Higher Education Updates February 2021

Higher Education COVID updates

  • Section 44/100 update
  • Pay dispute update
  • Health & safety case studies
  • Policy requests – social media; menopause.
  • Support for HE staff

Please find below links to the latest updates that we hope will help you to keep your campus as safe as possible. Below you will find an update on dealing with any serious and imminent danger situations, how HE staff can access extra support as well as requests for you to help others with case studies and policies.

With best wishes

Ruth and the UNISON education team

How to respond to ‘serious and imminent danger’ (Section 44/100 update)

We expect that all HE employers should be taking appropriate steps to ensure staff health and safety. As mentioned in previous emails, this includes reviewing all risk assessments, consulting with the trade unions and making sure that staff and student numbers are kept to a minimum on campus.

If however, staff think that in carrying out their work, or part of their work, they face a ‘serious and imminent danger’ then there are protections in law so that they don’t suffer a detriment if it is not safe to do their job (known as Section 44 and 100).

On the second link below you will find a template letter that branches can adapt to send to an employer to warn them of a ‘serious and imminent danger’.
Hopefully sending this letter and following it up with the employer will reduce the need for members to send in any actual S.44 /100 letters and that the situation will be remedied.

However, if the situation is not resolved and members do need to send in individual S.44 /100 letters, then your branch will need to communicate with members advising them of their rights. This communication should include wording along the lines of “For the avoidance of doubt, UNISON is not directing, encouraging or asking members to take any step or not to take any step. The purpose of this communication is to provide you with information and advice in relation to your statutory rights under health and safety legislation, and what steps you should take if you wish to exercise those rights.”.

Branches cannot send in S.44 letters on behalf of members, it is an an individual protection/right rather than a collective right.

Branches should always consult their regional organiser before talking to members about sending in S.44 letters and read through the relevant guidance on the link below.


Advice on serious and imminent danger

Warning of serious & imminent danger template letter (will download file)

HE pay dispute update

Following the consultation on the pay freeze, UNISON submitted a dispute letter to the HE employers, UCEA. Two dispute meetings were held, on 12 and 19 January 2021, under the New JCNHES constitution.

In both meetings the joint HE unions pushed hard making it clear that the employers need to make an offer on pay and that the pay freeze is totally unacceptable. The unions emphasised that progress is wanted on all areas of the claim as they are all important, and that to move forward there must be an offer on pay.

The unions also emphasised the work that needs to be done to address poverty pay in HE, in line with the pay claim, and the fact pay points at the bottom end of the pay spine will fall below the new national minimum wage coming into effect in April 2021.

The employers restated their position that they are not in a position to make any form of offer on pay this year and that the pay freeze stands. The employers will write to the unions confirming their position and outlining proposals to address the lowest pay points.

The unions made it clear that the pay freeze is rejected.

The HE SGE will meet on 3 February 2021 to consider the dispute meetings and the strategy going forward. Branches will be kept updated.

In the meantime, please make sure that your RMS records are updated. Make sure that the following are correct: job titles, home addresses, emails addresses and that any colleagues who have left work have been lapsed or had their records updated. It is very important that direct debit records are correct.

Please remind members that they can update their own records on MyUNISON. You can circulate this link to your members so that the can update their records.



Health and Safety case studies

UNISON is working with the joint trade unions and UCEA to find examples of where unions and employers are working well together on campus on health and safety.

  • Is your branch involved with health and safety?
  • Do you meet regularly with your university to discuss and solve any health and safety problems?
  • Is there good communication on health and safety?
    Have you worked together to make the campus as safe as possible during the pandemic?

If so, please let us know so that case studies can be written up and best practice shared. Please write to us at education@unison.co.uk using ‘HE H & S case study’ in the subject. We hope that this will help to raise the standards at all universities.

Information exchange requests

Branches have requested copies of policies to help them negotiate with their employer. If you have good policies on either or both of the following, please send them to education@unison.co.uk

  • Social media policy
  • Menopause policy

Support for HE support staff

We know that the working through the pandemic is taking its toll on staff in all sectors including in higher education. Support is out there.

UNISON’s welfare service ‘There For You’ provides support for members including those who urgently need financial support, help with understanding what benefits they are entitled to with the benefits calculator, and help with debt.

The Education Support Partnership (ESP) provides support for staff working in higher education. This includes a support line for those needing emotional support.


UNISON There for You

Education Support Partnership helpline