FE Voices

Laura Kearsley, partner in Nelsons’

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

@KearsleyLaura @Nelsons_Law: Can my manager make me go back to the classroom?

With the government proposing that schools and colleges reopen for all students as normal in September, senior leadership teams are working around the clock to ensure the safety of both students and staff before their return to the classroom.

Today (Monday, 24 August), Prime Minister Boris Johnson has directly appealed to parents to send their children back to school – stating it is “damaging” for a child’s development to be away from school any longer and the risk of contracting coronavirus while in an educational setting is “very, very, very small”.

By September, it will have been more than six months since schools were open as normal and, in order to be “Covid-secure”, employers will need to undertake a risk assessment and put in place various measures to protect their staff from contracting coronavirus. According to the National Education Union (NEU), risk assessments should consider the position of vulnerable staff and staff in higher risk groups. Students in such groups may also need to be supported to learn from home. If necessary, arrangements such as rota systems should still be used to ensure the health and safety of all staff.

Laura Kearsley, partner in Nelsons’ expert employment law team, said: “Employers should be discussing and agreeing plans for September with all staff and ensure safety measures are in place before pupils return next month. The Department for Education (DfE) argues that most staff will be able to attend school where necessary protective measures set out in its guidance, particularly cleaning, hygiene and social distancing arrangements, are applied.

“However, despite the push to get schools open again, efforts should be made to consider whether staff other than those who work directly with students or are instrumental to the opening and cleaning should be on site and the timing of this. With so many changes to ways of working, many employees have concerns and questions about the logistics of returning to work when the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing.”

Can my boss make me come back?

“If you have been asked to return to work then you will be deemed to be absent without authorisation if you don’t show up. You are unlikely to get paid for this and it may also be considered a disciplinary offence. 

“Employees do have a right under health and safety rules to protect themselves from danger, but it will be much more reasonable to discuss concerns with your employer and seek reassurance rather than just failing to attend.” 

What measures should my employer be taking to keep me safe? 

The Department for Education has compiled guidance, including a system of controls made up of prevention and response measures, for schools across the country to ensure the safe return of both staff and pupils. The arrangements adopted by schools for minimising contact and maintaining social distancing between individuals are of vital importance for staff and student safety.

“The overarching principle is to minimise contacts and mixing by keeping groups separate – the bubble approach – and maintain social distance between individuals where possible. The point of a bubble is to minimise the risk of infection by reducing contact and mixing at all times and to allow easier identification of contacts. For this to work, groups need to be as consistent and as small as possible.

“Some other key points include that staff should not be asked to attend in-person full staff meetings unless social distancing can be maintained and it should be considered whether other on-site/in person activities are necessary as they could increase the risk of exposure to the virus. Frequent cleaning regimes should be adopted, especially for regular touchpoints around the building.”

I am concerned there isn’t space to maintain social distancing. Do I have to go back to work if I am concerned for my health and safety?

“Ideally, adults should maintain two metres distance from each other and from children. However, this may not always be possible, particularly for those working with younger children.

“The DfE’s advice is to minimise contact between individuals and practise social distancing wherever possible through the combination of bubbles and maintaining distance. It’s likely that for younger children, there’ll be more of a focus on bubbles and for older children, there’ll be more of a focus on distancing.  

“Classrooms will also have been adapted to support distancing where possible, including seating pupils side by side rather than face on and potentially removing unnecessary furniture to make additional space.

“Ultimately, this means if you do not attend work because of safety concerns, your employer could treat your absence as unauthorised and follow its disciplinary process. 

“Employees do have legal rights not to be dismissed for raising health and safety claims but in the current climate, it would be preferable to try everything to resolve the situation without resorting to litigation, which could take many months.” 

I have colleagues that don’t adhere to the social distancing rules at work – what shall I do? 

“You should make your employer aware straight away and they should deal with this issue, potentially under the disciplinary policy.” 

I have been shielding, can I refuse to go back to work? 

“Unless you live in a local lockdown area or area where extra measures have been introduced, from 1 August, those in shielding categories are no longer required not to attend work. However, the guidance does state that they should work from home if they can.  If your role cannot be done from home, shielding will not be a valid reason for you or members of your household not to attend work. You should discuss any concerns with your employer as they may be able to reassure you about measures in place.” 

Should my employer provide me with PPE? 

“There is no blanket requirement that all employees attending work need PPE. The DfE’s list of preventative measures includes to wear appropriate PPE where necessary, therefore you should discuss any specific concerns or requirements with your employer.

I have raised concerns with my employer that I don’t feel safe but they aren’t listening, what else should I do? 

“If you have raised concerns with senior management but you don’t feel they have been addressed, you can consider whether to contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) about your concerns. It is the government body with responsibility for safety in the workplace and can take enforcement action against employers who are lacking. 

“If you are in a dispute with your employer, you could also consider contacting your teaching union or ACAS, the government body that conciliate employment disputes.” 

 

Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page