Returning to the workplace FAQs

Returning to the workplace FAQs regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Voice statement 

1. Engage 

Voice encourages members to engage with preparations and logistical planning for the Autumn re-opening of nurseries and schools.  But members should not be required unnecessarily onto site to make these preparations. 

2. Risk Assessment 

Any decision to open schools and nurseries to more pupils must be based on robust, reliable scientific and public health evidence that clearly states it is safe for staff and pupils, and which inspires confidence and co-operation in the workforce.  Schools and nurseries must only open if stringent health and safety measures are not met, and employers must include employees in health and safety assessments. 

3. Health & Safety and PPE 

Voice continues to push for clarity on the issue of PPE.   

Whilst the official advice from PHE and the Department for Education is that the majority of staff in education settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, Voice believes that, should you want to wear a mask, or deem it necessary in your place of work, then you should not be prohibited from wearing one.  

4. Testing 

We want to see testing of staff and their families which is regular and freely available, not only when a case is suspected, with widespread contact tracing following diagnosis. 

Who can return to the workplace? 

From 1 August, the guidance the clinically extremely vulnerable group will no longer be advised to shield and will be able to return to the workplace. 

Amongst other things, this means: 

  • You may still be at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus, so stay at home as much as you can and continue to take precautions when you do go out. You can do this by washing your hands regularly, avoiding touching your face and keeping 2 metres away from people outside of your household or bubble wherever possible.  
  • You can go to work, as long as the workplace is COVID-secure – but should carry on working from home if you can. 
  • Children who are clinically extremely vulnerable can go back to school. 

The Government expects employers to be understanding during the transition for their Clinically Extremely Vulnerable employees. The Department for Education will be reviewing its guidance, so it is clear what these changes mean for school staff and pupils. 

For anyone concerned about returning to work, we recommend they speak with their employer and understand their specific policies around health and safety and workplace attendance, especially in relation to COVID-19.  Risk Assessments should be modified to take into account the additional risks and measure to address this and individual risk assessments may be appropriate for individuals. 

If you feel your employer is not taking any steps to manage your return safely, then please contact our duty officer on 01332 372337

Safe Workplaces?

According to the Prime Minister’s announcement [May 10] employers should ensure that the workplace is safe by meeting the COVID-secure standards – these can be found here

What is essential is that every employer undertakes robust and transparent risk-assessment of every different aspect of re-opening and share these with their employees to ensure that any return can be done as safely as possible. 

5 Steps to Working Safely 

There are five basic principles of COVID-19 workplace control and these should be at the forefront of considerations when developing the safe systems of work to become COVID secure. 

  • Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment. 
  • Develop and implement cleaning, hand washing and hygiene procedures. 
  • Help people to work from home wherever possible. 
  • Maintain 2 metre social distancing where possible.  
  • Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk by implementing additional measures.  

Risk Assessments 

Every school and education setting must carry out a risk assessment before opening which they should make available to all staff. The assessment should consider the risks associated with coronavirus (COVID-19), so that sensible measures can be put in place to control those risks for children and staff.   

Voice is encouraging members to engage in the risk assessment process so that you are having your opinions heard and your concerns addressed. You are entitled to see a risk assessment because Employers have a duty to consult employees on health and safety matters, and although your employer doesn’t have to produce a risk assessment for each individual employee, they do need to identify the ‘at risk’ groups and individuals (including BAME) and this may mean they need to produce individual risk assessments for those impacted to ensure their health and safety. 

Since you know your workplace best, you are the most appropriate person to know if the risks identified are being addressed, however, Voice has produced a risk assessment checklist, which although not exhaustive, may help guide you on what you should be looking for. Voice have also produced an individual risk assessment for members to use for themselves. 

Face Coverings

Whilst the official advice from PHE and the Department for Education is that the majority of staff in education settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, Voice believes that, should you want to wear a mask, or deem it necessary in your place of work, then you should not be prohibited from wearing one.  

Members should consider carefully the needs of children when making a decision on wearing a mask in the workplace and should consider whether other forms of PPE would be more appropriate – especially for those children who rely on lip reading such as the deaf and hearing impaired. 

