COVID-19 advice for school & early years staff

Devolution means that guidance may be different across the four UK countries and updates may be announced at different times.

  • UK wide and England-specific updates will be placed on this page.
  • UNISON Cymru/Wales will post updates on its website and Facebook page.
  • UNISON Scotland will post updates on its website and Facebook page.
  • UNISON Northern Ireland will post updates on its website.


Safe schools for all 

The government in England has updated its guidance for schools and has removed many Covid safety measures, including social distancing and face coverings. Restrictions on self-isolation for close contacts who have been fully vaccinated or are under 18 and 6 months have also been removed.

UNISON strongly opposes this decision because it may lead to an increase in Covid-19 cases and cause disruption in schools, as most pupils are not currently offered the vaccine and community rates are high. UNISON is therefore calling on schools to implement additional safety measures to protect pupils and staff.

Read UNISON Schools Committee’s full statement

Our joint union checklist describes the measures you can ask your employer to implement to keep schools safe in this stage of the pandemic.

Read our updated joint union risk assessment checklist 

Are you concerned about changes to safety measures in schools or early years settings because you are clinically extremely vulnerable or in a higher risk group? UNISON has published joint union guidance with NEU, GMB and Unite to explain the current government guidance for clinically vulnerable people. You can find extra advice in the FAQs below or please contact your branch if you have any concerns.

Read our guidance for clinically vulnerable and higher-risk school staff.

The health and safety responsibilities owed by school and college employers

School staff have a right to a safe working environment and individuals shouldn‘t have to work where they reasonably believe that they (or others)  face serious and imminent danger.  The following link outlines main health and safety legislation, including your rights not to face serious and imminent danger at work (Section 44 ECRA 1996).  UNISON branches can advise members how to use their rights if you  feel you are being put at serious or imminent risk.

Download further information on Schools and colleges’ health and  safety responsibilities

If you have any concerns about your working environment or what you are being asked to do, please contact your branch for further advice.


Early years

UNISON believes that early years staff should have the same rights and protections as other education workers. We know that staff are unable to apply social distancing within early years settings, placing them at increased risk.

The DfE have issued updated guidance for early years settings on coronavirus removing many restrictions placed on settings during the pandemic, leaving decisions on the safety of settings to employers.

UNISON believes that employers in early years settings should continue to look for alternative work for CEV staff because social distancing is not possible in most work with young children.

Members should also be aware that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS, or ‘furlough scheme’) ends on 30 September and any staff on furlough will be expected to return to work.

For the longer term the government needs to review  funding support for early years settings to ensure they have a sustainable sector.

Can I refuse to attend work if I believe that my workplace is unsafe?

Members who work in early years have a right to a safe working environment and we continue to pressure the Government and employers to ensure this. Individuals should not have to work where they reasonably believe that they (or others) face serious and imminent danger.

Please contact your local UNISON branch for further advice and support.


What if I have a question?

A full list of FAQs for school support staff and early years staff in England is provided below. (See links at the top of the page for advice in Scotland, Cymru/Wales and Northern Ireland.).

If you are concerned about safety issues in your school or think that agreements are not being followed, please get in touch with your local UNISON branch.

Contact my branch

For more information about your rights at work please visit our dedicated web page

FAQs for members