Reopening of schools in England (updated 24th May)
Working arrangements during partial school closure
Safety issues and contingency planning
Coronavirus testing for essential/key workers
Job Retention Scheme/furlough
Supply teachers
Pupils/staff with COVID-19
Procedures for self-isolation and during sickness
Advice for teachers in vulnerable groups
The fairness of the Government's approach
Childcare and carer responsibilities during partial school closure
Pupil support/discipline arrangements during partial school closure
Pay and contractual issues during partial school closure

Reopening of schools in England

As a teacher who provides specialist support to pupils in different settings, should I be expected to carry out my duties in the usual way?

I am a peripatetic teacher and provide specialist support to pupils (e.g. with a visual impairment, hearing impairment, speech and language difficulties, an autistic spectrum condition) in different settings. This includes me visiting different schools and settings, and in some instances, visiting children at home. Should I be expected to carry out my duties in the usual way?

Your employer has a statutory duty to ensure your health and safety. This includes addressing health and safety matters arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. They must also ensure that they comply with equalities legislation and employment law.

Your employer should undertake a health and safety risk assessment in order to identify any potential risks arising from the work that you do. The risk assessment should take account of public health and advice guidelines relating to COVID-19.

Your employer must consult widely as part of the risk assessment. This must include consulting the workforce, and so workforce unions, the health and safety representative and other employers where you may work in order to ensure that health and safety measures are in place. This means that your employer must consult each of the schools and settings that you attend.

The employer should identify all risks and take action to mitigate those risks. This should be consistent with government advice which stresses the importance of minimising contact between different people and stopping all but essential contact.

In the case of peripatetic teachers, therefore, your employer should establish whether the work being carried out is essential. If it is essential, then the employer should consider whether it would be possible for you to carry out the work differently. For instance, could you undertake the work remotely using appropriate technology? Could somebody in the school, setting or household support you to deliver the support remotely? The employer may need to provide you and the child or setting with appropriate equipment and may need to provide training to enable the equipment to be used properly.

If it is absolutely essential for you to provide direct support to children by attending a school, setting or home, your employer must put in place measures to protect you and avoid transmission of COVID-19. This should include arrangements to maintain social distancing and minimise contact with different people. If it is not possible for you to carry out essential responsibilities and maintain the 2-metre social distancing rule, then NASUWT advice is that your employer should provide you with personal protective equipment (PPE). Your employer will also need to ensure that arrangements are in place to clean equipment and settings before and after use.

If you are classed as extremely clinically vulnerable, you should not work outside your home. Government advice is that people who are clinically vulnerable should also work from home. In these instances, your employer should make arrangements for you to undertake work from home. They must not expect you to undertake work outside your home, particularly work that involves visiting different settings.

Contact the NASUWT for advice if you have any concerns about your work arrangements, including concerns that your employer has not undertaken a risk assessment or taken action to mitigate risks and concerns raised.

My headteacher is planning for the wider opening of the school and is asking staff to complete a form to declare whether they are available to work and would be safe to work. Is this acceptable?

Employees have a legal entitlement to a safe working environment. Members should not sign anything which may compromise their rights by asking them to declare that they feel it is safe to return to work.

Whether it is safe to return to work can only be on the basis of the risk assessment the employer has carried out on the task they may require a member of staff to carry out and on the provisions being made in the workplace to safeguard health, safety and welfare.

In addition, the government guidance lists staff who may be at risk if they return to the workplace or pose a risk to others. This is the starting point for any headteacher when considering staff availability.

These staff are those who are:

  • self-isolating with symptoms of COVID-19;
  • in a household with someone who is self-isolating;
  • clinically extremely vulnerable individuals who are shielding having had a letter telling them they are in this group;
  • clinically vulnerable individuals who have underlying health conditions;
  • pregnant.

Schools should not be asking any of those groups to declare they are safe to return to work or available to work. They should be planning that these staff will continue to work from home.

Schools should also be risk assessing the return to work of any member of staff who shares a household with anyone who is in one of the clinically vulnerable categories.

It would not be unreasonable for a headteacher to ask staff to identify any barrier they feel there may be to being available to return to the workplace, for example, carer and childcare responsibilities; whether the member of staff would have to use public transport to get to work, thus exposing themselves and others to risks; or where a member of staff has a disability and what adjustments would be required in the workplace in the context of COVID-19.

Headteachers should be flexible and reasonable in their approach to staff, rather than pressing staff to come into work and putting them and others at risk.

There is no requirement or expectation in the Government and DfE Guidance that all staff must be in school. If a school cannot staff plans for the wider opening of schools safely then they cannot proceed with the plans.

If members are presented with any form to complete or sign and are uncomfortable with its contents, then seek advice from the NASUWT.

Working arrangements during partial school closure

My school is requiring me to use my own phone to make contact while I am at home with a group of pupils from my class on a regular basis. Is this acceptable?

Such practices raise significant safeguarding issues for teachers and pupils and the NASUWT strongly recommends that teachers do not agree to do this.

Teachers phoning individual children from their own homes are vulnerable to allegations by pupils and parents of inappropriate conversations, to having their conversations recorded and used out of context, and to verbal abuse by parents and pupils.

There are risks to teachers using their own mobiles when making a call, even if they withhold their number. Withholding numbers is not 100% safe whatever your employer might claim, as there are applications available that can unmask withheld numbers.

Teachers cannot be required by their employer to use their own phone or other equipment.

There are many circumstances, when schools are open normally, when pupils are out of contact with teachers and the school for extended periods and it has never been the norm or considered necessary to make calls to individual pupils, for example during the summer holidays.

If the school has concerns about particular pupils who they feel may be at risk at home and in need of regular contact, they should refer these pupils to social services.

Please consult the full NASUWT advice on contact with pupils and parents.

I have seen articles in the press and my headteacher/principal has raised the possibility of our school opening over the summer holidays. What should I do?

Anything in the media at the moment is purely speculation, as the Government has produced no proposals or plans for the opening of schools in the next few months. The NASUWT is monitoring the situation closely and will advise members of any developments.

If opening over the summer holidays is being raised in your school then you should not agree to any proposals but forward them to the NASUWT for further advice and support.

Can my school/academy change the term dates in order to bring forward the start of the autumn term?

The majority of teachers in schools and academies are employed on the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document or contract, which specifies that teachers should work for 195 days per year, consisting of five training days and 190 teaching days.

Term dates should be consulted on with unions well in advance and often (although not always) mirror the local authority term dates, as parents may have children at different schools in the locality.

As most teachers are currently working as per this contract, whether from home or at school, the employer cannot increase the number of days per year teachers are required to work.

Until the Department for Education announces plans to reopen schools, it is unwise for schools or academies to announce changes to school term dates. Any proposed changes to term dates should undergo full consultation with staff and unions and teachers cannot be required to work over and above their contractual requirements.

Do I have to produce additional evidence to support my centre assessed/estimated grades or assessments for this summer's qualifications?

No. For general qualifications across the UK, arrangements have been put in place that will require schools and colleges to submit assessments of the grades or other outcomes that students would have achieved had this summer's examinations and assessments taken place as scheduled.

All UK regulators are clear that there is no requirement on teachers to generate any additional evidence, including through the setting of additional mock exams or homework tasks, for the purposes of determining a centre assessed or estimated grade or outcome.

Schools and colleges also do not need to ask students to complete any unfinished non-exam assessment work for the purposes of grading.

In particular, it is entirely unacceptable for schools to ask pupils to travel on-site to undertake such assessments. Schools are open only for the children of key workers and for those pupils who have been identified as vulnerable. No other pupils should attend school in person for any reason.

However, it is important to note that these arrangements do not yet apply to most technical and vocational qualifications. The position in respect of these qualifications has yet to be determined and discussions with regulators, government and administrations are ongoing. Further advice and guidance will be shared with members as soon as the position has been clarified.

Members are strongly advised to consult the NASUWT's advice and guidance on qualifications matters.

I have a fixed-term contract with a school and I have just been advised that due to COVID-19 and partial closures of schools my contract is being terminated early and my pay has been stopped. What action can I take?

