It is extremely worrying that there appears to be no action regarding the confirmed case in Exeter. The message below was sent by the EUCU President Sharon Strawbridge yesterday evening. We are awaiting further national advice, but in the interim here is some basic advice from UCU and relevant rights under H&S law.
Basic advice from UCU:
Anyone who feels they are being placed in unsafe working conditions should raise that with their line manager and record any concerns and actions, in writing. If that includes cancellation of face to face teaching, it is essential that the normal line management procedure is followed and there is an evidence trail. Anyone who is put under pressure to deliver face to face, despite raising their concerns to their line manager, should be advised to contact UCU reps immediately.
Know your rights:
You should not put yourselves and your students in a position which might exacerbate the spread of the virus. The Health and Safety at Work Act provides for employees to remove themselves from unsafe work situations. In this case, we have to think not simply of the safety of those attending any particular lecture, seminar, class or meeting, but of the potential spread of the virus to all the other people that each student and member of staff will have contact with.
Section 7 of the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 (HSAWA 1974) places a duty on every employee while at work: a) to take reasonable care for the health and safety of themself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work.
Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (known as ERA 1996) protects the employee (with no qualifying service period) from any ‘detriment’: d) in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent and which they could not reasonably have been expected to avert, they left (or proposed to leave) or (while the danger persisted) refused to return to their place of work e) in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, the took (or proposed to take) appropriate steps to protect themself or other persons from the danger.
The Labour Research Department explain: “As long as the employee forms a genuine view of a risk that they reasonably regard as serious and imminent, the fact that the employer disagrees with the seriousness of the risk or the appropriateness of the steps taken is irrelevant.”
Message to VC/MSN/HR asking for immediate campus closure
From: Strawbridge, Sharon
Sent: 15 March 2020 16:07:02
Subject: Case on campus
Dear Steve, Mike, Imelda,
Given the case that has recently been reported on campus, and in light of the National UCU advice via NEC meeting that all face to face teaching should be suspended.
I am requesting that all students/staff are discouraged from coming on to campus with immediate effect. It seems that for the sake of a few face to face lectures/seminars, we are just taking to great a risk by remaing open. I am aware that plans are well advanced to move to online teaching and this was likely to happen quite quickly in any case, it just isnt worth the risk of delaying this further. Is it possible to message the university community today asking them not to come in for lectures tomorrow. I am acutely aware, we, and certainly the other unions, will have members who are just not able to work from home (PS/Tech/cleaning/security staff) who would be at less risk if campus closed to students and staff who could operate from home.
As a union I want us to do all we can to help the university in what is a very difficult and fast moving situation. Consequently, it will be essential for all the campus unions to be well briefed, and directly involved in the future planning, so we are able to communicate with both the university and our members effectively, and so we can play our part in helping to manage the situation in everyones interests.