Schools & Academies in England, Second Member Update – 5th January 2021

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Dear Member 

Further to our email yesterday and last nights’ announcement that schools are closed to all but vulnerable children and the children of key workers, GMB London has produced new guidance for you.   

We are currently waiting for updated information from the NJC in relation to Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) and Clinically Vulnerable (CV) employees. However, the following link contains important information to assist CEV and CV members in the interim. We are receiving many enquiries on this issue, including what should happen if you live with someone who is shielding. The best advice we can give at the moment is that if you were allowed to work from home because of shielding a family member or protecting yourself last year, then you should request for this to happen again now. If it was accepted last year that the risk was such that you needed to work from home, and given that the rates of infection are higher than ever before, hopefully, your Employer will allow this again now. If though your employer is now wanting you to attend the workplace, the advice in the link will assist you. 

GMB London’s Regional Organisers have today written to every Head Teacher setting out GMBs, expectations for our members in schools. A copy of the letter is HERE. You will see in it that GMB is calling for schools to revert to the practices put in place at the start of the pandemic including rota working and bubbles capped at a maximum of 15 pupils. It is also more important than ever that there is no crossover working between bubbles and the significant reduction in pupil numbers should help with this. GMB London is also aware that some schools are allowing all teachers to be at home and expecting all support staff to be in school. GMB is calling for fairness and equality in this regard and will challenge any unfair treatment of support staff. As part of ensuring your school takes the appropriate steps required in face of the new lockdown and variant of Covid-19, HERE is a template letter and we would ask you to send this to your Head Teacher. It is important for everyone who works in a school to have an individual risk assessment completed for their role and to have sight of the schools' risk assessments. To protect yourself at work, your employer should share with you and discuss the risks you face, and the control measures they are putting in place to protect you. 

If you are working from home, you must take the necessary steps to ensure you are working safely and being provided with the proper equipment to carry out your role in compliance with GDPR. We shall be issuing a working from home guide for school support staff tomorrow. 

You may have seen and heard about Section 44, in relation to other Unions in the past few days. Section 44 is a section of the Employment Rights Act 1996, which is an important piece of legislation covering the rights of every employee. It offers protection for employees who refuse to work because they feel they are facing ‘serious or imminent danger’ to their health and safety. There are other pieces of legislation that also protect workers including the Health and Safety at Work Regulations Act 1974, which states it is a legal requirement for workplace risk assessments to be conducted and written down. Employees are not protected from dismissal by using Section 44 and if dismissal was a result of an employee refusing to attend work there could be a lengthy wait (currently about 14 months), without income for a Section 100 claim to be heard by an Employment Tribunal with no guarantee of success.  As a responsible Trade Union GMB would not encourage any member to enter this Section 44 process lightly and without proper and substantive grounds. GMB will of course support any member who has concerns about their safety at work and would urge you to contact your rep, Branch, Regional Organiser, or the Schools Team, with any issues. 

As a recognised Trade Union for School Support Staff, GMB represents the issues and views of school support staff only and we seek to do this in a responsible and pragmatic way. GMB works closely with its members to ensure matters and issues are addressed, as and when they arise and believe it is only reasonable to allow employers the opportunity to make changes and respond when such concerns are raised with them. That is why we are asking in the first instance, for all Head Teachers to review risk assessments and put measures in place with immediate effect to protect members in schools. Should any school fail to do this, thereby exposing members to risk, GMB will not hesitate to escalate the matter. 

If you do not currently have a rep in your school, and you would be happy to take on this role - even if only for the duration of the Pandemic - please contact us. Together we are stronger, and the collective voice of school support is important and must be heard. Support Staff understand their vital role and the challenges faced in this role better than anyone else and GMB recognises this and will always represent only your priorities and best interests. If you have any colleagues not currently in a Union, they can join online at   

Please do not hesitate to contact us - GMB is here for you. 

With kind regards, 

Lisa Bangs, GMB London Region Organiser — Schools and Academies

Keith Williams, GMB London Region Senior Organiser 


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