Opinion

Rights at work: what am I entitled to?

22 May 2020

Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, Unite national officer for health, offers an update on staying safe during essential home visits, and what to expect if you’re redeployed.

The Covid-19 global pandemic has provoked changes in working practices for community practitioners (CPs) by putting on hold or reducing some of the work in primary care health services. Here, I have focused on the rights of work concerning personal protective equipment (PPE) and redeployment.

What PPE am I entitled to if I have to make a home visit?

  • Home visits (at the time of writing) should be carried out if they are essential, if virtual home visits are not possible or if there is a compelling professional reason for the home visit to take place.  
  • If a home visit is deemed necessary, current UK public health agency guidance says that disposable gloves and a disposable plastic apron should be available, although this should be augmented by a fluid-resistant surgical mask or eye protection if any member of the household is a possible or confirmed case of Covid-19.  
  • Unite-CPHVA believes that CPs should demand the PPE that will make you feel safe in carrying out your duties, even if it is more than that stipulated by public health agency guidance.  
  • Guidance does not outweigh employment and health and safety legislation, which gives the employer a duty of care to the employees and means employees do not have to put themselves in a situation in the workplace that risks harm or injury.  
  • Unite-CPHVA will defend members who reluctantly decline to perform a duty that puts them at risk of harm or injury without the PPE they require.

What sort of work can I be redeployed to do?

  • The pandemic may mean your employer has requested that you work somewhere other than your normal environment as a temporary measure, but they must be sure about your competence level.  
  • Your employer must consider your working environment, your clients and the type of work you are doing which may need training.  
  • If you are a registrant with the NMC, you must still work within the NMC code and within your limits of competence.  
  • If you are not a NMC registrant, you should still work within your limits of competence.  
  • If, as a result of your redeployment, you are asked to work outside your competence – collectively or individually – you should speak out and inform your management, CPHVA local accredited representative or Unite regional office.
  • If you are redeployed, you should suffer no detriment to your current terms and conditions – this should include any high cost area allowance, unsocial hours payment or recruitment and retention premia.  

Stay supported 

For more information, contact your local accredited representative or Unite the Union district or regional office.

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