Risk assessments: Risk assessments are ongoing, and we expect that all buildings will be completed by the end of August. To date, we have seen risk assessments for the buildings that will be reopening to facilitate the return to lab research. We have been impressed with the attention to detail that we have seen. We would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the risk assessment process. We know that this involves a lot of work, and we appreciate all that you are doing to identify and reduce risk across campus.
We have not seen any risk assessments pertaining to teaching activities, and we expect updated risk assessments for the lab buildings to reflect different requirements for the resumption of in situ teaching and for the return of a significant number of students to campus. These requirements must include safe movement around buildings, room capacity limitations, building capacity limitations, distancing limitations in outdoor spaces and paths, and ventilation (forced and fresh air) in indoor spaces. We have consistently maintained that all risk assessments and decisions must be informed by widely accepted scientific findings, and must make accommodations beyond only government related guidance.
In situ teaching: We have received a lot of questions about what teaching on campus will
look like. In short, we do not know yet. We have heard everything from in situ teaching will be minimal to there is potential planning for a maximum return of 80% of in situ teaching. We expect that what is safely allowed will be informed by the risk assessment process and the latest scientific knowledge. We also expect that complexities surrounding building capacity (including hallway capacity to avoid crowded corridors and meeting points), safe movement around buildings, room and touch point cleaning requirements, timetabling variations, and other details will be finalised after the risk assessments have been completed and scientific guidance considered.
Legally, the university must engage in meaningful consultation in a timely manner with trade unions on all risk assessments. Whilst we have had regular meetings with senior management and HR and have been able to provide feedback on individual risk assessments through the Head of HR, the formal consultation process is still being developed. We are working with the senior management team to finalise this, and expect that to be completed in the coming weeks.
Further, we have been told that there will be separate assessment processes to reduce the risk to staff members who are at higher risk or who live with people who are at higher risk of serious illness. We have been assured that sensitive information will only be seen by Occupational Health. Whilst we appreciate that this has been indicated from the start of our discussions, we do have concerns that this process will identify and therefore single out individuals due to health, illness or disability, race, age, sex and/or weight. We are seeking ways to minimise or eliminate disclosure to line managers, colleagues and students. We have proposed that all staff be asked whether or not they are comfortable with in situ teaching in Semester 1, with no further questions asked and with the expectation that only those who are comfortable will be asked to teach in situ.
To assist us in this, we would like to get a measure of what members consider to be personally acceptable and safe for the return to in situ teaching. Please fill out this quick survey to let us know. https://forms.gle/nwqAsU1wpnKUjWG2A
Workloads We have heard from many members that workloads are getting higher. We have made it clear that there must be a no detriment approach in assessment of performance, including probation reviews and length. We have had discussion with HR about amending the appraisal process for at least this year in order to accommodate for the disruption caused. Further we share concerns with many members that changes to teaching methods and capacities, administrative responsibilities related to both remote and in situ teaching, and catching up on backlogs from this past semester will increase workloads to a level where they could be deemed a threat to health and safety. We have raised this repeatedly with Senior Management, HR and Occupational Health, and will continue to push for a suitable resolution to this in order to protect members.
If you have any concerns about health and safety, including potential hazards and risks within your work area and/or work activities, please let us know as soon as possible. We are fully aware that there are significant EDI implications within all of this, and please be assured that we are closely monitoring this and have requested full EDI assessments be completed.
As ever, and especially in these challenging times, we want to hear from you, for any feedback, concerns, comments, suggestions, thoughts; write to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, Please remember if you need support for any issues, you can discuss these confidentially with our casework coordinator via our dedicated account: email@example.com
Keele UCU Committee