UNISON Northern Ireland

Health & Safety - Childcare Settings


UNISON is mindful that whilst schools and nursery settings are currently providing remote learning only until mid-February, childcare facilities remain open. 

UNISON is here to provide advice and representation for our members working in childcare settings who may be concerned about the health and safety of the children they care for, their colleagues and themselves.

If you have concerns about what is happening in your workplace or would like to become a health & safety rep, please contact your branch. You can find branch details here

Your employer must put in place a number of measures to protect you and the children you care for. These include:

Group size and restricted numbers

Alongside regular hygiene and cleaning measures, to reduce the risk of transmission your employer should organise children and adults in consistent groups and prevent the mixing of these groups. The intention is that the same staff and children stay together each day, through the day, as far as possible, and to limit the number of people a child has contact with. Physical distancing between adults remains a fundamental protective measure. Adults should stay 2 metres apart and all staff rooms, bases and offices should be reconfigured to ensure the physical distancing rule of 2 metres is able to be maintained. Where adults cannot keep 2 metres distance from other adults and are interacting face-to-face with other adults for 15 minutes or more, face coverings should be worn. 

Infection Prevention

Your employer should have policies in place around infection control and these must have been updated in light of Covid-19. You must have been given access to online training/information on Covid-19 (http://childcarepartnerships.hscni.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/COVID-19-IPC-Resource-for-CC-Settings-1.pdf) and your employer must make sure you are familiar with this. Your employer must make sure sufficient handwashing facilities are available or provide hand sanitiser in rooms.
Your employer should also make sure that shared spaces and shared resources are used in a much more restricted way (e.g. stagger the use of staff rooms and office spaces, prevent the sharing of stationery and other equipment).

What if a child or worker becomes sick?

Your employer should have a clear plan in place if a child becomes sick, both for children displaying the symptoms of Covid-19 and those without these symptoms. There should be a designated area where sick children can be attended to by a limited number of trained staff. If direct care is required while waiting for a child to be collected, you should be given PPE to wear (a mask, apron and gloves). PPE should also be provided for those caring for the child if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained. 

If you or your colleagues become unwell and are displaying the symptoms of Covid-19 you should be sent home immediately and follow the relevant advice and guidance on self-isolation. If you have helped someone with symptoms, you do not need to go home unless you develop symptoms yourself or the child subsequently tests positive for Covid-19. 

Test, trace, protect

Children who exhibit any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 should not attend childcare and anyone who develops symptoms at childcare should be sent home. The child should then have a test and pending the results of the test, self-isolate with the rest of their household. Your employer should identify other children who were potentially exposed to the symptomatic child and are close contacts. If the child tests positive the parent should inform your employer at the earliest opportunity. 

The PHA Contact Tracing Centre will then contact your employer to establish who the child's close contacts were, both children and staff. They will then have to self-isolate for 10 days. Getting a test is only recommended when self-isolating if you have the symptoms of Covid-19.

If the result of the test is negative the child can return to childcare, as long as they have been fever free for 48 hours. If you have the symptoms of Covid-19, are tested and your test is negative, the guidance states that you will need to stay at home until you have had a normal temperature for 2 days, unless you have been assessed physically or remotely by a GP and the GP has advised that a) the individual is not believed to have COVID-19 or any other infection that could be transmitted in the setting; and b) that the individual can return to the childcare setting.

Read the full guidance on childcare settings here

Useful Resources 

Promoting safe work during Coronavirus - A guide for UNISON members

Promoting safe work during Coronavirus - A guide for UNISON branches

Are you at risk? Health and safety poster

Are you at risk? Risk assessment leaflet for members

Social distancing and hygiene in the workplace

How to work safely - leaflet for members

Health and safety risk assessment

Interested in becoming a Health and Safety rep?