Schools health, safety and risk assessments

Advice to members working in schools, academies and nurseries

The branch wanted to follow up on the emails you have received from the national UNISON office to be as clear as we can be for our members in West Sussex.

New checklist

UNISON and other education unions have examined the Government guidance to schools on the proposed 1st June re-opening and have produced the attached checklist.

UNISON’s view is that any school that proposes to re-open on 1st June for children other than those currently supported must demonstrate compliance with the conditions set out in the document, and must do so with the direct involvement of recognised trade unions.

We believe the onus is on the school to undertake this vital piece of work. Until a school has demonstrated that it can comply with the requirements set out, it should not admit children beyond those eligible for support through the lockdown.

Members’ letter for the Head

In the meantime, if you are placed under any pressure to engage with your school on re-opening, please use the attached template letter to express your views to your head teacher, chair of governors and/or line manager. Further advice will be issued for you if your employers continue to insist on re-opening without setting out to our satisfaction that it is safe to do so.

Risk assessments

The school should complete a full Health & Safety risk assessment prior to any 1 June re-opening. This should be completed with the recognised trade unions.

UNISON has written to all West Sussex Head teachers today to emphasise this, and to ask for that engagement from Heads with the West Sussex branch on the school’s risk assessment and with our UNISON workplace reps where we have them in school. You can read our letter to Heads here. If you do not have a UNISON rep in your school, please talk to your colleagues about who this should be and nominate them using this form.

You should also have an individual risk assessment completed with you, given your own unique personal circumstances, health and role. These individual risk assessments are even more important if you fit into one of the four following categories:

Ultimately, if the school cannot safeguard your health through the risk assessment process, UNISON believes the school must accept that some employees will be staying at home on full pay for the duration of this emergency as they are not able to work from home. This is the position of the Local Government (employers) Association which all schools should be following. UNISON West Sussex or your local UNISON rep will of course advise you further in this regard if necessary for you. Make sure you are involved in developing your own individual risk assessment prior to 1 June, so you can be assured it is a safe environment to return to.

UNISON is the only relevant union in West Sussex for support staff

There is strength in numbers and we want as many of your colleagues not yet in UNISON to join us. There are a lot of trade unions active within schools, but it is really important to note that only one of these is relevant to support staff in West Sussex: UNISON. This is because it is only UNISON which is recognised by WSCC for support staff. So only UNISON can negotiate for you collectively on your pay, your pension, and so on, and only UNISON understand the detail of your terms and conditions and how to resolve issues – because other unions rightly are focussed on teachers’ terms and conditions. If you know a support staff colleague in West Sussex wanting to join a union, please make sure you tell them why it is so important they join you in UNISON.