Covid-19 education closures

Posted in Branch news

Following government decisions to close schools, colleges and early years settings from the end of Friday 20 March, UNISON continues to have discussions with government departments and employers across the UK about the implications for staff.

At this time there is not a lot of clarity beyond the official government statements made on the afternoon of Wednesday 18 March. We have been assured that “education workers” (to be defined) will be included as essential staff, so their children should be allowed to attend school or alternative provisions.

However, we are not yet sure of the finer details around exactly who will be included. Note that other essential workers beyond those mentioned by government yesterday are still to be decided.

What is UNISON doing now?

We are seeking to work with national government, local government and education employers to draw up additional guidance. We have raised a range of issues with them including:

  • Which workers we believe should be defined as essential staff and have access to education facilities;
  • Closures and full pay – the need for reassurance around full pay for all staff including contractors (catering, cleaning etc), agency staff and sessional workers;
  • Health and safety – need for risk assessments, protective equipment, schools fully stocked with all necessary cleaning products and testing;
  • Postponement of redundancies/restructures/TUPE transfers/ disciplinary hearings etc during this period;
  • Joint working with unions and employers locally and nationally to help schools and pupils and staff through crisis with employers and unions recognising the need for flexibility. Asking for volunteers first when employers are seeking to re-deploy staff;
  • Plus many more.

Please note that the situation is likely to develop differently across the UK and that changes may be announced at different times. As things become clearer, we will update all relevant websites.

How can I get the latest news?

  • 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.

Currently our member helpline UNISONdirect is receiving lots of calls, some of which they cannot answer at this time.

For queries relating to local pay, terms and conditions issues, it is best to contact your local UNISON branch.

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

My rights at work

We would like to assure you that across the UK – at workplace, branch, regional and national levels – UNISON is at the heart of the discussions and raising your issues and concerns directly with governments and employers.

UNISON is here for you.



Following the Prime Minister’s statement on the partial closures of educational settings, the following information and guidance is now available on Gov.UK. To note, the Guidance for Schools, Colleges and Local Authorities (first bullet) contains details of those deemed critical workers.







DfE have also published further information and guidance on how schools should support free school meal pupils, as follows:


Press notice:



We will continue to keep you informed of any further updates.


We would also appreciate your continued support sharing information with your audiences. In particular, it would be helpful if you could please:


  • Share information on your social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin etc). You can share DfE content (Twitter or Facebook) or create your own content. Please tag @educationgovuk and use #coronavirus


  • Promote DfE’s dedicated COVID-19 helpline on your organisation’s website, social media channels and in any newsletters or updates to members.


The Department for Education coronavirus helpline is available to answer questions about COVID-19 relating to education and children’s social care. Staff, parents and young people can contact this helpline as follows:

Phone: 0800 046 8687
Opening hours: 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday

If you work in a school, please have your unique reference number (URN or UK PRN) available when calling the hotline.