Following the return to schools (and some other workplaces) the issue of wearing various forms of face coverings has been a live one
From 1 September, government guidance gives head teachers in secondary schools in England the “discretion” to introduce face coverings in their schools.
Additionally, in areas of local lockdown, staff and pupils in secondary schools will be required to wear face coverings in corridors and communal spaces. (The same exemptions for those unable to wear face coverings will apply.)
UNISON’s position remains that staff in any educational setting should be allowed to wear suitable face coverings if they wish to do so. The Health and Safety Executive has stated that employers should support employees who wish to wear face coverings as added protection. It is important that face coverings are used in addition to other protective measures and that wearing them does not lead to the relaxation of social distancing and regular hand washing, etc. These practices should be adhered to at all times.
Face coverings may provide extra protection and some schools are now providing face coverings for employees especially where 2-metre social distancing cannot be applied. If a risk assessment identifies that face ‘masks’ are needed as PPE the employer must source and provide these and put in place training on its correct use.
UNISON continues to monitor and review the advice on face coverings. In the meantime if you wish to wear a face covering and your employer is refusing to allow you to, please draw their attention to the HSE advice. If your employer still refuses, contact us.
Members at the Learning Academy Trust did just that. One member who suffered from a lung condition got sent home when she refused to take her’s off and was understandably very upset.
The LAT academy’s position was that no staff were able to wear face masks or shields in school, but following a very constructive meeting with their head of health and safety we agreed with them to revise their position which will now mean that it is optional for staff to wear face masks should they want to.
That said UNISON needs to make it very clear that home made masks and scarf type options like this one are not PPE. They may or may not afford some protection to others should you be infected and not know it, but they cannot be relied upon to protect you. Such products are for going to the supermarket or catching the bus and should make no claims to keep you safe in situations where you cannot socially distance.