You should immediately email the NASUWT setting out the details of what has happened and attaching a copy of your contract. The NASUWT will then review the contract to determine what redress you may have in these circumstances.

At a time when staff are needed all across the country to support the arrangements being made in schools to provide care for the children of key workers and vulnerable children, terminating a fixed-term contract is unnecessary.

I have successfully applied for a post in another school and was due to begin my new post. The school has now withdrawn the offer and as I have resigned from my current school I am now without a job. What can I do?

Email the NASUWT giving a brief history of what has happened and attach copies of your letter of resignation, the written acceptance of your resignation, the offer of employment at the new school and the letter withdrawing the offer. The NASUWT will then offer advice and support on the action to be taken.

You could also ask your current school if you are able to withdraw your resignation and if they have not already made an appointment to replace you, they may be amenable to doing this and allow you to remain in post. They are, however, under no obligation to do this.

Can teachers be required to go into school to care for vulnerable children and key workers children over the weekends and during a holiday period?

In these unprecedented times when formal education has ended and been replaced by care provision and while there is intense pressure on the NHS, it is the fact that the Government will be seeking to ensure that there is provision for these children over weekends and during holiday periods.

The NASUWT believes that where there are proposals to keep schools open over weekends and holidays there must be full consultation with all staff, not just teachers, and volunteers sought.

A rota of volunteers should be drawn up and schools should have systems in place so that they can pay volunteers.

There are only a few pupils in my school and yet all of the staff are being required to attend the school every day. Is this right?

Such arrangements contravene government guidance on lockdown, social distancing and essential journeys.

In these circumstances, a rota should be drawn up keeping staffing to the minimum number needed to support and care for the pupils.

No pupils have turned up to my school, but the headteacher is making all staff report every day and stay until 10am. Is this acceptable?

This is contrary to government guidance on lockdown, social distancing and non-essential journeys.

It is risking the health and welfare of staff and their families for no reason and should stop.

My school is opting for the provision of vouchers for free school meals and has asked teachers to deliver these meals to the homes of pupils? Do I have to do this?

It is important that children who are entitled to free school meals receive them. Schools have a number of options to ensure this happens. If they have the facilities, they can provide school meals as they would in normal circumstances and children who are eligible can attend the school site for their meal. All the provisions in the guidance regarding hygiene and social distancing should be in place.

Some schools are opting into a voucher system. In this case, pupils can be provided with the voucher to purchase the food themselves. Alternatively, the schools can use the voucher to purchase meals and the pupils can collect the food from the school.

It has been suggested by some schools that teachers should deliver the meals purchased to pupils’ homes. The NASUWT does not believe that this is a reasonable request to make of teachers. It raises issues about the safety of the teachers, the type of car insurance they have, the potential for the quality of the meal to be compromised depending on what type of food is being provided and the risk of contamination of food. Members are strongly advised not to agree to participate in such delivery arrangements.

I have been asked by my school to complete a record/diary of what I am doing on a daily basis when I am not in work. Is this reasonable?

No this is not a reasonable expectation.

It is reasonable for the employer to set out their expectations of what staff should be doing when they are working from home. These expectations should be reasonable and practical.

If you are asked to keep a record of work you are doing , decline to do so and ask the employer to set out the expectations of what they want you to do.

If these expectations seem unreasonable, then contact the NASUWT for further advice.

I have just received a message from my headteacher that it may be necessary to cancel PPA/PPC time and to cover for absent colleagues in order to keep classes running. Is this correct?

Schools should have in place appropriate arrangements for covering for absence.

Whilst the impact of coronavirus on individuals may be more severe, it has always been the case that schools have had to deal with absence cover, including when dealing with the impact of seasonal flu.

This can include accessing supply teachers or sending classes home. There can be no reasonable expectation for teachers to undertake extended cover for absence or to forfeit PPA or PPC time due to absence of other colleagues.

Can teachers be required to make their time up during closure periods?

It would be wholly inappropriate and unacceptable to expect teachers to make up time resulting from the closure of a school/college.

A requirement for a school/college to close is a necessary public health protection measure and teachers should not be required to make up time or suffer any detriment resulting from forced closure of schools/colleges.

Can teachers be required to work in other schools during this period?

In England, the DfE's guidance on residential settings states that in respect of special provision, staff from elsewhere may be brought in to prevent closure or to allow a closed setting to reopen.

The guidance indicates that local authorities now have responsibility for securing these additional staff and that redeployments may be made involving those employed in academies as well as in local authority maintained schools.

The NASUWT is seeking clarification from the DfE on this provision and staff redeployments in general and will provide further updates as an when they are available.

Should staff who rely on public transport be expected to be in work?

There is currently no restriction on the use of public transport, but the NASUWT expects the Government and public transport authorities to be making further statements on this shortly.

What guidance is there for staff working in residential settings, including residential special schools and alternative provision and children’s homes?

In England, the DfE has published guidance on residential settings, including residential special schools and alternative provision and children’s homes.

The maintenance of staff and learner safety is of critical importance in residential settings given the particular issues these settings encounter in these respects. All residential settings should have systems and structures in place that comply with the existing minimum standards set by the DfE.

The NASUWT is clear that these standards establish important operational benchmarks for all residential settings and all settings should already be familiar with their requirements, including in respect of the availability and deployment of staff. Members should seek advice and information from the NASUWT urgently if they believe these standards are not being met.

Children’s homes are subject to further guidance set out in the Children’s Homes (England) Regulations 2015. Leaders and staff in children’s homes should already be familiar with the standards set by these Regulations and the DfE's accompanying guidance (pdf).

In particular, settings are required to have enough suitably trained staff (including someone in a management role) on duty to meet the assessed needs of all children in the home and to ensure that those staff are able to respond to emergency placements, where accepted.

These standards remain critical to securing minimum standards of safety in children’s homes. Members working in children’s homes who are concerned that the standards are not being met, or are at imminent risk of not being met, should seek further advice and guidance from the NASUWT.

For residential special schools and children’s homes, the guidance indicates that where staffing levels are not adequate, a judgement should be made about whether the setting should close. If members are concerned that a setting is remaining open when it is not safe for it to do so, advice and guidance should be sought from the NASUWT.

The guidance makes clear that local authorities should make attempts to relocate staff from other schools and colleges to maintain safe levels. In cases where such steps are being considered, it will be important to ensure that these staff have adequate skills and knowledge to fulfil the role allocated to them safely.

Key terms and conditions for members working in settings that fall within the remit of the Joint Negotiating Committee for Teachers in Residential Establishments (JNCTRE) are set out in the Orange Book. NASUWT guidance on this document is available the Summary of the JNC Orange Book on the Conditions of Service page.

Can I be directed to work from home?

Schools/colleges should consult with staff over the arrangements for dealing with disruption to service. Working from home can enable schools/colleges to protect staff from exposure to coronavirus.

Can I be directed to use my own IT and home broadband connections when working from home?

There are many issues surrounding the use of personal IT equipment and internet services, not least data privacy and confidentiality both for the member(s) of staff and for pupils.

Wherever possible, schools/colleges should supply teachers with appropriate IT equipment (including wi-fi connections) to enable remote working.

Safety issues and contingency planning

My headteacher has invited contractors onto the school site to commence building work and repairs around the building while some pupils and staff are on the premises. Is this allowed?

Your employer should have conducted a risk assessment with regard to having contractors on site and shared that with the staff before the building work commenced. The school’s operational guidance should have been amended in the light of that assessment to make clear to staff what the arrangements are for site safety while building and repair work is in progress, including maintaining social distancing.

In addition, the contractors are required to have produced their own risk assessment information and to have that on site.

If the works being commissioned are related to asbestos, they should be postponed until the site is fully closed.

Members should ask the headteacher to provide the risk assessments conducted by the school and contractors and seek advice and support from the NASUWT if these are not provided or you have continuing concerns.

The NASUWT advice on risk assessments can be found in the Health and Safety Reps Handbook.

What is the Union doing to demand schools supply sanitisers, masks etc.?

In accordance with the Government’s advice, all schools and colleges should ensure that they provide access to soap and hot water for washing. Hand sanitisers may also be used in many schools, although regular and effective handwashing is the best way to protect against coronavirus.

The medical advice indicates that face masks may not be an effective protection for individuals against the spread of coronavirus.

Where staff are asked to physically support, assist or restrain pupils, schools should consider the provision to staff of protective clothing, gloves and other protective equipment.

Public health bodies recommend that the best way to reduce any risk of infection is good hygiene and avoiding direct or close contact (closer than 2 metres) with any potentially infected person.

Is there anything specific I should expect to see in the school’s contingency plan relating to COVID-19?

Your school/college should have a contingency plan to deal with disruption due to coronavirus which should make clear:

  • who is responsible for contingency planning;
  • how staff will be kept updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace;
  • arrangements for emergency contact with staff;
  • precautions for staff who might be more vulnerable (e.g. someone who is pregnant, or aged over 70, or who has an underlying health condition);
  • reducing unnecessary travel;
  • self-isolation expectations;
  • a plan in case the workplace needs to close temporarily;
  • arrangements for working from home and what tasks staff may reasonably be expected to do;
  • time off work provisions to enable individual members of staff to look after someone else;
  • what to do if someone becomes unwell in the workplace with coronavirus symptoms;
  • what to do if someone with confirmed coronavirus comes into the workplace.

If support staff, e.g. caretakers and cleaners, are not in the school, should the school remain open?

Schools/colleges must ensure that they continue to meet high standards of hygiene and cleanliness during the period of coronavirus to minimise the risks to the health of employees, pupils and the public.

The Government's advice on cleaning and disinfecting of areas must be followed at all times.

Where a school/college is unable to meet hygiene and cleanliness standards, the NASUWT would expect the school/college to close.

Should those staff who remain on school premises practise social distancing between themselves and pupils?

The NASUWT has already raised with the Government our deep concerns that teachers are being expected to remain in schools in contact with children who can carry COVID-19 without showing symptoms without being provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Emergency workers in contact with the public all have PPE. Why should staff in schools be different?

Coronavirus testing for essential/key workers

I understand that essential/key workers are now eligible for a coronavirus test. What is the purpose of this?

The primary reason for the testing is to prevent people self-isolating unnecessarily.

Testing will not result in any difference in treatment. For example, a positive test will not result in automatic admission to hospital.

What happens if a coronavirus test result is positive?

Those who receive a positive result will be required to self-isolate for at least seven days and at least 14 days if there is a positive test for a member of their household.

If the test results are negative, then self-isolating restrictions are lifted immediately in England and Wales.

The Scottish Government advises that even if a key worker has had a negative result, it is important to still apply caution. If everyone with symptoms who was tested in their household receives a negative result, the employee can return to work if their work cannot be done from home. Employees should discuss their return to work with their employer.

I am a teacher. Can I access the testing for coronavirus?

Teachers are classed as essential/key workers and so are eligible for testing if they are self-isolating because they are showing symptoms of coronavirus or a member of their household is showing symptoms.

How do I access the coronavirus test?

There are two ways of accessing testing: by self-referral or referral by your employer.

However, some teachers in Scotland are able to access NHS testing already and, where this is the case, they should continue to follow that route. However, if there are times when NHS testing capacity is at its maximum, then teachers should make full use of the testing opportunities offered by the UK Government Programme.

How do I self-refer for a coronavirus test?

You can book a test directly for yourself or for the member of your household who is symptomatic on the Government web page Essential workers: apply for a coronavirus test.

You can select a test site drive-through appointment or provision of a home test kit.

You can access the User guide for essential workers to book a test at a regional testing site or via home delivery on the self-referral portal.

Can I ask my employer to refer me for a coronavirus test?

Yes, if you are self-isolating because you are exhibiting symptoms or a member of your household is symptomatic.

Once referred, you should receive directly a text message with a unique invitation code to book a test, for yourself if you are symptomatic or for the member of your household who is symptomatic.

Can my employer refer me for a coronavirus test without my permission?

An employer cannot require an employee to undergo a medical examination without the consent of the employee.

However, employers do have a responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of employees and due to the fact that this is related to the COVID-19 pandemic, there would be an expectation that an employee co-operates with the employer’s referral. However, if the employee has concerns about the employer’s reason for the referral, further advice should be sought immediately from the NASUWT.

If an employer makes referrals for medical testing of employees, the employer must ensure that the referrals are being applied consistently to all employees who meet the criteria for referral. Singling out certain employees for referral and not referring others could potentially lead to discrimination claims.

What happens if I cannot travel to a coronavirus testing site?

In these circumstances, particularly if you have a disability which prevents you making the journey, a home testing kit can be provided and you can choose that option.

The kit is delivered to your home.

When I get the test results, am I required to give them to my employer?

Obtaining health information about an individual is a special category under the GDPR legislation and an employer can only process this data on certain grounds. One of the permitted grounds is for health purposes. However, this only applies if there is an appropriate GDPR policy in place in your school which outlines the employer’s compliance measures and retention policy for this special category data.

The test results are your personal medical data and in the absence of a policy referred to above. It is for you to decide to release the results to the employer.

However, given the circumstances of the need to manage COVID-19 issues in the interests of everyone, it would be unreasonable for the results to be withheld from the employer by an employee.

If you have a particular concern about releasing the test results, you should contact the NASUWT immediately for further advice.

Job Retention Scheme/furlough

If a trade union representative is furloughed, can they still undertake trade union duties and activities?

If you are an NASUWT Representative working in an independent school or as a supply teacher, revised advice and guidance from the Government makes it clear that you can still undertake trade union duties and activities if you have been furloughed.

I have been furloughed. What impact will this have on my pension?

You will remain a member of your pension scheme during the time that you have been furloughed and both you and your employer should continue to pay pension contributions.

If your employer asks your consent to stop or reduce their contribution during the time that you are furloughed, please contact the NASUWT for advice before responding to any request.

Do holiday leave and holiday pay accrue if I am furloughed?

As you are still employed during the period of furlough, statutory holiday will accrue.

The statutory minimum holiday leave entitlement of 5.6 weeks per year will accrue, but the precise amount of holiday left will depend upon how much holiday you have already taken.

You are able to take holiday whilst you are furloughed and this should be paid at your normal rate of pay or, where your pay varies, calculated on the average pay received in the previous 52 weeks.

Employers are therefore obliged to pay any additional amounts in excess of the grant received under the Job Retention Scheme, although your employer has the flexibility to restrict when leave can be taken.

For employees who do not usually work bank holidays, the expectation is that the employer either tops up the pay to the usual level received or they give a day of holiday in lieu.

What is the minimum period I can be furloughed for?

If you are furloughed by your employer under the Job Retention Scheme, the minimum period you can be furloughed for is three weeks.

You are able to be furloughed multiple times, but each time has to be a minimum of three consecutive weeks.

What are the eligibility criteria for the Job Retention Scheme?

To qualify to be furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme, you should have been on the PAYE payroll of the agency on or before 19th March.

You should check this carefully. If you were not on the payroll, then you will not be eligible to be furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme, but you may be eligible for other state benefits.

The Union has provided advice and guidance on claiming Social Security Benefits During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

What are my employment rights whilst I am furloughed?

Aside from the terms relating to pay, an employee who is furloughed retains all their existing contractual rights.

Can I undertake any work while I am furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme?

While furloughed by your employer, you are not able to undertake any work for that employer or any organisations linked to that employer.

However, there is nothing to prohibit you from undertaking work for another employer while furloughed with your current employer(s).

The Job Retention Scheme applies to each employer individually, so you could be in receipt of 100% of your wages from one employer, whilst in receipt of 80% of your wage from the employer that has furloughed them.

This is supported by advice from both HMRC and Acas which makes it clear that each job contract is treated separately.

The Union would advise that you check your contract carefully to see how you are employed and whether there are any restrictions on who you are able to work for.

If there are any such restrictions, it is advisable to discuss this with your employer to see if they are content to waiver any such restrictions.

Am I eligible for furlough if I am self-isolating or shielding in line with advice from UK public health authorities?

If you are self-isolating or shielding in line with the advice from UK public health authorities, including staying at home with someone who is shielding, you may be eligible to be furloughed, provided you cannot work from home once you have declared yourself fit to return to work.

Can I be furloughed if I am off sick and in receipt of Statutory Sick Pay?

If you are signed off on long-term sick leave and in receipt of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), your employer can put you on furlough, provided that you are no longer in receipt of SSP.

If you are furloughed and become sick, there is nothing to stop your employer paying you at your furloughed rate provided this is at least the equivalent of SSP.

However, there is nothing that prevents your employer from topping up the salary you receive so it exceeds the 80% under the Job Retention Scheme.

Can I be furloughed if I am in a vulnerable category as defined by UK public health authorities?

If you fall into a vulnerable category as defined by UK public health authorities and are shielding as per the recommendations by the NHS (or need to stay at home with someone who is shielding), you may be able to be placed on furlough.

Am I eligible to be furloughed if I was subject to a TUPE transfer prior to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Government has revised its advice and guidance on the Job Retention Scheme to clarify that employees who have been subject to a Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) after 19th March can be furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme.

Members should seek advice and information from the NASUWT if they are in situation where they have been subject to a TUPE transfer after 19th March and their employer does not want to furlough them.

I have been furloughed by my employer but I am still being asked to work from home to prepare work for the pupils not in school and to plan for next term. Is this correct?

No. This is completely unacceptable and indeed contrary to the provisions the Government has made regarding furlough and the grants that employers can receive to cover 80% of the teachers’ salary.

The basis for furlough and the receipt of Government funding is that the employee is not undertaking any work for their employer or any organisations linked to the employer.

What payment will I receive under the Job Retention Scheme if I am furloughed?

If you are furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme, your employer will receive a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. This must then be paid to you.

It is important to note that any income received under the Job Retention Scheme is still subject to all statutory deductions, such as tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs), as well as any pension deductions as appropriate.

Under the Job Retention Scheme, there is nothing that prevents your employer from topping up the salary you receive up to 100% of your normal pay and the NASUWT expects that all employers should do so.

The Government has also confirmed that the entire grant must be paid to the employee - no part of the Job Retention Scheme can be held back by the employer, e.g. deductions for fees, administration of the scheme.

Members should seek advice and information from the NASUWT urgently if they believe that their employer is seeking to deduct any fees from the grant it has received under the Job Retention Scheme.

I have received a letter from my employer asking me to defer 20% of my salary for the next three months as a result of the current national crisis. What should I do?

As a matter of urgency, you should send a copy of your current contract and the letter you have received from your employer to the NASUWT advice line on:

The NASUWT will then assign you to a caseworker to give you further advice.

What your employer is proposing is a variation of your contract and they cannot do this without your consent. You are strongly advised not to agree to this variation and to take advice from the NASUWT on the next steps you need to take.

Some employers are seeking to secure the 80% payment for employees' salary from the Government Job Retention Scheme but then are not prepared to pay their employees the other 20%. It is not acceptable that teachers should be expected to take a cut in salary.

Members should be advised that deferral of pay will adversely affect your pension.

Can maintained/local authority schools, MATs and free schools apply for the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme?

The UK Government has no expectation that publicly funded organisations which are continuing to receive their public funding will need to apply for the Scheme.

Maintained/local authority schools, MATs and free schools are all continuing to receive their public funding and therefore have no reason to apply.

Since these employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, the UK Government expects employers to use that money to continue to pay staff as usual.

Can an independent school apply for the Job Retention Scheme?

Generally, yes, but it does depend on how the school or provision at the school is normally funded.

Some independent schools may be in receipt of public funding for some/all of their provision, including specifically to provide services necessary to respond to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) emergency.

Where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, the Government expects that independent schools use that money to continue to pay staff in the normal way and, in this case, should not furlough staff.

My school is an independent school and has told me that I will be furloughed and the school will apply for funding from the Job Retention Scheme. Can the school do this?

Before taking this step, the school needs to explain to staff and to NASUWT Representatives why they believe that they will not continue to receive funding to enable them to retain their staff on their current contracts.

For example, can the school show that their cash flow has been interrupted by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis? Are they able to demonstrate that parents are refusing to pay fees or are seeking reimbursement on fees?

If there is no change to their funding situation, they should not be seeking to furlough staff or cover costs from the Job Retention Scheme.

My employer is furloughing staff and will be receiving the 80% funding from the Job Retention Scheme, but has said that we will only receive 90% of our salary and has asked us to sign a contract accepting this. What should I do?

You have a statutory entitlement to receive your full salary.

If you have been furloughed, your employer will receive 80% of your salary (up to a cap of £2,500) from the Government’s Job Retention Scheme. Your employer should make up the difference to 100%, together with payment of National Insurance Contributions and employer pension contributions.

The Scheme is intended to avoid redundancies by alleviating the pressure on employers to continue paying wages in full during the crisis period. If the employer is saying that they will only pay 10% to you on top of what they will receive from the Government, they are in effect seeking to vary your contract. It is, therefore, essential that you make clear in writing to your employer that you do not accept this variation to your contract.

If your employer seeks to compel you to accept less than your full salary entitlement, then you must write to the employer stating that you are receiving the reduced salary under protest and that you reserve the right, at the appropriate time, to pursue all legal remedies available to you to recover the deducted salary.

If I am furloughed, what work can my employer expect from me?

A requirement of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme is that where an employee has been furloughed, they cannot be available for work and therefore you cannot be working, so an employer cannot ask a furloughed worker to carry on working.

Being furloughed is not the same as teachers being asked to work from home because schools have been repurposed to provide care.

I work in a multi-academy trust and my employer has said that they intend to furlough staff and claim money from the Government Job Retention Scheme. Can they do this?

The Government guidance on the Job Retention Scheme makes clear that they have no expectation that publicly funded organisations who are continuing to receive their public funding will access the Scheme.

Your MAT will be continuing to receive funding from the Government in the normal way. You should therefore not accept being furloughed.

My school has decided to push forward a TUPE transfer for groups of staff to a private company to then furlough staff. Can they do this?

This is an abuse of the TUPE transfer provisions. It is clear the employer is being opportunistic to try to cover staff salaries by manipulating the system and also misapplying the TUPE provisions.

TUPE requires full consultation with staff unless there are no measures proposed. It is clear in this scenario that there are measures and the employer is therefore not abiding by statutory provisions and can therefore be challenged.

Supply teachers

As a supply teacher, can I be furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme for periods which include school holidays?

The Job Retention Scheme is intended to provide a grant to employers so that they can provide financial assistance to employees provided they were on the PAYE of the agency on or before 19th March.

Following campaigning by the NASUWT, colleagues in Crown Commercial Services and The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have confirmed that, provided they meet the eligibility criteria, supply teachers can be furloughed for periods which include school holidays.

The Union continues to monitor this situation and wants to hear from supply teachers if this has happened to you.

Please contact us with the following information:

  • full name;
  • your membership number or date of birth and postcode if you cannot locate it.

What is the status of the guidance issued in respect of contingent workers in the public sector?

The Cabinet Office has issued guidance on how payments to suppliers of contingent workers, such as supply teachers, impacted by COVID-19 should be dealt with, which is separate to the Job Retention Scheme.

The guidance applies to a range of contingent workers, including agency workers paid through PAYE, as well as those paid through umbrella companies on PAYE and off-payroll workers supplying their services through a Personal Service Company (PSC).

The guidance references that contingent labour working in the public sector who are long-term or have an assignment which naturally ends in the future should have 80% of their salary paid for up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

The revised Job Retention Scheme advice and guidance references that public sector bodies will follow the Crown Commercial Services guidance in the vast majority of cases, advice which is endorsed by trade bodies such as the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

The DfE has published general principles that state-funded schools should follow for contingent workers, such as supply teachers, during the COVID-19 pandemic. This references that schools should are expected to refer to ALL parts of the Cabinet Office guidance on the use of contingent labour in the public sector.

In situations where an agency worker, such as supply teacher, is still on a live assignment and can continue to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, schools may continue to make the agreed payments for the assignment in line with the Cabinet Office guidance on the use of contingent labour in the public sector. As a consequence, the agency supplying the teacher should not furlough these workers.

Where a supply teacher working through an agency can no longer continue to work on a live assignment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the schools and agencies are expected to refer to the Cabinet Office guidance on the use of contingent labour in the public sector.

The Union wants to hear from supply teachers if this is not the case. Please contact us with the following information:

  • your full name;
  • your membership number (or date of birth and postcode if you cannot locate it);
  • a copy of the assignment details from the school and/or supply agency confirming the length of the assignment.

Can I be furloughed if I do supply work directly for a local authority school?

The UK Government has no expectation that publicly funded organisations which are continuing to receive their public funding will need to apply for the Scheme.

Maintained/local authority schools, multi-academy trusts and free schools are all continuing to receive their public funding and therefore have no reason to apply.

Since these employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, the UK Government expects employers to use that money to continue to pay staff as usual.

As a consequence, staff may not be eligible to be furloughed, including supply teachers undertaking supply work directly with a state-funded school.

The Union is aware of a number of local authority schools, academies and multi-academy trusts who have committed to continue to pay supply teachers who were already budgeted for.

Advice and guidance from the DfE sets out the general principles that state-funded schools should follow if you work directly for a state-funded school (e.g. local authority school)on the government web page Coronavirus (COVID-19): Financial Support for Education, Early Years and Children's Social Care.

This states that supply teachers on a live assignment should continue to be paid from the existing budget of the school. 

For supply teachers who have had their assignments terminated earlier than the original terms stipulated, the guidance from the DfE is that you should be reinstated on the original terms of your contract, provided that you are not already accessing alternative support from the Government. 

We are pressing the Government on this issue as there is a need for greater clarity to ensure that supply teachers in such situations do not suffer a detriment.

Can I be furloughed if I do supply work directly for an academy or multi-academy trust?

The UK Government has no expectation that publicly funded organisations which are continuing to receive their public funding will need to apply for the Scheme.

Maintained/local authority schools, multi-academy trusts and free schools are all continuing to receive their public funding and therefore have no reason to apply.

Since these employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, the UK Government expects employers to use that money to continue to pay staff as usual.

As a consequence, staff may not be eligible to be furloughed, including supply teachers undertaking supply work directly with a state-funded school.

The NASUWT maintains that supply teachers, particular those on long term placements should continue to be paid in full until the end of the placement. Once this has finished, you should ask to be furloughed if there is no further work available.

The Union is aware of a number of local authority schools, academies and multi-academy trusts who have committed to continue to pay supply teachers who were already budgeted for.

Advice and guidance from the DfE sets out the general principles that state-funded schools should follow if you work directly for a state-funded school (e.g. academy or multi-academy trust). This can be found at the Government web page Coronavirus (COVID-19): Financial Support for Education, Early Years and Children's Social Care.

This states that supply teachers on a live assignment should continue to be paid from the existing budget of the school.

For supply teachers who have had their assignments terminated earlier than the original terms stipulated, the guidance from the DfE is that you should be reinstated on the original terms of your contract, provided that you are not already accessing alternative support from the Government.

We are pressing the Government on this issue as there is a need for greater clarity to ensure that supply teachers in such situations do not suffer a detriment.

What happens if I get supply work through the local authority?

It is unclear whether local authorities who maintain supply pools can access the Job Retention Scheme and furlough supply teachers.

The NASUWT maintains that supply teachers should be able to continue assignments that would have been continued had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Union maintains that supply teachers, particularly those on long-term placements should continue to be paid in full until the end of the placement. Once this has finished, you should ask to be furloughed if there is no further work available.

Advice and guidance from the DfE sets out the general principles that state-funded schools should follow if you work through directly for a state-funded school. This can be found at the Government web page Coronavirus (COVID-19): Financial Support for Education, Early Years and Children's Social Care.

This states that supply teachers directly employed on a live assignment should continue to be paid from the existing budget of the school.

For supply teachers who have had their assignments terminated earlier than the original terms stipulated, the guidance from the DfE is that you should be reinstated on the original terms of your contract, provided that you are not already accessing alternative support from the Government.

The Union continues to press for clarification on the issue and will provide further advice and guidance as appropriate.

Can a supply agency apply for the Job Retention Scheme?

The Job Retention Scheme confirms that employment businesses can apply for the grant and furlough agency workers, such as supply teachers, provided they are paid through PAYE.

If an agency agrees to put its supply teachers on furlough, it should fully consult with its supply teachers before making a claim through the Job Retention Scheme. Supply teachers cannot apply for the Scheme themselves.

The agency has to notify its supply teachers in writing that they have been furloughed and this should be retained by the agency for five years. It is good practice for the agency to include the following in the furlough agreement:

  • the date furlough starts;
  • how much you will be paid;
  • when it will be reviewed; and
  • how to keep in contact during furlough.

It applies to all supply teachers as agency workers, irrespective of the length of contract, provided they are not working or have no work available with your agency as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a supply teacher, what payment will I receive under the Job Retention Scheme if I am furloughed?

As a supply teacher, if you are furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme, your employer will receive a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. This must then be paid to you.

For supply teachers whose earnings often vary over a period of time, the Job Retention Scheme will calculate earnings based on the following:

  • If you have been employed (or engaged by an employment business) for a full 12 months prior to the claim, the employer can claim for the higher of either:
    • the same month’s earning from the previous year; or
    • the average monthly earnings from the 2019/20 tax year.
  • If you have been employed for less than a year, the employer can claim for an average of your monthly earnings since you started work.
  • If you only started in March 2020, the employer can use a pro rata for your earnings so far to claim.

It is important to note that any income received under the Job Retention Scheme is still subject to all statutory deductions, such as tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs), as well as any pension deductions as appropriate.

Under the Job Retention Scheme, there is nothing that prevents your employer from topping up the salary you receive up to 100% of your normal pay. Indeed, the Union believes agencies should be doing this.

It is recommended that supply teachers have evidence of their past/recent earnings (i.e. days worked, rate of pay) and all associated paperwork with their contract when furloughed.

Can a supply agency make deductions from my wages that are covered by the Job Retention Scheme?

The agency must pay you all of the grant that they receive. They cannot charge you a fee or make any deductions from the money you are eligible to receive.

What happens if I have not undertaken any supply work recently?

Provided you are still on the agency’s PAYE payroll, you should be eligible to be furloughed if you are able to work but there is no work available.

It applies to all supply teachers as agency workers, irrespective of the length of contract, provided you are not working or have no work available with your agency as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What happens if I am in receipt of my Teachers' Pension?

As a supply teacher in receipt of the Teachers' Pension (TPS), you are still eligible to be furloughed, as long as you are still working for an employer.

I am a supply teacher working through an umbrella company - am I eligible to be furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme?

The Job Retention Scheme confirms that agency workers, such as supply teachers, can be furloughed under the Scheme, including those working for umbrella companies.

Most umbrella companies actually class workers as their own ‘employees’ and pay them through PAYE, so they would still be within scope of the scheme.

This should also apply in circumstances where the umbrella company is just acting as the PAYE bureau for the supply teacher.

What level of furlough pay will I receive if I work for through an umbrella company?

The NASUWT is aware that there are concerns about the level of furlough remuneration that a supply teacher may receive based on their contract with the umbrella company.

For example, some supply teachers working through an umbrella company may receive a significant proportion of their income paid as a bonus scheme and the rest paid at National Minimum Wage (NMW). This is often done in order to limit the liability on the umbrella company.

The revised Job Retention Scheme guidance states that when calculating furlough pay, the amount an employer should use includes regular payments an employer is obliged to make, including:

For supply teachers working through umbrella companies, the revised advice and guidance specifies that if there is a contractual entitlement which is enforceable, then discretionary variable payments (e.g. discretionary bonuses) which are always made may become non-discretionary. If that is the case, they should be included when calculating 80% of an employee's wages.

