Blog: Returning to education, keeping you safe

UNISON has been working hard to ensure that members delivering education across a range of settings are being supported to do their jobs safely.

We have been working hard to ensure that our members delivering education across a range of settings are being supported to do their jobs safely. The government’s approach has been confusing and chaotic.

We have produced a number of materials throughout the crisis. This includes a detail risk assessment checklist, advice for vulnerable staff and regularly updated frequently asked questions. Our branches remain in regular contact with school leaders, local authorities and staff to ensure that robust measures are in place to keep everyone in schools as safe as possible.

Our members working in further education have had to quickly adapt to new ways of working, switching to a virtual environment and adjusting to working from home with the additional challenges this can bring. Many of the colleges in the region had to use the governments Job Retention Scheme to furlough staff due to the additional financial pressures of COVID coupled with the long term impact government reforms to education have had on college funding.

In the northern region, we have worked hard to ensure that those members who were furloughed would continue to be paid in full and as a result of this, the overwhelming majority of colleges agreed to furlough staff at 100 percent. Throughout this period we have continued to work with employers to achieve staff not facing a reduction in salary and to ensure that members are being treated fairly and feel safe in their new working environments.

North Eastern universities have been significantly impacted by the Corona Virus pandemic. The majority of staff continue to work at home but throughout lockdown many of our members have remained on campus; providing security, cleaning buildings, conducting research and looking after students who have been unable to return home. Our members working from home have shown real resilience and ingenuity in how to carry out their roles remotely. As we move to more staff returning to work on campus our local university branches have been working hard to ensure risk assessments are fit for purpose and that appropriate support is in place for more vulnerable members.  While it currently appears that demand for University places from UK students has not seen a significant reduction we’re still waiting to see what impact the pandemic will have on international student numbers which could leave significant funding gaps for universities. We face the possibility of significant job cuts if universities lose income and the government don’t step in to protect the sector.

Our campaign for sufficient and stable funding for universities continues. We’re seeking government intervention to ensure we protect the livelihoods of the three quarters of a million people who work in Higher Education; producing vital research and helping to train the key workers of the future. Take action to support our Don’t Fail Our Future campaign

Support the campaign

As we approach a broader return to schools, colleges and universities in September your UNISON representatives have been working with employers to ensure that you are coming back to a safe environment, that relevant robust risk assessments are completed and the appropriate training and PPE is made available to staff.

We would really like to hear from anyone who would like to get more involved in UNISON where you work, or become part of our health and safety campaign to make sure everyone has a safe workplace.

Clare Williams