Further details on Face Coverings 

Mental Health 

For so many reasons, we are living through a very difficult time. Voice cares deeply about your health and wellbeing and this includes your mental health. If you think you require any help and support, then please access help from one of the services below - they are all free to access. 

A discussion about guarding mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.

Childcare issues 

The government has, on numerous occasions, expressed the importance of employers being flexible as workplaces across the country begin to reopen. On 3 June, in the daily Coronavirus briefing, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said that employers would need to be flexible if employees were experiencing childcare issues as a result of schools/nurseries being closed.  

If you are experiencing difficulties, then you must explain the issue and should ask your employer to be flexible around your return to the workplace. You may be able to work flexibly, or you may need to take some annual or unpaid leave. 

If, after discussing this with your employer, you feel you need support, then please call Voice on 01332 372337

Workload

Your school leaders should consider the wellbeing of all staff, including you, your colleagues and the senior leaders themselves.  This might mean introducing flexible working practices in a way that promotes good work-life balance and supports teachers and leaders – especially those who have caring responsibilities at home. 

It is unreasonable for you to be expected to prepare work for children to do at home, if you are also expected to be fully working in the classroom.  And no one should be expected to work whilst they are ill. 

Workload should be carefully managed, and your Head Teacher should assess whether those staff who are having to stay at home due to health conditions are able to support remote education, leaving those on-site to focus on face-to-face provision. 

Curriculum & Resources 

In April 2020, the Government temporarily disapplied and modified certain elements of the Early Years Foundation Stage framework. This means that schools and nurseries were required to use their “best endeavours” to meet learning and development requirements and other duties.  But the rest of the EYFS remains in place. 

Please be aware that the requirement to have someone with full PFA certification on-site remains in place where children aged 0-24 months are on-site, due to the higher safety factors for babies and children in this youngest age bracket. 

See our Nurseries and Childcare FAQs for more information.

Can early years providers take groups of children to outdoor public places, for example if there is not private outdoor space in the setting? 

Schools and Nurseries should maximise use of private outdoor space, while keeping small groups of children and staff away from other groups. Childminders and early years providers may take small groups of children to outdoor public spaces, but you must complete a risk assessment that demonstrates that they can stay 2m away from other people at all times.  

You should not take larger groups of children to public outdoor spaces at one time. 

What about childminders? 

From 1 June, childminders were able reopen to look after children of all ages. This is in line with your current Ofsted registration, and within usual limits on the number of children you care for.  

Be particularly careful as you will be welcoming people into your own home. You may wish to consider limiting the number of rooms your children use and must ensure all equipment is thoroughly cleaned every day. 

I am a nanny. Can I still go to work? 

Yes. If you provide paid-for childcare in a child’s home, you can go to your place of work. However, it is important that you take as many precautions as possible in line with Public Health England guidance, such as walking and cycling to work, or wearing a face covering when using public transport.  

Your employer shouod complete a risk assessment and share this with you. It should identify the risks and look at ways of reducing them. This could include limiting the rooms you use, an increased cleaning regime and use of PPE and face coverings.  

No nanny should be forced to continue to work if they do not feel safe to do so. 

NHS COVID -19 App 

Read more 

Key points for schools 

  • The App applies to people aged 16+, so pupils in years 11, 12 and 13 will be eligible to use it. 
  • If a pupil aged between 16 and 18 receives a notification during school hours that they have been in contact with a positive case, it will advise them to show the message to a trusted adult – usually a member of staff - and self-isolate. Schools should tell App users to inform a member of staff if they get such an alert.
  • Staff need to follow the school’s Covid procedures if a pupil using the App is notified whilst at school that they have been in close contact with a positive case. The school should then follow its Covid procedures as if that pupil had been present with another child in a class who had shown symptoms.
  • There is no need to change existing policies on the use of mobile phones by pupils due to the use of the App.
  • QR posters (Engalnd and Wales only) are optional and only need to be considered if schools host an event with external guests on their premises, such as a nativity. You can download a QR poster for England from here and for Wales from here.
  • Visit here for information on the Protect Scotland app and visit here for the StopCOVIDNI app.

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