Who is responsible for furloughing me, the agency or the umbrella company?

Under the Job Retention Scheme, it is the organisation that you receive your PAYE payments from. They should make the claim and pass this on to you.

The organisation must provide its PAYE reference number to HMRC when it makes a claim.

For a number of supply teachers, the umbrella company will be the organisation that pays them. In this situation, the umbrella company would be the correct body to make the claim.

The NASUWT continues to press for further clarity on the application of the Job Retention Scheme for those supply teachers operating under more complex contractual arrangements.

As a supply teacher, you are urged to carefully consider your contract so you are best placed to access the Job Retention Scheme.

As a supply teacher, can I undertake any work while I am furloughed?

Whist furloughed by an agency, you are not able to undertake any work for that employer/agency, including undertaking or continuing other assignments at different schools that are the clients of the agency.

However, a number of supply teachers are signed up with and work for a number of different supply agencies.

As these are each separate agencies/employers with separate PAYE reference numbers, there is nothing to stop you working for one agency/employer while furloughed with another.

Acas advice makes it clear that each job contract is treated separately.

In addition, there is nothing to stop a supply teacher approaching a school directly about any available work while they are furloughed, provided they are not clients (e.g. schools) of the agency that has furloughed them.

As a supply teacher, can I be furloughed from more than one agency?

A number of supply teachers are signed up and work for a number of different supply agencies.

The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations (2003) make it clear that an agency cannot prevent a supply teacher from working somewhere else (e.g. another agency) or ending their employment with the agency to work with someone else.

In theory, as each agency represents a separate contract, with separate PAYE reference, you may be eligible to be furloughed from one agency whilst working for another, or, you may be able to be furloughed from each of the agencies you are signed up with, provided you undertake no work for any of them whilst you are furloughed, or their clients (e.g. schools).

The Job Retention Scheme applies to each employer/agency individually, so a supply teacher could be in receipt of 100% of their wages by continuing to work through one agency, whilst in receipt of 80% of their wage from an agency that has furloughed them.

This is supported by advice from both HMRC and Acas which makes it clear that each job contract is treated separately.
The Union would advise that supply teachers check their contracts carefully to see how they are employed and if there any restrictions on who they are able to work for.

If there are any such restrictions, it is advisable to discuss this with your employer/agency to see if they are content to waiver any such restrictions.

Can I go direct to schools for work if I am furloughed?

The Job Retention Scheme references that a worker who is furloughed cannot work through that agency, including the agency’s clients.

The Union is seeking further clarification on this, as an agency could have a significant number of schools as clients which could potentially limit the opportunity for supply teachers to seek work elsewhere.

However, there is nothing stopping a supply teacher from making contact directly with schools for which they have never worked, asking them about any work that might be available.

Can I be furloughed if I do supply work directly for an independent school?

Generally, yes, but it does depend on how the school or provision at the school is normally funded.

Some independent schools may be in receipt of public funding for some/all of their provision, including specifically to provide services necessary to respond to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) emergency.

Where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, the Government expects that independent schools use that money to continue to pay staff in the normal way and, in this case, should not furlough staff, including supply teachers.

What happens if I have been on a long-term assignment in excess of 12 weeks?

If you have been on an assignment in excess of 12 weeks, then under the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR), you are eligible to be paid in the same way as directly employed staff.

If you have worked on the same assignment in the same job with the same hirer for at least 12 weeks, you are entitled to equal treatment in relation to your basic working condition as if you had been employed directly by the hirer to do the same job.

There is an argument that if a comparable employee is continuing to be employed and paid as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, then a supply teacher may also be entitled to continue to be paid in the same way.

What happens if the school I was working at cancels my current assignment?

Maintained/local authority schools, MATs and free schools are all continuing to receive their public funding and therefore have no reason to apply.

Since these employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, the UK Government expects employers to use that money to continue to pay staff as usual, including supply teachers who were budgeted for until the end of their assignment - whether directly employed or employed through an agency.

The NASUWT is aware of a number of local authority schools, academies and multi-academy trusts who have committed to continue to pay supply teachers who were already budgeted for.

The Union maintains that supply teachers, particularly those on long term placements should continue to be paid in full until the end of the placement. Once this has finished, you should ask to be furloughed if there is no further work available.

The Union wants to hear from supply teachers if this is not the case. Please contact us with the following information:

  • your full name;
  • your membership number (or your date of birth and postcode if you cannot locate it);
  • a copy of the assignment details from the school and/or supply agency confirming the length of the assignment.

What happens if a planned assignment is cancelled?

If you had a planned assignment to work in a school booked through an agency which has now been cancelled, you should ask to be put on furlough if there is no other work available or re-engaged/rehired and then put on furlough.

However, as maintained/local authority schools, MATs and free schools are all continuing to receive their public funding and have no reason to apply to utilise the Job Retention Scheme, you may be want to ask the school and the agency to reinstate the contract and continue to pay you as a public sector key worker.

Since these employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, the UK Government expects employers to use that money to continue to pay staff as usual, including supply teachers who were budgeted for until the end of their assignment - whether directly employed or employed through an agency.

The Union wants to hear from supply teachers if this is not the case. Please contact us with the following information:

  • your full name;
  • your membership number (or date of birth and postcode if you cannot locate it);
  • a copy of the assignment details from the school and/or supply agency confirming the length of the assignment.

What happens if an agency argues that applying for the Job Retention Scheme will create cash flow problems?

The NASUWT does not believe that issues around cash flow are a justifiable reason not to furlough supply teachers if it is appropriate to do so.

The Job Retention Scheme provides a grant for agencies, not a loan. Agencies have no excuse for getting everything in order with their payroll so that they can apply the grant and pay supply teachers as soon as the grant becomes available.

The NASUWT recognises that this may result in a situation where some supply teachers may be facing additional financial difficulties.

Where members have been disengaged from their contracts or are no longer being offered work, please contact the NASUWT with the following information to find out how we can help:

  • your full name;
  • your membership number (or date of birth and postcode if you cannot locate it);
  • a copy of letter/email from a school or supply agency confirming they believe there are issues with cash flow associated with the Job Retention Scheme.

Can the agency decide who it furloughs?

The NASUWT recognises that there are questions regarding who an agency may decide to furlough.

Some of the bigger agencies are not just education-specific, so it may be the case that they decide to furlough one category of worker and not others.

For those who are education-specific, it may still be the case that there is work available for some supply teachers. There must be a fair selection process that does not discriminate against particular groups of workers who are protected by equality law, either directly or indirectly.

The Union would expect that all supply teachers not working through an agency are furloughed in accordance with the Job Retention Scheme.

What happens if an agency refuses to use the Job Retention Scheme to furlough its supply teachers?

The employer/agency must want to apply for the Job Retention Scheme in order to claim the grant available for furloughed workers. Unfortunately, they cannot be compelled to do this.

The NASUWT is engaging with trade bodies, agencies and umbrella companies to get them to sign up to the Job Retention Scheme.

Supply teachers are encouraged to ask agencies and umbrella companies to apply for the Job Retention Scheme and, where they refuse, to inform the NASUWT.

What happens if I had a permanent job last year, but now undertake supply work?

The Job Retention Scheme applies to an individual employer. If the agency decides to apply and put you on furlough, then only your earnings with the agency will be considered within the grant received.

It may be the case that your recent remuneration received from the agency is on a pro rata basis.

You would need to check past/recent assignment details (i.e. days worked, rates of pay) and all associated paperwork.

Where a supply teacher working for an agency is required to self-isolate, how will this affect their pay?

The Government has introduced emergency legislation and measures in the 2020 Budget to provide for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to be made available from day one to anyone advised to self-isolate, even if they do not have the symptoms. This includes supply teachers as agency workers.

The Government has also made it easier for those who do not qualify for SSP to claim benefits, such as Universal Credit and/or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

The Government has removed the four-day qualifying period so this can be claimed from the first day of absence due to self-isolation. Further information is available on the gov.uk website.

Supply teachers may also be able to claim Universal Credit or contributory Employment and Support Allowance. Further details can be found on the gov.uk website or from your local Jobcentre Plus.

The NASUWT has written to recruitment agencies requesting details of the contingencies they have in place and to ensure that supply teachers are afforded these protections.

What benefits might I be entitled to as a supply teacher?

Statutory Sick Pay

Supply teachers working through a supply agency or an umbrella company may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) provided they meet the eligibility criteria. Social security legislation uses a broader definition of ‘employee’ which means that supply teachers may be eligible for SSP if they have three months continuous service and earn a minimum of £118 per week or, if the level of pay varies, it will depend on the average pay over the previous eight weeks.

For the purposes of supply teachers as agency workers, continuous employment is not broken by periods of sickness, annual leave or if the agency is unable to offer work.

If a supply teacher has more than one contract with an agency and their earnings are aggregated for the purposes of National Insurance Contributions (NICs), they must be incapable of work under all their contracts before they are entitled to SSP.

The Government has removed the four-day qualifying period so this can be claimed from the first day of absence due to self-isolation. Further information is available on the Gov.uk website (see links below).

Supply teachers may also be able to claim Universal Credit or contributory Employment and Support Allowance, and further details can be found on the Gov.uk website (see links below) or from your local Jobcentre Plus.

If you are working on a daily supply basis in a school that closes due to the virus, unless you are told to self-isolate, you may obtain work in another school.

The NASUWT has written to recruitment agencies requesting details of the contingencies they have in place and the advice and guidance they are providing.

Other state benefits

As a supply teacher, depending on your circumstances and the eligibility criteria, you and your partner may be able to access one or more of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. It’s paid monthly and is available for those who on a low income or who are out of work provided they meet the eligibility criteria, which may include supply teachers as agency workers.

The Government has stated that those affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without physically attending a Jobcentre.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

ESA is an individual benefit for those with a disability or health condition which impacts on their ability to work.

ESA provides money towards living costs if you are unable to work, as well as supporting individuals back into work.

JobSeeker’s Allowance (JSA)

JSA is available online for those who are currently unemployed who are actively looking for work or work fewer than 16 hours per week.

Further information, including eligibility criteria, can be found at the Gov.uk website:

What help can the NASUWT offer if my contract has been terminated?

The NASUWT recognises that some members may be facing additional financial difficulties during the coronavirus emergency and following the Government’s closure of schools. Where members have been disengaged from their contracts or are no longer being offered work, please contact the NASUWT to find out how we can help.

Please contact us by email at recruitment@mail.nasuwt.org.uk with the following information:

  • Full name
  • Membership number (or date of birth and postcode if you cannot locate it)
  • Copy of letter/email from a school or supply agency confirming they will not be offering work or copy of letter/email from employer ending your contract

Pupils/staff with COVID-19

I have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Does my school need to report this?

If there is reasonable evidence that you have caught the virus at school (for example, teaching a pupil who has had a definite positive diagnosis), the school must report this as a disease to the HSE/HSENI under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrence (RIDDOR) Regulations. The same would apply if a doctor certifies your illness as work-related.

Details of how to make a RIDDOR report to the HSE can be found on the HSE web page How to make a RIDDOR report.

The equivalent information for HSENI can be found on the HSENI web page Report an incident.

Are there any other circumstances where a report should be made to the HSE/HSENI?

If an employee of the school dies following a confirmed occupational exposure to COVID-19, this would need to be reported.

Details of how to make a RIDDOR report to the HSE can be found on the HSE web page How to make a RIDDOR report.

The equivalent information for HSENI can be found on the HSENI web page Report an incident.

How does my school make a RIDDOR report to the HSE/HSENI?

Details of how to make a RIDDOR report to the HSE can be found on the HSE web page How to make a RIDDOR report.

The equivalent information for HSENI can be found on the HSENI web page Report an incident.

A pupil’s parent in my class apparently has coronavirus. The headteacher is refusing to confirm this to me. What information should I have been told by my headteacher? Should the school be deep cleaned?

The Government’s advice is very clear that if any member of a household has coronavirus or symptoms linked to coronavirus, all members of the household must self-isolate for 14 days.

Schools have a duty to safeguard the health and safety of staff and pupils.

For contacts of a suspected case in the workplace, no restrictions or special control measures are required while laboratory test results for COVID-19 are awaited. In particular, there is no need to close the workplace or send other staff home at this point. Most possible cases turn out to be negative. Therefore, until the outcome of test results is known, there is no action that the workplace needs to take.

Where there is a confirmed case of coronavirus, the school/college will be contacted by the local Health Protection Team to discuss the case, identify people who have been in contact with them, and advise on any actions or precautions that should be taken.

A risk assessment of each setting will be undertaken by the Health Protection Team. Advice on cleaning of communal areas, such as offices or toilets, will be given by the local Health Protection Team.

Procedures for self-isolation and during sickness

I have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and cannot attend work. Does this count as sick leave and against my sick pay?

The NASUWT believes that in this situation employers should be flexible where members cannot attend work because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Where an employee's absence triggers action under the employer's absence management policy, COVID-19-related absence should be disregarded for the purposes of the employer’s absence threshold at which formal action is triggered under the policy.

Furthermore, employees should not be requested to provide evidence of sickness absence such as a fit note from their GP in these circumstances.

Where an employer is not prepared to be flexible, contact should be made with the NASUWT for further advice and support.

I am self-isolating because I am showing suspected coronavirus symptoms. My employer says this must be taken as sickness absence in accordance with the school’s policy. Is this correct?

No. The school’s policy does not apply to this situation.

You should be considered to be unavoidably absent or on medical leave, which will not count against the days for sick leave and sickness absence pay.

Employees should not be requested to provide evidence of sickness absence such as a fit note from their GP in these circumstances.

Where an employer does not accept this position, contact should be made with the NASUWT for further advice and support.

What procedure do I need to follow if I need to self-isolate?

The most common symptoms of coronavirus are recent onset of:

  • a new continuous cough; and/or
  • high temperature.

If you display these symptoms (even if mild symptoms), the Government’s advice is to stay at home for seven days from the day your symptoms started.

As from 16th March 2020, the Government advises that if you live in a household with others and they have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.

The Government’s advice on self-isolating is intended to reduce the overall amount of infection that is passed on to others in the wider community.

If you have coronavirus symptoms, the Government’s advice is that individuals do not visit their GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Currently, it is unlikely that individuals will be tested for coronavirus if they are staying at home.

If your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after seven days, you should use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or in a medical emergency dial 999.

There is extensive advice about self-isoaltion on the Gov.uk web page Staying at home.

My employer wants me to come to work even though I feel ill. What should I do?

Employees who display the symptoms associated with COVID-19 (coronavirus) should self-isolate for at least seven days from the day the symptoms first appeared.

Where an employee lives in a household where someone else displays symptoms, then they should self-isolate for at least 14 days.

Self-isolation is necessary to protect the health of individuals and the wider population.

There is extensive advice about self-isoaltion on the Gov.uk web page Staying at home.

Advice for teachers in vulnerable groups

In light of the Government’s advice for pregnant workers, older workers and people with underlying health conditions to avoid non-essential contact, what actions should teachers with these conditions now take?

The UK Government has issued advice stating that for those who are over 70, those who have an underlying health condition or those who are pregnant, they should:

  • avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or a new and continuous cough;
  • avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible;
  • work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this;
  • avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs;
  • avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media;
  • use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

This is general advice which is also relevant to teachers. However, at this time, it is only advice. Nevertheless, schools and colleges are expected to take account of the Government’s advice and should make such adjustments that are necessary and reasonable to help protect vulnerable teachers from exposure to the coronavirus.

In circumstances where a teacher has to self-isolate as a result of following the Government’s advice or the onset of potential COVID-19 symptoms, the teacher should receive full pay for the duration of their self-isolation.

A decision to self-isolate should be made following the information available on the NHS 111 website.

What is the advice for teachers working in schools who are over 60 years? I am teaching in a large primary, am 62 years old and concerned about being in a more at-risk group?

The Government’s advice on social distancing for older and vulnerable adults is available online. There is no specific advice for adults aged below 70.

What is the advice for teachers with underlying health conditions or who are aged over 70 or pregnant?

The UK Government’s advice is that employees from defined vulnerable groups should be strongly advised and supported to stay at home and work from home, if possible. The list of vulnerable groups published by the Government includes those:

The NASUWT, therefore, expects that all employers should follow the Government’s advice and remit vulnerable workers, including teachers, to work from home if possible for a period of 12 weeks, in accordance with the advice issued by the Government.

Where a school/college has not made or is refusing to make the appropriate arrangements to support vulnerable teachers, members should contact the NASUWT immediately for advice and assistance.

My employer is saying that as a teacher with an underlying health condition, I must return to work after two weeks. Is that correct?

The UK Government’s advice is that employees with an underlying health condition, together with employees aged 70 or above or those who are pregnant, are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus and should be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures, initially for a period of around 12 weeks.

Social distancing measures are steps that can help to reduce the risk of the spread of coronavirus to vulnerable individuals through social interaction. These steps include:

  • avoiding contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus - i.e. a high temperature and/or new and continuous cough;
  • avoiding non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible;
  • working from home, where possible;
  • avoiding large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs;
  • avoiding gatherings with friends and family;
  • using telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

I am 32 weeks' pregnant and feel well, but my school/college has said that I will need to commence my maternity leave immediately due to the coronavirus. Is that correct?

There is no requirement for a teacher to take maternity leave early due to coronavirus.

The teacher’s rights in law are unaffected and a teacher should not be forced by an employer to take maternity leave from a particular date.

The UK Government’s guidance on coronavirus makes clear that those who are pregnant are a vulnerable group and employers are strongly encouraged to ensure that they stay at home and work remotely where possible.

A teacher who is pregnant should be expected to stay at home and may be asked to work from home, without this impacting on maternity leave entitlement, pay or other maternity rights.

The fairness of the Government's approach

Can the Union strike to protect teachers in response to the coronavirus?

The coronavirus represents a major threat to public health. At a time of national emergency, many members will, understandably, be concerned about the need to take all appropriate steps to protect their own and others' welfare and wellbeing.

Where the health and safety of members is put at risk, and with the support of members, the NASUWT can and does take action to protect the health and wellbeing of members.

The Union is continuing to press governments and administrations, together with employers, to introduce appropriate measures to protect teachers.

Does the NASUWT agree that the Government’s emergency measures are fair and reasonable in the circumstances?

The NASUWT recognises that the coronavirus pandemic has already had devastating consequences for many people and disrupted everyday life.

The Union also recognises the need for governments to act appropriately to protect public health.

However, it is vital that the health and safety of all teachers and support staff, including vulnerable groups and those with underlying health conditions, are also protected.

The NASUWT is working to ensure that any expectations placed upon teachers are reasonable and safe for members.

Childcare and carer responsibilities during partial school closure

If I'm required to be at home to look after my children, can I also be required to work from home? The expectation to work from home alongside looking after my children would result in reduced quality of work or no work and a stressful situation.

The NASUWT expects schools/colleges to consider the circumstances of individual teachers on a case-by-case basis.

Teachers with caring responsibilities may not have access to alternative childcare due to forced closure of other facilities.

A member of my household is a vulnerable person according to the Government’s advice. Is my employer required to allow me to work from home?

The Government’s advice on social distancing in schools is intended to protect vulnerable persons.

For education staff living in households with individuals in vulnerable health groups, a distinction needs to be drawn between those individuals identified as 'vulnerable' and 'most vulnerable'.

The most vulnerable are those who meet the criteria for shielding set out in UK Government guidance. In such cases, government guidance is clear that staff living with the most vulnerable should be allowed to work from home.

Where a member of staff lives with someone who has an underlying health condition but is not among those identified as most vulnerable or lives with someone who is pregnant, the Government states that such persons are able to attend their workplace. However, this advice is dependent on settings being able to implement effective social distancing while such staff are on the premises and to have undertaken and acted upon an effective risk assessment.

Further advice from the NASUWT on these matters is available in our Operational Advice During Partial School Closures.

What should teachers who are carers for relatives who are in vulnerable groups do about attending work?

Currently, in accordance with Government advice, individuals who live in a household with a vulnerable person may reasonably be expected to attend work as directed by their employer.

If neither the carer nor the individual receiving care is symptomatic, the Government advice is that no additional measures are required above and beyond normal good hygiene practices.

What should teachers who are parents do if they have to go into work and do not have anyone to look after their own children?

Members should discuss the situation with their employer. The NASUWT encourages employers to provide additional flexibility to support individuals who have childcare difficulties.

The Government has included teachers in the definition of key workers and therefore they have access to the support other key workers are being provided with.

Pupil support/discipline arrangements during partial school closure

Will schools still have the power to exclude violent pupils?

The NASUWT expects the health, safety and welfare of our members to be protected whatever the circumstances. Regardless of the current situation, no teacher should expect to be verbally and physically abused.

The Union is seeking urgent clarification from the Government that teachers will be protected and headteachers can continue to exclude.

Pay and contractual issues during partial school closure

As exams are not taking place this year, the Awarding Body I have a separate contract with to mark exam papers has offered me a small payment as a gesture of goodwill which is well below what I would have earned by marking. Do I have to accept this?

Although awarding bodies do not recognise unions in relation to the work that teachers might undertake for them, the NASUWT recognises that the cancellation of examinations may have significant implications for those teachers who were intending to carry out this work.

However, it is unfortunately the case that since examinations have been cancelled, quite appropriately given the implications of the COVID-19 outbreak, there is no requirement for the awarding bodies to engage the services of markers as would normally be the case.

If you are offered a payment, it will be your decision whether or not to accept it. If you are concerned about the amount offered or the fact that you had been relying on a particular sum of money from the marking, then:

  • contact the awarding body and ask if you can be furloughed;
    • if you are told you are not eligible, then ask them to give you the reference in the Job Retention Scheme on which they are relying to make that statement; and
    • if it is clear that you are ineligible, then seek to press for a higher percentage/proportion of the fee you usually earn.

Awarding bodies will need to ensure that they maintain good relationships with their markers in future and as they have already offered a gesture of goodwill, it is worth pressing the point.

It is important, however, to keep in mind that the decision whether or not to make use of the furloughing scheme is entirely at the discretion of the awarding body.

This is a live issue and the NASUWT will ensure that any further information is shared with members as soon as it becomes available.

What do school closures mean for teachers in terms of pay?

Whilst it has been widely reported that all schools will be closed, the Government has been clear that schools will remain open for certain vulnerable pupils and to provide for children of key workers. The Government continues to expect teachers to report to work during this period to continue to support these pupils and also to plan and prepare work for pupils who are required to stay at home.

It is expected that teachers will continue to be paid as normal throughout the period of ‘school closure’.

Where teachers are absent from work due to self-isolation, the NASUWT would expect no detriment to teachers’ pay. The NASUWT would also expect this to be the position for teachers in vulnerable groups and with underlying health conditions as defined in government guidance.

The NASUWT will strongly challenge any circumstances where self-isolation results in teachers losing pay.

Should schools suspend any capability or disciplinary processes?

Members who are involved in any current procedures should ensure they have contacted their caseworker to discuss their case and current position for advice.

How will these changes affect teachers’ performance appraisals and future eligibility for pay progression?

The NASUWT has raised the impact of partial school closures in England and Wales on teachers’ performance management and pay progression with the Westminster and Welsh Governments and continues to await their response.

However, the NASUWT’s expectation is that those eligible for progression will be given automatic progression at the end of the performance management/appraisal cycle. A lot of the evidence that would have been identified in the performance cycle will simply not be available.

Members should not accept any attempt by schools to rewrite their performance management objectives/targets as a result of the COVID-19 situation.

The NASUWT will challenge robustly any employer attempting to bring detriment to our members as a result of this situation.