Latest Covid-19 News from our Branch and Regionally
UNISON South West Help Hub
Got a coronavirus issue you need to talk to us about? Self isolating and need to know your rights? Want to ask a question?
E-mail us or send us a message on Facebook and you’ll be put in touch with a UNISON organiser.
Coronavirus Official Guidance
The guidance for schools has been released by government
Planning guide for primary schools: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/preparing-for-the-wider-opening-of-schools-from-1-june/planning-guide-for-primary-schools
UNISON branch guidance is reproduced here http://www.plymouthinunison.org.uk/covid-19-latest-schools-advice-and-guidance/
It includes a checklist for assessing the risk assessments you may get from your school and a model letter to send to your head
Advice for members on engagement
The message to members is – if employers ask members about re-opening on 1st June they are to attend any meetings but maintain that there are safety concerns that need addressing.
These will include;
- The absence of a national test and trace scheme. Can your school deal with this locally?
- How will vulnerable staff be protected?
- Lack of resources for enhanced school cleaning and PPE
- Does your school have autonomy to close schools where new covid-19 cases appear on campus?
What if I don’t feel my workplace is safe?
UNISON believes that our members should never be in a situation where they might endanger themselves and others in the course of doing jobs.
Putting you in that situation is potentially a breach of health and safety law and may spread coronavirus to people in high-risk groups.
Before you return to the classroom/start dealing with new cohorts of children make sure you have had sight of the risk assessment and instructions for safe systems of working so you know if what is happening in practice is what was envisaged.
Raise concerns with school managers either directly or via your UNISON rep.
As a last resort, when faced with a dangerous working environment which cannot quickly be solved, every employee has the right to leave, or refuse to attend their place of work (or take other appropriate steps) without suffering detriment (section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996).
The context of a situation will be key on whether refusing to return to work or any other steps are appropriate. This means that an employee cannot automatically refuse a reasonable instruction to return to work without a good reason. It applies in circumstances where they reasonably believe there is a risk of being exposed to serious and imminent danger. For example; if somebody apparently suffering with Covid19 symptoms is attending the workplace, or if the social distancing measures cannot be applied in practice.
If you feel you are being put at risk it is crucial to get advice and discuss the situation with your Plymouth in UNISON representative. Contact your branch or if needed you can seek advice from our regional office or legal team.
There for You the charity for UNISON members is here to help UNISON members get the practical and financial support they need. Despite the current difficulties, we remain open and are here to help in any way that we can.
Currently all staff are working from home and we continue to respond to requests for help and are processing applications as quickly as possible. Other than if there’s no alternative, please don’t send applications through the post as we’re only receiving mail once a week.
Our general enquiry line remains open alternatively, you can send an email. Just leave a message and one of our Support Team we’ll get back to you within 1 working day.
Call: 020 7121 5620
We are already receiving applications from members who are in financial difficulties as a result of the Coronavirus. In some cases, this has sadly meant providing support to those who have lost loved ones – including help with funeral costs.
CoVid19 Response Fund
For many of our members, work and household income has suddenly changed overnight. Whether as a result of ill-health, loss of income or increased work-related costs, many will be feeling anxious about how they will make ends meet, pay household bills and put food on the table.
We want members to know that we are here to help in whatever way we can and is why we’ve established a special CoVid19 Response Fund. This new hardship fund will help ease the immediate financial pressures faced by members including those who have become more vulnerable by providing an immediate grant of £250 to help with essentials.
To be eligible for a COVID-19 grant the following must apply either to the member and/or their partner:
- Suffered a reduction in earnings as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis which has put them in financial difficulty (this could be linked to work or health related reasons) and/or
- Member and/or partner is a key worker with increased work-related costs as a result of the crisis, e.g. transport, care, or laundry costs.
- Be a UNISON member with at least 4 weeks membership and have paid their subscriptions;
- Have savings of less than £800
- Be applying for or in receipt of any statutory help that they may be entitled to.
How members apply
Members in financial difficulty can apply direct by completing a simple online application form and attaching some supporting documents which will help us reach a quick decision.
For all the details and, the application form itself go to: CoVid19ResponseFund
Other important information
By way of a reminder, please also note that we have introduced a streamlined version of our main financial assistance application form which members can now complete electronically. We are actively encouraging members to use the electronic form where possible as this will result in us receiving the application sooner. Members can apply without going through the branch – something that may be helpful if you are a key worker or other reasons make it difficult to have contact with members.
For further information go to: https://www.unison.org.uk/get-help/services-support/there-for-you/financial-assistance/ and then scroll down to the section on ‘Financial Assistance
Thank you to everyone. We really do appreciate all that you’re doing during these difficult times.
Stay healthy, stay safe, stay tuned for more information.
Head of There for You
Address: UNISON There for you, 130 Euston Road, London, NW1 2AY
‘There for you’ is the working name of UNISON Welfare a charity registered in England and Wales 1023552 and Scotland 38305
Prime Minister’s plan to increase pupil numbers in schools before they are safe – urgent advice for members
|You will no doubt have heard the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday that the government intends to increase the number of children attending early years settings and primary schools in England from 1 June.
At UNISON we have always been clear that we want to work with government on the issue of schools opening to more pupils. However we firmly believe schools should only increase numbers when it is safe to do so for pupils, parents and staff. Any plan to reopen schools needs to address a range of issues including PPE, testing, tracing, isolation and social distancing. Government has to date failed to deliver on these vital safety measures.
The devolved nations have decided that it is not currently safe to increase numbers in schools, so why is the UK government being so cavalier with the lives and wellbeing of pupils and staff in England?
We are calling for a meeting with the government to work out a safe plan for getting staff back to work safely. So we are advising members not to engage with planning for a return to school from 1 June just yet. But keep an eye out on our website and Facebook page for urgent updates.
Please be assured this is about putting pressure on the government, not your individual school.
I know you are all worried.
So are we all, but UNISON members are also key players in managing this crisis, providing as we do vital public services including being the biggest union in the NHS and local government, and that is a comfort to me at least.
So much of the advice we have been given by Government is woolly and that has been reflected in some of things done and said by employers. UNISON nationally and Plymouth in UNISON locally is working on making that advice clearer and better and we will continue to do so throughout this crisis.
Of course we don’t have all the answers but we are dealing with lots of queries and helping lots of members with individual problems as they arise.
We are also attending to the broad trade union mission to ensure that everybody is kept as safe at work as possible and suffer no financial detriment if they cannot work.
The national UNISON website has up to date advice so mostly I will refer you to it directly in order that this page keeps pace with developments https://www.unison.org.uk/coronavirus-rights-work/
Many of our members work in schools and they can find information here https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/education-services/key-issues/covid-19-closures/
Many more work in the NHS here is a link for you https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/health-care/big-issues/covid-19-advice-health-workers/
And here is further guidance on PPE etc. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-infection-prevention-and-control
We have already been involved in discussions with employers about things like offering home working to staff with childcare needs and with staff in schools about payment for additional hours if their school opens to the children of key workers during holidays
|Re: Covid-19 FAQs for school staff (England)
Please find attached FAQs for school staff in England. They cover:
|We have been made aware of a small number of instances where schools have been closed due to a potential risk of exposure to the Coronavirus (COVID19) and where school cleaners were told to do a ‘deep clean’ of the schools. (None of these in Plymouth as yet)
UNISON regions have rightly intervened to stop our members being put at potential risk. If any instances like this occur elsewhere we need to intervene to ensure schools do the following: