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Covid HE

Guidance for members: critical worker status

14 January 2021 | last updated: 15 January 2021

I know that many of you have concerns about the extension of 'critical worker status' to staff in higher and further education.

We are aware that some employers have been making blanket statements about staff being critical/essential workers, and using that to expect staff to work 'normally' either on-site or at home. Some are even using this definition to argue that staff are required to work on campus and/or deliver face to face teaching or services.

In response to this development, we have produced the following guidance:

This guidance outlines what being a critical worker does and does not mean, with particular reference to staff with school aged children. The guidance also covers what steps individuals and branches should take for critical workers who do not wish to send their children to school, and what those who are not classed as critical workers should be offered with regards appropriate working arrangements to allow them to undertake home-schooling. We are encouraging branches to seek agreements with employers to facilitate such arrangements, and I would encourage you to contact your branch if any of this applies to you. 

The guidance also covers what you should do if you have any concerns about working onsite/on campus. 

Finally, I want to remind you that UCU has produced a series of template letters for use by members who reasonably believe that a request or demand that they return to on site working would place them in serious danger from Covid-19, in order to raise their concerns directly with their manager. The letters are drafted for use by members in different circumstances. The template letters can be found here (you will need your UCU member log in details to access them).

All government guidance makes clear that the most important thing everyone can do is 'stay home' because this will limit transmission of Covid-19 and help to get the virus under control. In colleges and universities the vast majority of work can, and should, be done remotely/from home.

All best

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary