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The IER is closed for its Christmas break, and all of our staff wish you a very merry - a safe - holiday season during these extraordinary times.

We leave you with news of our latest project into health and safety, which will be launched in March 2021. The IER has brought a team of experts from across the country together to examine the failures of health and safety legislation in the UK and propose reforms for its improvement. 

Today, we share an article from one of our team - Rory O'Neill - who introduces some of the many issues the project will take to task - in particular, the disquietening fact that offiical statistics appear to be significantly minimising the risk to life of continuing to work through the Coronavirus pandemic.

As we approach the 31 December end of the Brexit transition period, we also share a timely article from Professor Virgnia Mantouvalou and Natalie Seddaca on how UK law is lagging behind on when it comes to the rights afforded to in-home workers such as servants, carers and cleaners - who are overwhelmingly migrants - following a landmark case in South Africa.

Copyright © 2020 Institute of Employment Rights, All rights reserved.


Dec 27, 2020

What is happening?

On 2nd December 2020 a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech was approved for use in the UK. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Other vaccines are being developed. Vaccines will become available via the NHS only once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.

When is it happening?

The vaccine will be available from the week beginning 7th December onward. Other Covid-19 vaccinations are likely to be available in the coming weeks. Further vaccines will only be available once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.
Preparations for the delivery of the vaccine are well underway. It is important that employers share information and work with social care staff and their union to address any concerns members may have.

Why is the vaccine important in social care?

Tragically, social care has has been hit hard by the pandemic, leading to loss of lives among the elderly, the vulnerable and the care workforce. Vaccination is a crucially important to protect social care workers and the people they care for from Covid-19. The vaccine will help to prevent Covid-19 from spreading in social care settings.

Who will be offered the vaccine?

At first, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be offered to:

  • people who live in care homes and care home workers
  • people aged 80 and over
  • health and social care workers in England (including domiciliary care workers)

The management of the wider vaccination programme for staff will be handled separately by each administration in England, Scotland, Cymru/Wales and Northern Ireland.

Who will deliver the vaccine?

The NHS will deliver the vaccine. Everyone delivering the vaccine will be subject to standardised training and sign-off process. The UK Government has approved changes to medicine regulations which will allow additional groups of health professionals to administer vaccines under NHS and local authority occupational health schemes. This means additional groups including midwives, nursing associates, operating department practitioners, paramedics, physiotherapists and pharmacists’ can administer vaccines through NHS occupational health schemes. Regulations also allow local authority OH schemes to do this.

Where and how will the vaccine be delivered?

53 NHS hospital hubs will be the main centres for delivery, although delivery will not only take place at hospitals. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored at cold temperatures. Once thawed the vaccine can be kept in a fridge for up to five days for use locally. Early indications are that it is unlikely the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be offered in care home settings, although that cannot be entirely ruled out. This means that care workers will be required to travel to vaccination sites to receive the vaccine. Future variations on a Covid-19 vaccine may be more mobile, and therefore more likely to be delivered in care homes and other care settings.

Further Information

1) Informed choice and avoiding a punitive approach from employers

UNISON’s top priority is to ensure safety in the workplaces of our members working in social care. This thoroughly tested and independently verified vaccine, delivered by the NHS, is a means to making social care workplaces safer.

UNISON has strongly advocated for care and health staff to be given priority access to the vaccination. However, as with the flu vaccination, care workers should not be forced to receive the COVID-19 immunisation. We want to ensure that employers make the vaccine easily accessible to all staff who are eligible and provide them with the full information they need to make an informed decision.

Getting vaccinated must not be made a condition of employment or access to public services and that staff should be given paid time-off to get vaccinated. The government has also indicated that they do not wish to see individuals forced to take the vaccine.

We will be seeking a commitment from social care employers that there will be no negative implications for staff who refuse the vaccine. We will also seek confirmation from employers that immunisation will not influence decisions made about terms and conditions such as re-deployment, shielding, or pay.

We would encourage all our members to be cautious in relation to the information they consume and share regarding vaccinations. Trusted and authoritative sources of information such as the NHS and UNISON are a good place to begin for those seeking more information.

2) Paid time for travelling to and from vaccination sites and receiving the vaccine

Some employers in the social care sector will behave responsibly and do all they can to facilitate access to the vaccine for eligible care staff. Sadly, we can predict that some will not.

Eligibility for and receiving the vaccine is a direct result of employment and therefore time spent travelling to the place where the vaccine is delivered and receiving the vaccine should be paid at the normal rate. These are the arrangements which will be applied for all NHS staff and social care staff should not be treated differently. Employers who fail to do this are creating a disincentive for workers to be vaccinated. As the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is likely to be delivered at mass vaccination sites away from workplaces, it is particularly important that this time is paid at the normal hourly rate.

