17 March 2020

As members will know, the COVID-19 crisis is fast moving and the situation is changing on an almost hourly basis.

We have been putting pressure on the School to justify why it has not closed the Library given the obvious risks to staff of both continuing to work and commuting to the University.

Unfortunately, to date they have refused to listen and repeat that they are following Public Health England advice. This is despite the long list of University and national libraries listed below closing their doors from 5pm today (16 March) in most cases. You will note that most of them state that they are doing this following Public Health England and Government advice.

UNISON cannot stand by and watch our members face an unnecessary health and safety risk and are therefore advising Library and Learning Services staff to not report for work tomorrow (17 March) until further notice.

We do this reluctantly but based on  Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act (1996) which provides for employees to remove themselves from unsafe work situations. In this case, our members have to think not simply of the safety of those attending any particular front-line service, office environment or meeting, but of the potential spread of the virus to all the other people that they have contact with.

We have informed SOAS management that we are taking this course of action as they have failed to act.

The Branch Secretary will additionally be meeting with Estates and Facilities staff tomorrow morning to discuss the situation with them, what we have been raising with management regarding their issues and what further steps they would like to see the union take.

Please stay safe and take care in these extraordinarily worrying times.

SOAS Branch Committee

Not Exhaustive List of Libraries Closing Their Doors

British Library –

National Library of Scotland

Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

UK National Archives –

The John Rylands Library (University of Manchester)



Cardiff University Libraries

St Andrews University Library