It is a legal requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for an employer to prepare a written health and safety policy statement. In most academy chains the employer will be the academy trust.
The policy should start with a statement of the employer's commitment to meeting its health and safety responsibilities and should then set out details of:
- the organisational and management structure for health and safety, including the responsibilities of particular managers and other employees for health and safety matters
- the consultative structure for health and safety, setting out the ways in which the employer will consult employees and safety reps, including at chain-wide and individual academy level
- the procedures to be followed and the standards to be reached in order to ensure that the employer's responsibilities for health and safety are met
- the arrangements for monitoring and review, including at chain-wide and individual academy level
- any supplementary statements to be implemented and followed in particular parts of the employer's organisation.
The NEU model health and safety policy for academy chains meets the requirements and is intended to be put forward for negotiation where no such policy is in place or where the existing policy is considered to be inadequate.
Academy chains which are the employer should expect their academies to comply with and follow the provisions of its health and safety policy statement and procedures and to put their own supplementary procedures in place in line with advice given in the statement.
The model policy highlights the role of trade union health and safety representatives and their entitlements to paid time off. In order to fulfil their role, health and safety representatives will need to negotiate time off as necessary.
Where two or more health and safety representatives request that a safety committee is established within an academy chain at chain-wide level, the employer must comply. The NEU also recommends committee arrangements at individual academy level.
Where an academy chain includes free schools, these are covered by the term ‘academies’ in this guidance, as free schools are defined in law as being ‘academies’. The term ‘academy or free schools’ could be used for clarity if preferred.