Bulletin for school staff

Advice for UNISON members working in special schools, colleges and alternative education settings.

With the new variant of the virus shown to be considerably more
transmissible than the version prevalent in 2020 the previous risk assessment will no longer be fit for purpose.

As a matter of priority, leaders in specialist schools settings must follow Public Health Advice including –

  •  A revised and updated setting-based risk assessment
  •  Revised and updated risk assessments for individual pupils
  •  Revised and updated risk assessments for staff members with characteristics that result in them being more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19


UNISON North West will be holding a live Q&A school support staff meeting on Thursday 7th January at 6:00 pm.  The meeting will be streamed live on the UNISON North West Facebook page.

To attend/view the Q&A, simply head to www.facebook.com/UNISONNorthWest at 6:00 pm on Thursday 7th.  Members who do not have a Facebook account can watch the Q&A, however, you will need a Facebook account in order to comment/ask questions.

If you wish to submit questions before the event, please can you forward them on to Keith Bradley, Lead for Schools in the North West – k.bradley@unison.co.uk no later than 12:00 noon on Thursday the 7th January


UNISONs advice is that members should agree to support vulnerable pupils on a rota basis provided the following conditions have been met:

  • The necessary risk assessments have been consulted on with your union representative
  • The risk assessments have been reviewed and appropriate measures taken to ensure safety
  • You are clear what additional mitigations have been put in place to ensure the safety of both yourself and others
  • You have received training on the new measures
  • A system is in place to feedback on how well the new measures are working

Further advice issued by ACAS  (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) is a Crown non-departmental public body of the Government of the United Kingdom. Its purpose is to improve organisations and working life through the promotion and facilitation of strong industrial relations practice.)

Coronavirus: shielding and vulnerable people
Employers must be particularly careful and take extra steps for anyone in their workforce who is vulnerable to coronavirus (COVID-19). Some people have a higher chance of getting severely ill if they catch coronavirus. These people may be at:

  • high risk (‘clinically extremely vulnerable’)
  • moderate risk (‘clinically vulnerable’)

People at high risk will have been advised to take extra cautionary measures to protect themselves (‘shield’) during the pandemic.

If someone who needs to shield cannot work from home, the employer should talk to the person about:

  • taking up an alternative role that’s suitable and safe to do from home
  • not returning to work until it’s safe to do so

If they cannot work, the employer may be able to put the person on furlough (temporary leave).

Shielding rules in England
From 5 January 2021, everyone should follow national lockdown rules. People at high risk (those clinically extremely vulnerable – ‘shielding’) should not go to work, school, college or university. They should work from home where possible.  The government will contact people who need to shield.

If an employee lives with someone who’s shielding
The government’s advice is that employees and workers who live with people who are shielding should work from home if they can.

If they cannot work from home, they should go into work. They should speak to their employer if they have any concerns. UNISON would encourage members to raise concerns with your representative.

Returning to the workplace after shielding
Employees and workers who are no longer shielding may be able to return to the workplace if it’s safe.

Anyone who’s been shielding should talk to their employer as soon as possible about plans to help them return. If they can continue to work from home, the employer should support this.

If working from home is not possible, options might include:

  • the employer putting extra measures in place to keep the person safe in the workplace
  • the person taking up an alternative role
  • temporarily changing the person’s working patterns

If it’s not possible for the person to return to work safely, options may include being put on furlough.

If a doctor says someone should stay at home
A doctor may advise an employee or worker to stay at home. They should get a letter from the doctor explaining they’re not fit to return to the workplace. They should share this with their employer.

The employer should talk with the person to understand the issue and see how they can support them.

Unfair treatment and dismissal
By law, employees and workers are protected against unfair treatment and dismissal if it’s because of:

  • pregnancy
  • age
  • a health condition that’s considered a disability under the Equality Act

It does not matter how long they’ve worked for the employer.

This means an employer must not:

  • unreasonably try to pressure someone to go to work
  • unreasonably discipline someone for not going to work


05 January 2021

If members are in any doubt, please speak to your workplace representative, if you have one, or contact the branch office. The branch office phones are continually ringing, so we would advise you to use the internet to contact the office with your concerns. The branch staff will forward your details to the appropriate person who will be able to provide advice.
Please email – enquiries@unisonsthelens.org.uk or use our website contact form www.unisonsthelens.org.uk

Now more than ever, you need the support of your union. Although we have to maintain social distance, we do have the capacity to hold ‘virtual’ meetings. If you want to discuss issues of concern as part of a group, please email the branch and we will make the arrangements.
Alternatively email the branch to arrange a one-to-one discussion.

Stay Safe!  Neil