The NASUWT has received a significant number of queries from members about compliance with the Covid-19 safety measures employers have put in place.
Employers must have within their risk assessment the measures that they are putting in place to ensure they are taking all reasonable steps to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees as required by health and safety legislation. This includes the measures relating to social distancing between adults, and between adults and pupils, in the workplace.
Where the employer has provided a risk assessment, members are required to follow the requirements set out in the risk assessment at all times. If members believe that there are provisions within the employer’s risk assessment that cannot be followed, they must raise concerns with their line manager immediately.
Risk assessments are not just a paper exercise. They have a statutory basis. Employers have a legal duty to ensure that the measures in the risk assessment are implemented and are subject to legal action should they fail to do so.
Members should continue to ensure that they raise with their employer any breaches of the safety or compliance measures as set out in the employer’s risk assessment, including in respect of social distancing, wearing of face masks, where applicable, etc.
Members can record any incident in writing using the form provided on the right/below to send to their headteacher and email a copy to the NASUWT.
If the employer fails to act on the incident report, members should contact the NASUWT immediately for further advice.
All employees, including headteachers, have a statutory duty under section 7(a)-(b) of the Health and Safety at Work Act to:
- take reasonable care for their health and safety and that of anyone who may be affected by their acts or omissions while at work;
- co-operate with their employer so far as is necessary to enable compliance with any statutory duty or requirement relating to health and safety.
Where government/employers have issued clear guidelines on social distancing in the workplace, this may constitute an implied or express term of the employee’s contract of employment. Failure to follow the guidelines by an employee may, therefore, be considered by the employer to be a failure to follow a reasonable instruction and could lead to disciplinary action.
It is the responsibility of every member of staff to have regard not only for their own safety but also for the safety of others and any compliance measures or requirements set by the employer must be adhered to at all times.
Social activities in schools
The NASUWT has been made aware of concerns that some schools have been organising social activities for staff and received enquiries about whether these are safe or appropriate at this time. Planned on-site activities raised with the NASUWT include staff barbecues, fish and chip suppers and other social events. The rationale commonly given to justify these activities is that they are to support staff ‘wellbeing’.
In the current context of Covid-19, with the Omicron variant continuing to spread, activities such as these should not be considered by schools either on or off site, as they pose an unnecessary risk of aiding transmission of the virus.
Members are strongly advised not to attend such activities and to contact the NASUWT for further advice if any such gatherings are planned or organised by their employer.
Teachers and headteachers should also be aware that failure to adhere to Government regulatory requirements outside the workplace may constitute a serious breach of the relevant professional standards.