Following the Government’s announcement to pause asymptomatic testing for COVID, RCM Director of Employment Relations Alice Sorby shares the RCM position along with workplace support and the employer’s legal duty to your health, safety and wellbeing at work in her latest blog.
Last week the Government in England announced its decision to pause routine asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for NHS staff from 31 August. Many maternity staff and wider NHS staff might feel concerned for their health and safety but even more devalued by the Government. Especially as this announcement follows the removal of the COVID-19 workforce guidance, which sees a return to contractual sickness absence provisions for COVID-19 absence. We want to reassure members that your health, safety and wellbeing is still a priority.
First of all, the RCM does not support this decision. Testing is an important part of stopping the spread of COVID-19. In a press release, the Government said the pause is occurring while infection levels are at a low level. This decision should be subject to proper review and testing re-introduced if cases begin to rise again. The RCM, along with other NHS unions are speaking with decision-makers and NHS England on re-introduction.
This information is sure to raise concerns among members. Rest assured that none of the decisions made by the Government negate an employer’s legal duty to your health, safety and wellbeing at work. This duty is to ensure 'so far as is reasonably practicable' your health, safety and welfare at work. Including providing a safe system of work, the provision of information and training and supervision as necessary.
Risk assessment is really important and employers are required to carry them out. This includes identifying the risks to health and safety and taking reasonable steps to eliminate or reduce that risk. For vulnerable staff individual risk assessments should be undertaken.
With the other NHS trade unions we have updated our guidance for union reps on long COVID. It highlights key principles and actions for reps to support members with long COVID You can access it here.
Working in partnership with trade unions on health and safety issues including working together to ensure risk assessments are up to date and developing policies is really important and benefits everyone!
Free testing for symptomatic NHS staff will continue. Our COVID-19 web pages are here and information about Caring for You here.