Legal Background to the Employer’s Duty of Care, Risk Assessments and Consultation
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and associated legislation, states that your employer is obliged to provide you with a safe place of work through the use of a risk assessment. A risk assessment will allow you to identify hazards and risk factors that have the potential to cause harm.
There are five steps in a risk assessment:
Identify the hazards
Decide who might be harmed and how
Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
Record your significant findings
Review your assessment and update if necessary
It is of vital importance that you are consulted as to the robustness and effectiveness of the risk assessment and ensuing plan. Your branch rep must be consulted on the risk assessment prior to implementation. To date the branch have not been consulted on any risk assessments.
✓ Ensure that there is consultation on the risk assessment.
✓ Familiarise yourself with your building’s risk assessment and COVID policies.
✓ If you reasonably believe that a return would put you at personal risk, seek advice from the branch.
Members with Underlying Health Conditions and Shielding Responsibilities
We are aware that we have a significant number of members with underlying health conditions and shielding responsibilities. The current advice is such that members will continue to be advised to work from home if they are within a shielded or vulnerable group, which includes those who are pregnant.
Additionally, there is growing evidence that members of the BAME community may be at higher risk of both being infected by the virus and of suffering more severely from the infection. Specific consideration should be made, therefore, around protecting such members.
Please speak to the branch Health and Safety reps if you have a query about working from home.
There will be a need to develop new guidance around the need to mitigate the challenges of caring responsibilities of staff when Universities reopen, which may be to update the current Working from Home arrangements.
Risk assessments should be conducted on an individual basis and consider a range of factors that may put staff at greater risk from COVID-19, or have a greater impact of the disease.
Factors relevant to an assessment of COVID-19 risk include:
- biological sex
- health conditions, and
Current evidence for COVID-19 shows that those from a BAME background, those of Filipino birth and those who are older have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, with specific underlying conditions increasing risk of severe illness. In addition, being male has also been associated with severe disease.
At such a time of change and uncertainty, it is important that members do not neglect their own mental health. UCU advice is available on the website (). Speak to your dept rep if you feel you need support which you are not getting from your line manager e.g. bereavement leave or counselling.
For detailed guidance on Health and Safety, please refer to the TUC publication, Safety Representative and Safety Committees (2015).