Any return to work needs to be safe

Coronavirus Health and Safety News

Many workers across the country have understandable concerns following the prime minister’s announcement at the weekend, with its reference to “encouraging” people to return to work. UNISON and other trade unions are clear that a return to work at any workplace can only take place if stringent safety measures are put in place to protect staff. 

The University’s initial response to the change in guidance for England was reassuring, noting as it did that there needs to be a clear and carefully thought out plan for reopening campus. This is also the impression we’ve been given in our negotiating meetings with the University.

The key questions we will be asking as the plan develops and particular departments/areas are considering asking their staff to return include:

  • Is it necessary that they return? 
  • Are the numbers being kept to a minimum?
  • Can those asked to return travel safely without using public transport?
  • Are those at greater risk or who live with those at greater risk from the virus exempted from returning? 
  • How is distancing and hygiene being ensured on campus?
  • Are those who need it being provided with PPE? Are other physical controls in place (screens and distance markers)?

This is not an exhaustive list and of course the situation is changing rapidly. We are hopeful that these questions and other concerns will be addressed by the University’s plan for reopening campus. It is clear that any return to campus needs careful consideration and cannot happen rapidly – we need to be assured that things are safe and until then workers should remain at home.  

One of the best safety measures of all is joining a union – unionised workplaces have lower incidences of accidents and score better on measures of workforce wellbeing and mental health. Remember that you can get a £10 voucher by recruiting a friend (which we will process when we are back on campus). The best way to join at the moment is online –


2 thoughts on “Any return to work needs to be safe

  1. What will happen to the holidays that haven’t been taken, I still have 23 days to take, will I be paid or will they be carried over thanks

    1. Hi Josephine,

      This is a matter we are continuing to negotiate with the University about. They state that people can take leave during lockdown and while on furlough, but are also considering increasing the amount of leave that can be carried over to the next leave year from the standard amount of 5.

      The law around this can be quite complicated – when the government said people should be able to carry over the full statutory amount of 28 days they meant this should happen when people have been “unable to take it” and it’s a matter of legal dispute whether being furloughed means you are unable to rest (which is the main reason for leave). We’re going to try and get the uni to agree to let people carry over as much as possible.


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