The patchwork of different employment arrangements in music education complicates the issue of health and safety for clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) musicians who teach. It’s important to remind employers and engagers that many CEV musicians will meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 so employers must make reasonable adjustments.
Who is responsible for a safe environment?
For those directly employed by schools, the school is responsible for ensuring a safe working environment. For those employed by an intermediary (e.g. a music service), it is the intermediary’s responsibility to ensure a safe environment – but because that environment will be the school, the school and the intermediary should work together.
Self-employed teachers in schools should still expect a safe environment, but they may need to negotiate any additional adjustments directly with schools – unless they are engaged by a music service or equivalent, in which case that organisation should support them.
Health and safety law requires employers to ensure a safe working environment by undertaking risk assessments, which includes assessing the individual circumstances for employees who are at greater risk of contracting Covid-19. Risk assessments should take account of personal and household circumstances (for example a member of staff may live with someone who is CEV), local prevalence of Covid-19 and, where necessary, medical advice. If employees have a work-related health concern, they can also ask their employer for an occupational health review.
Self-employed teachers should be included in risk assessments, and adjustments may be necessary for them to carry out their work and should be raised with whoever engages them. We advise self-employed teachers to undertake their own risk assessment, implement all measures they have control over, and discuss any further adjustments with the engager. It is advisable for self-employed teachers to have an agreement in place with the host school, covering room usage and general health and safety expectations.
Reasonable adjustments included as part of a risk assessment could include:
- Allowing online teaching to continue
- Providing a well-ventilated room
- Limiting crowding in teaching spaces
- Asking students to wear masks and socially distance (where they are able)
- Ensuring that any Covid-19 contingency planning adequately reflects the needs of a CEV teacher – for example, introducing extra measures when cases rise
Our partner union, the National Education Union, has published joint advice for CEV staff in schools, produced with Unison, Unite and GMB. This guidance offers additional guidance for pregnant and immunosuppressed teachers.
Long Covid and further advice
Musicians with Long Covid may also need reasonable adjustments to support their teaching work. Many musicians who have Long Covid will already meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 and would have a right to get reasonable adjustments at work. The MU would advise employers and engagers to focus on reasonable adjustments that they can make to facilitate music teachers continued employment. More information about Long Covid and the workplace can be found via ACAS and the TUC. Please note that this advice also applies to out-of-school settings like music clubs or private music schools.
Additionally the MU has also produced up to date music teaching advice for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, further to the latest Government guidance.
If you are an MU member experiencing problems securing reasonable adjustments related to Covid-19, please contact your Regional Office for advice.