UNISON advice on NPS Courts and Office Covid19 Recovery Proposals: URGENT


Good afternoon.

I understand that the first three attached documents have been circulated to Regional Management for cascading to managers and trade union representatives in relation to on-going covid19 recovery work. Two additional UNISON documents are also attached.

I can confirm that UNISON has been consulted on the recovery checklists for Courts and Offices, but also that some outstanding issues remain. Please find UNISON advice and guidance on the Courts and Offices Recovery process below:

  1. Black Staff

UNISON has been calling on NPS to undertake an individual covid19 risk assessment with every Black member of staff in recognition of the higher risk posed by covid19 to Black staff. These risk assessments must take place well before Black staff are asked to return to a court or office working environment. Other public services have put these risk assessments in place  for their Black staff many weeks ago, but there have been unaccountable delays in HMPPS taking action. We were promised an action plan by HMPPS by close of play today, but it has not arrived yet. Suffice to say that these risk assessments will form an integral part of any proposal for Black staff to return to court or other probation premises.

  1. Courts Recovery Risk Assessment
  • Each of the risks set out in this document has a RAG (red/amber/green) rating for how serious it is. UNISON took issue with the fact that most of the risks, the RAG assessments are shown as being green with very few highlighted as amber or red. UNISON does not believe that this is realistic. In response, HMPPS confirmed that the RAG ratings in the risk assessment template are for illustration only, and that it is up to local managers and trade union representatives to populate the RAG ratings for each risk in each court. So if you believe that a risk should be rated as amber or red, you can make appropriate representations to the relevant manager undertaking the risk assessment.
  • A trade union health and safety representative must be involved in approving the risk assessment for every single court building. This will require a physical visit to the court in most cases by the representative with the appropriate manager undertaking the risk assessment. This must be done well in advance of NPS staff being expected to return to the court.
  • As part of the risk assessment, NPS must provide the trade union representative with a copy of the HMCTS risk assessment of the court building. NPS and HMCTS have a legal responsibility to co-operate and co-ordinate in relation to their respective risk assessments of each court.

Regulation 11 of MHSWR states that two or more employers sharing a workplace (on a temporary or permanent basis) must:

  • co-operate with each other so far as is necessary to enable them to comply with their own obligations regarding health and safety at work
  • take all reasonable steps to co-ordinate the measures they take to comply with their obligations with the measures other employers are taking to comply with their own obligations
  • take all reasonable steps to inform other employers of risks to the health and safety of their employees as a result of their own undertaking.

NPS has not yet confirmed with UNISON that it will provide the unions with a copy of the HMCTS risk assessment for each court, which is obviously extremely problematic. Register a breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations if this is not provided and do not sign off the court risk assessment until you have seen it.

  1. Health and Safety Covid Courts Recovery Checklist
  • Please find attached the UNISON track changed version of the Courts Recovery Checklist  – UNISON Tracked – which shows which of our comments on the checklist were not taken into account by NPS. You  can press these points at local level.
  • Also attached to this e-mail you will find the original UNISON response to the courts recovery programme which sets out our view of the critical issues which will need to be taken into account by NPS before any staff re-enter Court. Please use this as part of your local consultation with management
  1. HMCTS Courts Recovery Checklist
  • You will need to ask to see a copy of the HMCTS Courts Recovery Checklist to see if you are content that this is being complied with at each individual court. Nb. UNISON does not endorse the HMCTS checklist as we have not been consulted on this and it may be deficient in some respects, however you will at the very least need to see it in order to sign off the NPS risk assessment for every court.
  • HMCTS checklist issues already highlighted by UNISON include:
    • Is there a one in one out rule for the lifts: NPS agreed to check this out with HMCTS, but we need to insist on this
    • Will there be a minimum of two hourly cleaning by FM contractors is required? Check this at local level, but we need to insist on this being in place.
    • We need to include ventilation in the HMPPS risk assessment, because we cannot just rely on the HMCTS assessment. (HMPPS is producing updated guidance on ventilation – so you should ask to see this)
  1. Other Court Issues
  • HMPPS will ask HMCTS to ensure that security guards wear face masks. Register a breach of health and safety if this is not put into practice.
  • HMPPS is asking HMCTS to allow NPS staff to forgo security checks and use court staff entrances. This needs to be guaranteed prior to NPS staff returning to courts.
  • If the plumbing goes down, then NPS has confirmed that staff will have to be taken out of the court if there is no running water for hand washing. Discuss this potential scenario with your management.
  • NPS has made the decision to not allow NPS staff to wear masks and gloves in court, but UNISON has asked for this to be reviewed where there are circumstances in which staff cannot socially distance, and we are awaiting a response from NPS. If your members believe that they cannot socially distance in the court, you should formally request that they be issued with fluid resistant surgical masks and gloves.
  • Masks will be available in NPS court first aid kits, but not issued as a matter of course. If social distancing not possible, over a sustained period of time, NPS has confirmed that staff will not be required to continue working in the court and will be withdrawn. This issue has been referred to the NPS National health and safety committee for an agreed position.
  • Sneeze Guards: NPS will be making them available, but not mandating them. The guards are being made available via the FM contract. The lead time is going to be quite long. A bulk order has been put in for these screens. UNISON recommends that UNISON/members ask for these to be provided as a matter of course in every court in-case they are needed. Suggest that reps put the orders in as a matter of course for each court as part of the risk assessment process.
  1. Checklist for Existing and Receiving NPS Offices in the event of opening

UNISON Comments:

  • Trade union health and safety reps must sign off risk assessment for each office prior to re-opening/staff returning.
  • If the office building is shared with other tenants (e.g. CRC) then you will need to see the risk assessment of the other tenant employer – they are required under law to share this with the NPS, who will then make it available to trade union reps
  • Offices with inadequate/broken toilet/washing facilities should not be re-opened. This should come up in any risk assessment. Many NPS offices had poorly maintained toilet and washing facilities prior to covid19 and should not re-open if these have not been fixed to UNISON’s satisfaction.
  • Where interviews are taking place with service users, if there are no fixed screens installed, then sneeze guards can be ordered for the office. This is the same provision which is available in courts and supplies have already been ordered for the NPS.

I appreciate that this is a lot of information to take in. It is really important that the risk assessment process is fully supported by NPS Regional management and that health and safety reps are provided with sufficient facility time to undertake their duties.

Representatives should request whatever additional time they need to undertake these duties, which are going to be extensive and lengthy in duration, and also ask for workload relief for the extra time out of the day job.

Any questions or problems, just let me know.



National Officer

Police and Justice Service Group


130, Euston Road