UCU calls for vulnerable to work remotely as Omicron surges

Union updates guidance to branches that also calls for “high quality” facemasks to be made available to staff

一月 12, 2022
Coronavirus
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The UK’s main university union has asked institutions to allow clinically vulnerable staff to work remotely and make higher quality face masks available for those on campus as part of measures to tackle the Omicron coronavirus variant.

After issuing updated guidance to its institutional representatives, the head of the University and College Union said it was asking employers to “raise their game” ahead of campuses reopening this month.

The union also said it was calling for all indoor spaces to be monitored to make sure there was adequate ventilation and for air filtration units to be used where necessary.

The guidance calls for universities to “ensure appropriate levels of support” and sick pay for staff who need to self-isolate or stay at home to care for others regardless of contract type.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said that with Omicron “surging throughout the UK” it was “clear employers need to raise their game to ensure staff and students are kept safe and education is not disrupted”.

“The measures put forward by UCU are designed to reduce the risk of mass Covid outbreaks, protect those who are vulnerable and ensure staff are able to continue delivering a high-quality education for students,” she said.

The guidance says that universities should “ensure any workers at increased risk from Covid-19 are not required to undertake in person work at this time and that alternatives are offered to reduce exposure risks”.

It adds that institutions should also seek to “reduce the number of people required on site while transmission rates remain high and implement measures to reduce mixing and close contact transmission in indoor work settings”.

On face masks, the guidance says staff should have access “to high quality, well-fitting face masks which offer effective levels of respiratory protection from airborne transmission”. It refers specifically to “FFP2 standard facemasks” that “filter at least 94 per cent of viral particles" and FFP3 facemasks that “filter at least 99 per cent”. 

Meanwhile, the guidance also asks for workloads to be taken into account for those continuing to work while others are absent.

“While the Westminster government warns employers to prepare for up to 25 per cent staff absences, UCU is aware of the impact staffing shortages could have on the physical and mental health of staff who are already at breaking point due to high workloads and work-related stress,” the guidance says.

simon.baker@timeshighereducation.com

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