National UCU has a section of its website dedicated to information about the Covid-19 crisis. This includes advice for members about coronavirus and their rights at work, protecting precarious workers on fixed-term and insecure contracts, advice for international staff on issues like visas, and guidance and best practice on safely working from home and teaching online.
Kingston UCU wrote to university senior management from March 15 2020 asking for staff to be enabled to work from home as much as possible. From March 17, face-to-face teaching was suspended, after which we requested an emergency JNCC meeting between management, HR and the recognised trade unions, to discuss ongoing concerns about the working conditions and health and safety of all staff, students and the community. All university buildings were closed until further notice from March 24, when a JNCC meeting took place at which we raised a number of issues including around Health & Safety at work.
Staff have been told to check Staffspace and emails for regular updates. The university has published a Covid-19 Risk Assessment and a Health & Safety Plan related to return to on-site working (see links at bottom of Accessing our buildings safely, but NB these may not be the latest versions of these documents).
Kingston UCU will continue to inform members about our regular discussions with senior leadership and the university Health & Safety Committee – see News for the latest reports back from our Health & Safety Rep. Do get in touch with any issues you would like to raise.
Working From Home
Kingston UCU recommends members working from home carry out a workstation self-assessment as a matter of urgency.
Your employer has a legal obligation to abide by Health & Safety guidelines while you are working from home. If you feel that you are at risk or have concerns about your working environment you should raise these with your line manager. Please feel free to also alert Kingston UCU branch officers.
To help you conduct a self-assessment there are guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive. The university’s current guidance can be found Staffspace along with FAQs about setting up home workstations.There is also an online training module about setting up and assessing your workstation. Staff can request to join this module by emailing email@example.com
Staff can claim up to £50 expenses for purchasing equipment on Unified (e.g. keyboard, mouse, laptop stands). To do so,
- Log in to Unified
- Go to expenses
- Choose non-taxable expenses
- Enter the purpose of it at the top.
- at the bottom choose “add expense”
- Under Category, choose “Staff Welfare”
- It will allow you to claim at least £50… the rest of the procedure is the usual: attach your bill, match it with your entry and send it for approval.
It is important to monitor your screentime and give yourself regular breaks – working online and from home can be more tiring and stressful.
Kingston University has a legal responsibility for the health, welfare and safety of their staff and students under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Employers must take pre-emptive action to avoid injury and ill-health of employees, such as carrying out risk assessments, training of first-aiders and publishing accident procedures. They should also take preventative steps to guard against any long-term negative health implications of employment, e.g. ensuring workstations do not present posture or related health risks.
These responsibilities extend beyond the physical environment. Employers should also ensure that workloads and working hours are such that staff do not become at risk of stress or stress-related illness.
Employees have a responsibility to notify their managers of perceived risks and any accidents. The university should take appropriate action when health & safety concerns are raised.
You are not required to place your health at risk in the course of your employment.
For any health or safety queries or problems, please contact the Kingston UCU Health & Safety Rep, Fatima Felisberti firstname.lastname@example.org
Nationally, UCU produces factsheets with advice on a range of common hazards and health and safety issues – see their Health & Safety Resource pages.