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On this page you’ll find our guidance on

With the development of a number of vaccines and rapid testing for Covid-19 we expect an increase in members returning to the workplace in the coming weeks and months. As a result, we have produced the following guidance in consultation with an employment lawyer and a health and a safety expert, to prepare members for some scenarios which may occur.

Please be aware that as vaccinations continue to be rolled out and we move further along the government’s road map, the landscape will change. So, this guidance can only set out general principles to be aware of and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice now or in the future. Please refer to your regional MU office if any issues arise.

Advice on Covid-19 vaccinations for musicians

The MU is supportive of the UK’s Covid-19 vaccination programme as the quickest and safest way for members to return to the workplace, and for the industry as a whole to begin the journey back to full health. However, there will be members that wish to work but have not yet been vaccinated, and those who cannot or do not wish to be vaccinated at all.

Employees

If you are an employee, then in the absence of a vaccination becoming a legal requirement in the UK, your employer cannot insist on you doing so without your agreement.

However, an employer could, in future, attempt to prevent unvaccinated employees from entering the workplace or restrict their duties, depending on the circumstances of the case and subject to arguments around discrimination.

For example, older individuals are currently being prioritised for vaccination and as private vaccination is not currently available, younger individuals might be being disadvantaged by this approach and so the issue may be open to challenge.

In addition, some vaccines are not suitable for those with disabilities and current government guidance is that pregnant women should not be vaccinated. There could be other discrimination angles, including religion, belief or race discrimination.

If you are an employee who wants a vaccination but is yet to have one and you are not able to perform your work from home, your employer should work with you to ensure your working environment is Covid-secure and that you feel comfortable with all aspects of your work. If you are not comfortable in this regard, speak to your employer in the first instance, and if matters are not resolved, please refer the matter to your regional MU office.

If you are an employee who works at different venues over time, it may be that a venue chooses to stipulate that all visitors must be vaccinated. This may be outside of your employer’s control. If you are yet to have a vaccine, or do not wish to be vaccinated, it may be that your employer is prevented from allowing you to work at that venue.

However, currently, this approach by venues could create potential discrimination issues, similar to those referenced above.

Therefore, if you find yourself faced with a suggestion that you cannot work at a particular venue, we would expect your employer to work with you and the venue, firstly to try to persuade the venue to re-visit its policies but secondly, if they refuse, then to try to find work for you at an alternative venue. If you have the requisite length of service, all alternative options to dismissal must be explored.

If you are prevented from working due to a vaccination requirement, we believe that the employer should continue to pay you, either directly or via the Government’s Furlough scheme whilst it remains in operation. As an employee you should suffer no financial detriment as a result of this situation. If you do find this is the case, please contact your regional MU office to see how we can support you.

Self-Employed

If you are self-employed, you may find an engager, or venue, is insistent upon only those who have been vaccinated entering the workplace.

If you have already been provided with a contract for the engagement and there is no mention of the requirement to be vaccinated, then you could demand that your engagement goes ahead as planned or seek financial compensation for any cancellation. However, if the engager is upfront about the vaccination requirement, and you accept the engagement, then unless there are any potential discrimination angles, there is probably little that can be done.

Whether someone has had a vaccination or not is not a protected characteristic in itself, and as such choosing only to engage those that have is not necessarily a case of discrimination. However, religious beliefs are protected, so someone who has not been vaccinated for this reason may be able to claim indirect discrimination if they are refused work as a result. As mentioned above, there may also be angles to explore around age, race, sex and disability discrimination.

If possible, speak to the engager about mitigations that could be employed in order to make the workplace Covid-secure for those who have not been vaccinated and discuss alternative ways of providing your services.

Guidance on Covid-19 testing obligations for musicians

Whilst Covid-19 testing is a way of generating additional confidence in the health and safety of working environments, it cannot guarantee the complete absence of the Covid-19 virus, is not a mandatory requirement for employment or engagement, and is only specified in Government guidance for those already exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19.

Employers

The decision to offer Covid-19 tests to employees, alongside other safety measures, can reassure employees that the workplace is a safe environment to return to.

Employers should be aware that under GDPR the results of such tests are classed as “Special Category Data” and therefore must only be collected and processed in compliance with the regulations. In order to make the decision whether it is reasonable and necessary to ask employees to undertake such tests and to process the results, employers should consider:

  • The type of work employees are to undertake, and the venue in which the work is to be undertaken.
  • Whether testing will contribute to a safe working environment (i.e. how accurate will the results be, will they be available within sufficient time to make a difference?)
  • Whether there are other measures that could limit transmission of Covid-19 as effectively (i.e. social distancing / working from home).

We would hope that any employer wishing to undertake testing of staff, does so by first discussing the requirement and reasoning with the staff or their representatives, coming to a joint decision, and taking into account individual circumstances and mitigating factors.

Employees

If you are an employee, and your current contract of employment does not specify that you must be tested (and provide a negative result) in order to work, then your employer cannot insist on you having to do so without your agreement.

If you are an employee, and your employer does require you to undertake a test and you do not wish to, you should discuss your reasons with your employer. During those discussion, you should attempt to reach agreement on circumstances which allow you to work without undertaking a test or continue to receive payment without work for the duration that testing is a requirement.

If you are an employee, and you undertake a test which returns a positive result, you will be required to follow government guidance on self-isolating. Your employer must not allow you to work anywhere during this period other than where you are self-isolating (usually your home).

If you are unable to work from home, you will need to discuss with your employer whether you will be paid as normal during this time, or whether there are other options you can agree, such as you taking annual leave, unpaid leave, or whether your employer can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Furlough) to pay you whilst you are self-isolating.

If a fellow employee displays symptoms and refuses to undertake a test, this might give rise to serious health and safety concerns. If so, you should raise them with the employer and ask them to take action to protect you from harm.

Raising the issue will give you additional protection from detrimental treatment or dismissal. For example, if you feel you are at risk of serious and imminent danger, the employer refuses to address it and you feel you must stay away from the workplace you may have protection. However, it will depend on the steps the employer has taken to reduce the risk and how it responds to your concerns.

If you are an employee who works at different venues over time, it may be that a venue chooses to stipulate that all visitors return a negative Covid-19 test result. This may be outside of your employer’s control.

If you do not wish to undergo a test, it may be that your employer is prevented from allowing you to work at that venue. If this is the case, if the venue cannot be persuaded to allow you to work there with effective measures in place to protect health and safety, we would expect your employer to work with you in order to find work at an alternative venue, or to continue to pay you whilst you are prevented from working, either directly or via the Government’s Furlough scheme whilst it remains in operation.

Self-Employed

If you are self-employed, you may find an engager, or venue, is insistent upon only those who have returned a recent negative Covid-19 test result entering the workplace.

If you have already been provided with a contract for the engagement and there is no mention of the requirement to be tested, then you could demand that your engagement goes ahead as planned or seek financial compensation for any cancellation. However, if the engager is upfront about the testing requirement, there is little that can be done. Whether someone has been tested or not is not a protected characteristic in itself, and as such choosing only to engage those that have is not necessarily a case of discrimination.

However, if someone refuses to be tested or cannot be tested due to a protected characteristic, such as a religious belief, or only certain groups who are perceived to be at a higher risk of having contracted Covid-19 are tested, discrimination issues may arise.

We would expect the engager to bear the cost of any testing and any additional out-of-pocket expenses incurred in obtaining a test. However, if you do not wish to submit to a test, speak to the engager about mitigations that could be employed in order to allow you to work safely without a test, and report the issue to your regional MU office, so we are aware.

Advice on testing for musicians who teach

Schools and colleges

It should be noted that testing is encouraged rather than compulsory for teachers in schools and colleges. This means that schools can choose to open their doors to music teachers without testing, as long as other Covid-secure measures are in place. We hope that schools will find practical ways to make music teaching possible on site from 8 March, but it is possible that some teaching will continue online in the short term.

Teachers based in schools and colleges are encouraged to test themselves regularly in line with the policies of the setting, as long as the testing programme is open to them.

Teachers who are directly employed by a school or college should be included in the setting’s testing programme and supplied with free testing kits. Teachers who are employed by an intermediary (e.g. music service or hub) should speak to their employer about how to access testing.

As of 8 March, we have been advised by the Department for Education that:

  • Schools and colleges should offer testing to all staff who are school and college based, including teaching and non-teaching staff members such as support staff, clinical practitioners and therapists. Non-permanent members of staff should also be offered testing, such as trainee teachers on placement in school and supply workforce.
  • Staff should take the test twice weekly at home 3-4 days apart. If staff work part-time or have irregular attendance, they should still take a test twice weekly as above. Peripatetic staff should choose one school from where they will collect their home test kits.

The Government has issued additional information about ordering tests for teachers, pupils and their families which you can read on their website. You may wish to refer to this if you are having difficulties accessing testing, but we encourage members to access testing through a school, college or employer in the first instance.

Private teaching

Self-employed private teachers who teach from their homes, their students’ homes, in studios or at private music schools are not required to be tested unless they are symptomatic, in which case they should isolate and not teach in person. We advise our members who teach privately to focus on risk assessments and Covid-secure measures in place of testing.

For teachers who work in out-of-school settings and are employed, the employer should provide guidance on whether testing is necessary and how to access it if so.

Guidance on Lateral Flow Testing

Lateral Flow Testing (Rapid Testing) is now being offered by local councils in England, and has been introduced to help find positive cases where the person might be asymptomatic/displaying no symptoms of Covid-19.

You can find out whether your local council is offering lateral flow testing, or you may be asked by your employer or engager to take a rapid test that provides the results after 30 minutes.

Members in Wales may be able to get lateral flow tests from a school, college, or university they work at, or can get collect/order tests if they cannot work from home.

Further Reading

ACAS have recently also published advice in relation to Covid-19 testing and vaccinations, which is available on their website.

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