Vulnerable Person Risk Assessments (VERA)…


Your reps have become aware that some employers are using a scoring system called VERA to inform decisions about staff returning to work.

Scores are attributed to individuals based on Age, Gender, ethnicity, and work-based factors.

We are concerned that this is rather a blunt instrument to deal with what could be sensitive considerations.

Any members who are concerned about a potential return to work, whether VERA has been referred to or not, are asked to get in touch with us for support.

Regardless of who your employer is, large or small organisation, they have a duty of care to ensure any identifiable risk is minimised.

#Coventry #City #UNISON Update for members working for Non-Council Employers


Non-Council Employers…Whilst formal arrangements may not be in place for your employer to consult with UNISON, they are still obliged to share their risk assessment of work practices and buildings with you.  If your employer has over 50 staff they are also obliged to publish those risk assessments.  

Please get in touch with us if you have any concerns with the risk assessments or your safety. Phone 02476 550829 or email

#Coventry City #UNISON update for Coventry City Council Staff


Coventry City Council is beginning to review buildings and services that run from them in light of the easing of some aspects of lockdown.

At the moment they are very broad discussions, not focussing on specific services.  We will ensure that risk assessment are in place before any decisions are made.

If your service area is proposing changes to the way you currently work, please contact the branch to help you review the risk assessments and for further guidance and support. Email or phone 02476 550829.

Update for Coventry City #UNISON Members in Schools


The branch has sent a letter to all headteachers requesting the risk assessments drafted for the increase in pupil numbers that was suggested for 1st June.  Trade union consultation on risk assessments is set in legislation.

We have sent specific advice to local reps about this, particularly if they are asked to be involved. Reps have met with the Local Authority a number of times this week and discussed their guidance to schools.

UNISON is clear that any safe increase in pupil numbers on 1st June or after is based on the Governments National Tests being met alongside the agreed joint trade union tests. Individual schools will need a robust agreed risk assessment in place to safeguard staff and pupils

We are having regular meetings with the Local Authority. Each school and academy has been emailed by the branch and UNISON nationally to engage in a dialogue about risk assessments. Prior to any increase in pupil numbers,  schools must share risk assessments with the branch and employees. 

If you have any concerns or questions about a safe increase in pupil numbers, or if your school has indicated an increase in provision but you have not seen risk assessments, then please contact the branch office as soon as possible. Email or phone 02476 550829.

We have requested that the Local Authority provide us with a list of which schools they have had risk assessments from and proposed opening dates.

It is our intention that where we do receive risk assessments from schools, we will be contacting members at those schools to inform them of our response.

We understand that UNISON Nationally will be issuing further guidance to members following the government announcement on the 28th and we will ensure that gets communicated to our members here in Coventry.

Government proposals to increase school and early years pupil numbers from 1 June…


UNISON’s National Schools Committee met on Thursday 14 May and agreed that the union should continue to oppose the government’s unsafe proposal to increase pupil numbers from 1 June. 

The Committee was a little encouraged to hear that at a meeting earlier that day, Department for Education (DfE) officials were keen to stress that the 1 June date was ‘aspirational’ and that the guidance being provided was ‘non-statutory’.

Nonetheless the Committee expressed strong concerns around the following issues:

  • Virus transmission – failure of the government to provide clear evidence around the transmission risk from pupils and staff.
  • Social distancing – the impossibility of maintaining social distancing in schools and nurseries because of the year groups chosen to go back first, and the significant increase in numbers this would bring in some schools. The government recognises this yet is still moving on regardless.
  • PPE – the government’s guidance to schools on PPE is wholly insufficient.
  • Testing, tracing and isolation – failure of the government to roll out a comprehensive strategy before any increase in pupil numbers.
  • Travel – increased risks posed by pupils and staff travelling on public transport and when parents drop off or collect their children.
  • Redeployment – concerns that DfE guidance will be interpreted to mean that schools can deploy support staff to do jobs they are not qualified to perform, protected to do or paid to undertake. Examples include using support staff other than cleaners to undertake cleaning duties and teaching assistants to take classes where they are not qualified or paid to do so. Schools must ensure that support staff are not required to routinely cover for teacher absence or lead classes. UNISON will not support any use of staff to support teaching in an inappropriate or un-agreed way.      
  • Cleaning – Schools and nurseries will need clear plans about how they will enable the additional cleaning required by government guidance. Additional staff and cleaning materials will be required before settings will be safe to open. Staff undertaking additional cleaning must be paid for these extra hours, including overtime premiums where appropriate.           
  • Early years – The government has acknowledged that it is not possible to apply social distancing among these children and unless adequate precautions are in place, staff and children in these settings will be placed at risk. UNISON believes that all nurseries must undertake risk assessments and have adequate measures in place to ensure safe re-opening before 1 June.

