Vulnerable Person Risk Assessments (VERA)…

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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.

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

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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

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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.

Schools

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.

#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?

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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 office@unisoncoventry.co.uk

COVID-19 (Coronavirus). UPDATE

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Dear UNISON member, 

We welcome the latest communication from Coventry City Council on the intranet regarding the Coronavirus situation. As members will recall UNISON have been requesting basic health and safety measures for some weeks including writing to the Chief Executive. 

Whilst we welcome these new steps from the employer, we would question why it has taken this long to bring in these preventative measures (the length of time it has taken for action on this means, as the CCC communication states, a possible delay in receiving anti-bacterial hand sanitiser). Whilst we encourage all members to follow the advice given, we also want to make sure that there are appropriate resources for the cleaning staff to do their jobs to full effect. 

We will be pressing for the hand washing facilities to be made available post the Coronavirus outbreak as well as genuine practical health and safety protection for our members. 

Many UNISON members contacted the union to express their support for our firm stance on this matter and we thank all members for being in touch – for us the safety of our members is paramount. 

Thank you for your support on this matter – we have made a difference. 

Kind regards 

Coventry City UNISON

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