do so”.
Whilst individual services and managers may be considering how a return to the workplace can be made safe, the question to be asked is “why”? What circumstances dictate that the increased risk is necessary? Your managers should have contacted you and UNISON well in advance to discuss any changes to the current working practices.
Services for vulnerable people are reopening with stringent measures in place to ensure safety: these include a reduction in capacity, use of PPE where necessary, temperature checking, and ensuring all are vigilant for symptoms.
All steps taken by employer to ensure COVID safety, should be regularly reviewed and immediately if any concerns are raised or issues arise.
Over the past few weeks, members have been in touch with us regarding their workplaces re-opening or extending services, which may require them to work from an office/workplace setting rather than at home. This type of change is a cause of great anxiety for people, some of whom have been shielding during lockdown.
Government advice is clear that every workplace must become “COVID secure” by undertaking a risk assessment and applying measures to ensure that the risk to staff and service users is minimised.
If you have health, or other concerns regarding a return to work you can request an individual risk assessment and your employer should discuss the matter with you to try to reach a mutually agreeable way forward.