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Trade union relations

4 June 2020

As our schools begin to re-open, school leaders will inevitably face public scrutiny as they seek to keep the risks associated with new, socially distanced teaching methods to a minimum. Indeed, over the last couple of weeks we have received an increase in the number of queries received from clients in relation to risk assessments and to manage increased scrutiny from unions, the Health and Safety Executive and the media.

To help schools and academies comply with their legal obligations and keep both their staff and pupils safe we have provided the answers to the most frequently asked questions below.

 

Trade union relations FAQ

We have brought together a number of FAQs which will be of use to schools in the planning and preparations of re-opening schools:

In relation to Safety Representatives appointed by Trade Unions you do have an obligation to assist them in carrying out their functions, and this does include providing them with risk assessments, allowing them time to provide you with their feedback and taking into account their views before making any changes to working practices which impact upon the health, safety and welfare of employees.

The relevant Trade Union should inform you about who the appointed Safety Representative is and which members/employees they represent. This will allow you to enter into dialogue with the Safety Representative.

Each safety representative has the following functions:

  • To investigate potential hazards at the workplace,
  • To investigate any complaints by any employee s/he represents,
  • To make representations to the employer on general matters affecting the health, safety and welfare at work of the employees

Essentially the function of safety representatives is to represent employees in consultation with employers about health and safety matters.

Every employer must consult safety representatives in good time with regard to:

  • The introduction of any measure in the workplace which may substantially affect the health and safety of employees,
  • Any health and safety information s/he is required to provide to the employees s/he represents e.g. the risks identified from a risk assessment and the protective and preventative measures.

Employers are required to consult health and safety representatives about these matters before telling them what has been decided and before they make changes.

“In good time” is not defined but should allow time for safety representatives to express their views and for employers to take account of any response.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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