NEU supply members seeking advice on reducing the risks posed by Covid-19 in schools and colleges should refer to the joint union Covid-19 advice on practical steps to reduce the risk of Covid-19 disruption in schools and other education settings.  Please refer to this joint union advice as the main source of guidance on Covid-19 matters. 

The advice below sets out further guidance, specifically:

  • how to respond if you are offered work but are concerned about going to work generally or at a particular workplace – for example, in an area of high case rates; and
  • how to seek advice and support if you are threatened with any penalty as a result of expressing concerns about accepting offers of work.

The NEU is seeking to ensure that safety measures are in place in all workplaces to protect all staff, including supply staff.

Responding to offers of work

Every employer is under a legal duty to ensure the health and safety of employees and others present in their workplaces, including temporary staff for whom it is not the legal employer. This means that workplaces must be safe in general terms and for you specifically. You should be provided with a copy of all safety procedures on arrival at the school, and preferably before.

When placing you in a workplace, your agency also has a general duty of care towards you in relation to your safety. Before it offers you work, the law says that your agency must consider whether it will be safe for you to work at the proposed workplace. It is legitimate for you to ask your agency what steps it has taken to assure itself that schools are safe and for it to obtain copies of safety procedures to provide to prospective temporary staff.

If you are in a vulnerable or higher risk category, use our advice on vulnerable and higher risk staff and let your agency know about anything that may make it difficult for you to work.  Your agency should inform the employer of your personal circumstances and ask the employer to take them into account via an individual risk assessment if necessary.

If you work via an umbrella company arrangement, that umbrella company is your employer and you are legally its employee. The fact that it may not be involved in the process of securing placements for you does not exempt it from its responsibility in relation to your health and safety as its employee.

If you have any concerns after going into any workplace, find out the name of the NEU rep and speak to them in the first instance. If there is no NEU rep, contact your NEU local officers.

Seeking support if you are threatened with being penalised

Employers should engage with any legitimate concerns from supply staff anxious about accepting offers of work. This applies just as much in moral terms to agencies, and certainly applies in legal terms to umbrella companies as legal employers.

You should seek support from the NEU locally if you are threatened with any penalty for saying that you are not available to work on health or other reasonable grounds, or refusing to work in any workplace which you reasonably believe to be unsafe for you.