UNISON has repeatedly sought assurances from the Department of Health and Social Care that employers will be told to offer paid time off for travelling to vaccination sites and receiving the vaccine. We have also asked that travel expenses are covered. At the time of writing, we have yet to receive clarification on this point.

3) Safety and protection of the vaccine

The roll out of all Covid-19 vaccinations are subject to approval by the UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA). This process and the safeguards involved are described here. The Agency has given cast-iron reassurances that the safety, quality and efficacy of any vaccine has been thoroughly scientifically assessed.

UNISON has insisted that the same rigour is applied in the roll out of the vaccine. As a result, those administering the vaccine must be trained and certified as competent and robust procedures for the supply and safe storage of the vaccination must be in place.

4) Ownership and partnership working

UNISON has demanded that lessons are learned from the disastrous involvement of private companies in Test and Trace so that management of the vaccination programme is kept entirely within the public sector. We have been reassured the management of the vaccination for health and care workers will be handled in this way.

Social care employers should be working closely with UNISON branches, local councils and the NHS to ensure this programme is planned effectively and maintains the trust of staff.

5) Continued need for caution

It is important to note that the Covid-19 vaccine does not remove the need for continued public health measures to tackle the virus for everyone involved in delivering social care. Social distancing (where possible) and wearing the right PPE continue to be vitally important.


Dec 11, 2020

Please see correspondence below on behalf of the Leader of the Council:

Dear Staff,

We have taken the opportunity to review mandatory unpaid leave (MUL) and revisit the continued withholding of the 1% pay award as part of budget preparations.

Proposals will be presented to cabinet next Thursday (17th) to restore the nationally agreed 1% pay award for council employees at grade 7 and above and to end MUL from April 2021.

The council’s 2017 collective agreement saw the introduction of three days of MUL which represents a 1.15% deduction from pay for employees and the withholding of the nationally agreed 1% pay award due on 1 April 2017 for grade 7 and above.

I will keep you updated on the progress of these proposals, and I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your hard work and dedication to provide services during what has undoubtedly been a difficult year for us all.

I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year.

Kind regards,

Julie Dunn on behalf of the Leader of the Council, Cllr Patrick Harley
Personal Assistant to the Leader of the Council


Dec 11, 2020

Parents have been kept in the dark about asbestos risks for too long. We want every school in the UK to have to produce an annual report about the type and condition of any asbestos on the premises and share this with all parents and staff. Every child's potential exposure to asbestos at school must be recorded and shared with parents. This has been happening in the USA for the last 30 years.
AND
The Government must introduce and implement a policy for the phased removal of all asbestos from schools to be completed by 2028, starting with the most dangerous asbestos. MP's recommended this in 2012 but no action has been taken.

Sign the peitition here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/protect-our-children-and-teachers-from-asbestos-exposure-in-schools


Dec 1, 2020

Up to 20th November 683 calls have been made with a total of 73 hits, consistently maintaining a 10% positive hit rate.

Progress so far:
  • 22 new health and safety reps have now completed the training to become accredited since August
  • 7 of the 22 were recruited through the MCT
  • 17 health and safety reps are registered to attend the November training
  • 5 of the 17 were recruited through the MCT
  • 42 are either awaiting a webinar, or did not turn up for the webinar. These members will all be followed up by email next week.
  • 5 cannot attend webinars in the day and have requested evening sessions (we are still waiting to have a date from the national team)
  • 5 are already Health and Safety reps
  • 5 mentors have been requested and are waiting to progress onto training
  • 8 no longer wish to progress
  • 2 unsure of status

 

Health & Safety Training

The next health and safety course is running from 14th January to 11th February 2021. 10 am - 12 pm for 5 Thursday Mornings.

Webinars

Tuesday 8 December at 2:00 pm to 3:00pm Please click here to register: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4056437454687166219


Nov 25, 2020

Please see our new joint unions' safety checklist. UNISON is calling on schools to introduce this locally to keep pupils and staff safe. Use our model letter and the checklist to send to your school.

Model letter

New joint unions' safety checklist


Nov 25, 2020

This year has been unlike any other. School staff have truly gone above and beyond to keep schools running as smoothly and safely as possible and to support pupils through such challenging times.

UNISON's annual celebration of school support staff – the Stars in our Schools – is this Friday 27 November.

To keep everyone safe, our celebrations this year will be a little different, but the pandemic won't stop your union from telling the world how vital you are to children's learning and wellbeing.

