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Return to Campus

This newsletter contains specific guidance for members on ‘what to do’ in the current circumstances as campus continues to open and as teaching starts. It is important to note that none of the actions suggested imply any criticism of individuals involved in work associated with the University’s response to COVID.

However, nationally and locally (and after a very long summer of discussions) UCU representatives do not agree with the sector wide decision to re-open campus to the extent that is occurring. UCU believes that the risks associated with COVID-19 are such that the default should be that people continue to work on-line, wherever possible. UCU believe that where the default is not applied it should only be in conditions where there is:

  • An individualised risk assessment for each individual conducted by a competent and fully trained individual. Risk assessment should include a mental health/stress risk assessment (as appropriate) as well as a physical health risk assessment. This individual risk assessment should be conducted in addition to the buildings and spaces risk assessments which are generic.
  • A detailed and formalised COVID specific code of behaviour for everyone who attends campus.
  • Fully informed consent of the individual being asked (or asking) to work on campus following their full involvement, particularly in review of their own individual risk assessment, and following face to face conversations with their line manager.
  • Specific protocols, in detail, for what to do if things go wrong or if you have concerns.
  • An active policy of ‘no detriment’ for any individual choosing to continue to work safely away from campus following their fully informed involvement in the above process of assessment.

We do not believe these conditions are currently being met at the University for everyone.

Consequently, we are issuing the following advice for each individual member.

Do not refuse to attend work if directed to do so by your line manager. To refuse to attend work while you are otherwise fit for work is technically a breach of contract.

If you are asked to work on campus and do not think you should be on campus because of the risk to your health or anyone else’s, then:

  1. Before attending campus, review the template letters produced by UCU which can be found here. Decide which letter is most applicable to your situation.
  2. Complete the template letter as it applies to your situation and to the extent you can.
  3. Contact Victoria Cattini ( and ask for a UCU caseworker to assist you to complete the form, if you feel it is necessary. Vicky will put you in touch with a caseworker. Please bear in mind that the volume of cases at present for our five caseworkers is considerable so if you can complete the form without help please do so.
  4. Complete the form and send to your line manager. Copy in your assigned caseworker or send the completed form to
  5. If you return to campus and are involved in, or informed of, an unsafe situation or incident go to here and complete a UCU report on the incident. You should also report the situation (as a legal duty) through University official reporting mechanisms.

Further information and notes

  1. You do have a right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions and UCU will support you in maintenance of that legal right if necessary. But like so much UK employment law, that right effectively applies only after the fact and specifically. In simple terms, and in the current context, you have to be imminently presented with a specific unsafe working environment and where the risk to you and others is apparent and immediate before Section 44 of the Health and Safety at Work act (1974) would apply.
  2. If you encounter a situation that you consider unsafe, the best advice we are able to give at the moment is to remove or distance yourself from the situation, inform the nearest available line manager but do not leave campus until you were due to. We have been asking the ‘what do I do if…?’ question over summer and still have no answer to this question unfortunately so this is the best advice we can give, pending some sort of clear protocols from the University.
  3. We would ask members to remember that line managers (Departmental heads, FAMs, Deans and others) and other colleagues and comrades are also in a very difficult and stressful situation at this time and that generally speaking university wide strategic and operational decisions are made at an institutional level.

Closing notes:

Neither UCU representatives nor ‘the campus trade unions’ have made formal agreements about any aspect of the remobilization of campus with the University of Hull management. We have been involved in collegiate and often productive, discussions or consultations over the summer period about the University’s response to the global pandemic. [See for a link to minutes from the UJCC Sub COVID meetings so you can read the representations that have been made.]  In these meetings, individual managers we have worked with have been open and transparent about planning and work that has been occurring, for example inviting trade union representatives to inspect work conducted or sharing risk assessments for buildings. This collegiate approach is why none of our advice constitutes a criticism of individuals who have worked on COVID related safety measures.

But trade unions do not make strategic or University wide strategic or operational decisions or get a vote on these decisions. So, while we recognise the work that has occurred locally and at the ‘sharp end’ across campus, we do not think that the remobilization of campus, as a strategic decision, can protect everyone (staff and students) as fully as we believe necessary.  We believe a much more gradual, piloted approach – based more fully on precautionary principles – would have been appropriate. Furthermore, we believe a gradual, piloted approach based on individual consent and no detriment remains possible and desirable. In current circumstances where such an approach has now more or less been ruled out, the advice in this newsletter represents our recommendations for what members can do to protect their own, and other’s safety.

Martin Nickson

Hull UCU Committee

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