Vulnerable teachers being put in danger, warns union

Some councils are refusing to let vulnerable teachers work from home – or to assess new risks as cases rise, says union

Emma Seith

Coronavirus: Vulnerable teachers are being put in danger, warns EIS union

Scotland’s largest teaching union has written to directors of education urging them to carry out new risk assessments for vulnerable teachers – including those from black and/or minority ethnic backgrounds – “to ensure that the staff in our schools remain safe in their places of work”.

According to the EIS teaching union, individual risk assessments must be updated to take account of “the rapidly evolving circumstances” related to Covid-19, but the union claims that while this has happened “in most areas” some councils and schools are refusing to do so.

A further 697 cases of the virus in Scotland were confirmed on Monday, with the numbers being treated in hospital also rising. Today, the cabinet is due to meet to discuss new restrictions.  

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The union also hit out at councils for forcing vulnerable school staff to declare themselves unfit for work, rather than allowing them to work remotely.

Coronavirus: Vulnerable teachers 'not allowed to work from home'

The EIS said it would “support members in pursuing working from home as a reasonable adjustment” and that it would “initiate collective grievances” where updated risk assessments were not carried out.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Local authorities have a clear duty of care to the teachers that they employ. It is simply unacceptable, and a breach of that duty of care, for local authorities to fail to keep individual risk assessments for teachers up-to-date to account for the changing risk factors associated with Covid-19.

“A failure to review risk assessments in light of significant change would mean that risk assessments would not be suitable or sufficient in terms of Health and Safety at Work regulations and, additionally, would also be at odds with current advice from Public Health Scotland.

“Given the rising level of infection across the community, it is essential that local authorities update their individual risk assessments to ensure that the staff in our schools remain safe in their places of work.”

A recent survey of teachers across Scotland, carried out by the EIS, indicated that 16 per cent of teachers were at heightened risk from Covid-19, 4 per cent of teachers were in a shielding category prior to 1 August, and 1 per cent of teachers identify as black and/or minority ethnic (BAME).

Yesterday, Tes Scotland published an article by a teacher who has been in the shielding category. She said that vulnerable teachers with severe lung disease, heart conditions and autoimmune disorders were being asked to put their lives on the line because councils were refusing to allow them to work from home.

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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