It was agreed therefore that UNISON would continue to work with the other TUC education unions to protect pupils and staff by continuing to campaign for schools and nurseries to only open when proved safe to do so. Further, that branches could begin to work with employers on the understanding that 1 June is not possible and that more time is needed.  

#Coventry City #UNISON Statement on Return to Work


A number of members are clearly very concerned about what the announcement from Boris Johnson means for them. Whether you work for a private company, College, MAT, school or for the Council directly there should be no difference in the standards applied to you; namely that it is safe to do so.

If you have any concerns about what your manager is proposing please get in touch with the branch immediately.  We can advise you about what needs to be assessed to ensure that your safety is not compromised.


UNISON will be working with the other TUC education unions to agree on a joint position in response to yesterday’s additional guidance from the DfE on schools opening.  UNISON and the other support staff unions put forward 5 tests that have not yet been met.  The branch is awaiting further national guidance on the matter and advises any members to get in touch with us if you are aware of your school making plans to widen the provision.

We are anticipating that we may get updated advice later so we will ensure that this goes out to all members as soon as it is received.

Council Staff

For any of those who work for Coventry City Council directly, the employer has agreed that the initial starting point for any return, even part, is that it must be safe to do so.  The employer has indicated that it is unlikely that people currently working from home will be expected to return fully back into an office for some time.

Coventry City UNISON Statement on Furlough Pay


The government have said that they will extend furlough pay for now, but they want employers to contribute more.  We know that most people who have been furloughed have not had any extra “top-up” to their full pay from their employer.  

UNISON is the only trade union that provides Welfare help for our members so if you are struggling at the moment please contact the branch and we will try to help you.

Further, there has been a suggestion that people start now with a Universal Credit claim so if the payment you receive is further reduced you will not have to wait 5 weeks for a claim to be processed.  The information that HMRC use is directly from the tax records so if your wages decrease your claim will then start to pay money without the wait.

Coventry City Council – UNISON Negotiations Update


This week UNISON reps are engaging in several meetings on behalf of members.

Corporate Joint Trade Union meetings X2
LATU (Local Authority Education forum)
Adult Services Trade Union meeting
Children’s services Trade Union meeting
Joint Safety Forum (held at UNISON’s request)

As a branch we were proud to host our first virtual meeting last Wednesday which was well attended and raised some important issues. Please ensure we have an up to date email address so we can invite you to the next meeting – email to

We will be raising the issue of the tax relief allowance with the employer following the Easter break

> Annual Leave <
Updated information will shortly be issued by the employer regarding annual leave which considers changes in legislation to allow staff to carry leave over for up to 2 years. If you have a question or concern about annual leave, please get in touch.

#COVID-19 Update! – Will schools be opening over Easter holidays and weekends? If so, do I have to come in and will I be paid?


Some schools in #Coventry have indicated that they will be opening during what would normally be the Easter holidays in order to provide support for the children of critical workers. Some have also indicated that they intend to open seven days a week.

UNISON is encouraging members to support the national effort to enable critical workers to continue working. However, we do not believe that staff should be forced to work outside their normal contracted hours, particularly if they have caring commitments of their own.

Many staff in schools are on term time only contracts. This means that they are not contracted or paid to work during school closure periods.

If term time only staff are required to work outside their normal contracted hours, i.e. in the school holidays, then they should be paid for this. This is specified (para 4.5) of the NJC guidance on term time only working, which states, ‘If term time only employees are required to undertake work outside of their contracted hours, they must be appropriately remunerated.’

Staff will normally be paid at their standard hourly rate if they are working on what is a normal working day. However, if staff are required to work on a weekend or a public holiday then we would expect overtime premiums to apply. These are normally agreed at local authority level but are typically time and a half for working on a Saturday and double time for Sundays or public holidays.

In addition, we would also expect overtime premiums to apply if you work over the standard working week in any given working week. The standard week is normally 37 hours per week outside London and 36 hours per week in London. Some authorities have a shorter standard working week. Where staff are being required to work beyond the standard working week they should normally be paid at time and a half for these hours.

We would expect schools to seek volunteers in the first instance and to consider any booked holiday or caring commitments. If this becomes a regular working pattern, then consideration will need to be given to the annual leave accrued whilst working additional hours.

If you have any concerns regarding term time only working, please contact the office on 02476 550829 on by email