Coronavirus guidance for local government workers

This page provides advice for local government and council staff in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak.

UNISON has negotiated with local government employers and jointly agreed advice can be found below, including information on home working and vulnerable groups.

COVID guidelines

The government has removed all restrictions relating to COVID 19. However, joint NJC guidance provides some help for local government workers.

It emphasises the use of risk assessments in workplaces, and makes clear that social distancing measures, face coverings, changing workplace layouts, ventilation and screens/barriers should all be carefully considered.

Clinically extremely vulnerable employees should be offered individual risk assessments, and their requests to continue working from home should be properly considered and granted, unless there are compelling reasons not to do so. Consideration should be given to requests from employees to be based at a site other than their usual workplace.

You can read the full joint circular for England, Wales and Northern Ireland here (PDF).

Sickness absence

An employee who is off sick with any COVID-related sickness absence (including vaccination side effects) should receive pay and leave in accordance with their length of service so that the usual provisions of the sickness scheme apply.

For absences identified by a medical professional as ‘long COVID’, the joint guidance reminds employers that there is provision in the Green Book (the national terms and conditions) enabling them to exercise discretion and extend sick pay in exceptional circumstances. We would encourage employers to take this approach in relation to long COVID.

Should sickness absence continue, or be expected to continue, for such a period of time that the employee’s return to work is unlikely within a reasonable period, employers are advised to adopt the same practice as they would for any other long-term illness.

This should include regular contact with the employee and involving Occupational Health and trade union representatives at the appropriate time.


The NJC has urged all employees who are called forward to be inoculated to ensure that they take up the opportunity as soon as possible. It is also important that employers ensure that every possible effort is made in providing employees with reasonable time off in order for them to receive their jab.

Library workers

Libraries Connected have updated their operational guidelines for libraries in England.

Access the operational guidelines

Social workers

Employers should have adequate safeguards in place for social workers so they can continue to provide services and undertake direct work safely in the COVID-19 world. These should include:

  • Arrangements for only critical face to face home visits to replace face to face based on risk assessments
  • Adequate access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)and hand sanitiser
  • Social worker specific PPE guidance which deals with ‘just in case’ scenarios
  • Clear guidance and training on virtual working and suitable electronic communications
  • Arrangements to minimise use of public transport through provision of parking permits
  • Essential car user allowances for those who have cars and access to dedicated taxis etc for those who do not.

UNISON has agreed joint NJC advice with the Local Government Association for employers and employees. Full details can be found in the social work briefing below, including information on statutory powers for looked after children, PPE and home visits, the social work together campaign, professional registration issues and continuing professional development:

Social work briefing

Food Standards Agency

UNISON are negotiating to ensure social distancing measures are implemented in slaughterhouses. We’ve called for a ‘protect our workforce, protect our food’ approach, to ensure workers remain safe and the country remains fed.

We are working hard to ensure:

  • Workers in slaughterhouses are separated by at least two metres
  • Adequate separation at all stages from entry to exit of the premises
  • Provision of hand sanitiser by the FSA for employees and contractors
  • The correct segregation while on the line, which may mean slowing down the line – the line is where meat hygiene inspectors stand to make sure food is fit for human consumption
  • No sharing of washing/sterilising facilities in the food processing areas
  • Adequate time and space available for washing down after the shift ends as well as at break times

Further details are in the full briefing.