And you can join in, too. Our popular prize draw is ready and waiting for you to nominate a fantastic colleague and get the chance to win a £25 M&S voucher for them (and for yourself!) in time for Christmas.

Nominate a colleague


Nov 25, 2020

Please find below the latest edition of the LFA - UNISON Money Talk Newsletter 2020 - The Personal Finance Newsletter for members of UNISON


Nov 23, 2020

Dear Chief Executive

As you are no doubt aware, the Council is required by the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation Act)1992 and the local Trade Union Recognition Agreement to negotiate with accredited Trade Union representatives and consult through the recognised framework on matters covered by the agreement, including health, safety, welfare and other issues relating to the working environment.

Millions of frontline staff across our public services have kept the country running while facing risks to their own and their families’ health.  More than ever, the Council must put in place measures to protect these employees during any return to workplaces, and a key principle for a safe return to work outside the home is that trade unions and employers must work together to agree how the return is managed.

It is crucial that unions be consulted and involved in discussions alongside employer representatives.  This means the Council negotiating return-to-work policies and agreeing Covid-19 risk assessments with their staff unions.  Whilst Covid-19 is a threat to all workers, Black and ethnic minority workers are particularly at risk and any return to work strategy should seek to prevent this disproportionate impact and ensure that it complies with the public sector equality duty.  Unfortunately, we don’t believe the Council’s actions are adequate in this regard.

We are in a new environment, with a new threat to health and safety.  Before they are agreed, Covid-19 risk assessments should be approved either by an accredited union health and safety rep, or by a Health and Safety Executive inspector.  In cases where there is no health and safety rep able to sign off a risk assessment, an employer must seek approval for it from an HSE inspector.  Once agreed, risk assessments and action plans must be sent or otherwise effectively communicated to the whole workforce.

Since lockdown began on 23rd March 2020, UNISON have been excluded from involvement in the Task and Finish Group meetings set up by the employer.   The only information that has been shared with UNISON in respect of this new threat to health and safety has been ‘briefings’ shared from the Covid-19 Meetings set up in June.  This is wholly inappropriate and is in no way compliant with regulation or the Trade Union Recognition Agreement.

While management has allowed more staff to work from home during the lockdown period, it has also allowed employees to work from offices without Covid-19 Risk Assessments.  Justifications of “there’s only ever been 5 members of staff on each floor at any one time” are totally unacceptable when the risks of transmission had not been properly identified and assessed in line with government guidance.

In addition, staff within frontline services are now being forced back to work without the appropriate Risk Assessments have been carried out and signed off.

Employees have the right to withdraw from and to refuse to return to an unsafe workplace.  They also have legal protection from dismissal, disciplinary or any other detriment for raising a health and safety issue.  UNISON will not hesitate to support our members in using this legislation where we believe the Council has not fulfilled its obligations. If the employer doesn’t consult the workforce properly, under the Information and Consultation Employee Regulations 2004, the Trade Union can also complain to the industrial court. 

Rather than take these courses of action we believe that recognised unions should be represented on the Task and Finish Group to ensure that risks are assessed in employees’ interest.  We cannot wait for workers to be infected before action is taken.

We are therefore are requesting the following:

  • That union representatives be involved in all planning discussions with management in respect of Health and Safety including the Task and Finish Group Meetings;
  • That all employer-union meetings held related to Health and Safety and to Covid-19 are formally constituted and minuted;
  • That unions are consulted on the appointment of competent persons before any risk assessments are carried out.

 

We believe the safety of the workforce has to be paramount above anything else in the council, and a higher priority than hitting any productivity targets.

I look forward to working with you to ensure our workplace is safe for all employees.

We have copied this letter to our members in Dudley Council.

Your sincerely

Joanne Prescott
UNISON Branch Secretary


Nov 16, 2020

All social workers in England must renew their professional registration with Social Work England (SWE) by 30 November 2020 or risk losing their protected title.

To renew registration with SWE and to continue to practise as a social worker, you must:

  • Create an online account at www.socialworkengland.org.uk and make sure your contact details are up to date. This can be done by following the instructions to transfer from the Health and Care Professionals Council (HSPC) during the online set up.
  • Once logged into your account, you must record one piece of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). This evidence shows that you uphold professional standards and continue to remain fit to practise. 

How to record CPD

SWE have published guidance on how and what to record at www.socialworkengland.org.uk/cpd
SWE top tips for recording CPD is here https://www.socialworkengland.org.uk/news/top-tips-for-recording-cpd/
If a social worker does not record any CPD in their online account by 30 November 2020, they will be reminded and given a further 21 days to do so. If they fail to record any CPD they risk being removed from the register and will need to apply to restore. The current restoration fee is £135.


Oct 23, 2020
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