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Updated Schools Health & Safety FAQs – COVID-19

UNISON have produced additional FAQS under the health & safety section for school staff in England and Wales relating to COVID-19. They cover:

  • What your school MUST do to keep staff safe
  • What else UNISON recommends schools should be doing to keep staff safe, including guidance on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • What members can do personally to keep themselves as safe as possible
  • How schools can reduce physical contact between children
  • What to do if staff have concerns about health and safety measures at their school
  • What to do if someone develops symptoms of COVID-19 at school

The updated FAQs are embedded below but are also available at the bottom of the main schools advice page, and as a PDF to download from the resources section.

Easter opening

Some schools will be opening over the Easter holidays to look after the children of critical workers. If staff on ‘term time only’ contracts are asked to work during this period, this is outside their normal contracted hours and UNISON advice is that they should be paid for this work. In addition, any staff required to work on Easter Monday or Good Friday should be paid the relevant premium for working on a public holiday.

Furlough scheme

We are aware that some education employers are seeking to use the government’s Job Retention Scheme that allows employers to ‘furlough’ workers. Under this scheme, the employer will continue to pay staff, but then be able to reclaim 80% of the cost from the government, Whilst this scheme is open to all employers, government guidance is clear that it does not expect public sector bodies to use this scheme as they continue to receive public funding. This would include schools. We are aware that there are some staff working in schools and early years who rely on external funding to pay their wages, e.g. some breakfast club and after school workers.

We have asked all the UK governments for urgent clarification on whether some or all workers in education will be covered by the scheme. At this time, the government are advising education employers to hold off from applying for the scheme.

However, UNISON is aware that some employers are having funding difficulties and are already saying they wish to apply the scheme. Branches are advised that, if due to funding difficulties, the alternative to furloughing is redundancy, then they should negotiate to save workers’ jobs and protect their pay.

For more general information on the Job Retention Scheme, see UNISON’s Q&As and bargaining guide on our webpages.

Education Select Committee inquiry (England)

The Education Select Committee has launched an inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services. The Committee is also calling on the Department of Education to include school staff as a priority group for testing COVID-19 as more tests become available, and to issue further guidance for schools on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). If you have any evidence from schools on these or other issues that we could submit in a response to their enquiry, please email education@unison.co.uk.

Thanks again for all you are doing and please keep us updated of further questions and clarifications we can take to the DfE.

3 April Covid-19 FAQs School Support Staff
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