These FAQs were reviewed and updated in August.
Autumn term 2020
Safety, medical issues and contingency planning
Covid-19 and sickness absence
Supply teachers
The Extended Job Retention Scheme and Flexible Furlough
The Extended Job Retention Scheme and Flexible Furlough for supply teachers
Job Retention Scheme/furlough
Coronavirus testing for essential/key workers
Pupils/staff with COVID-19
Procedures for self-isolation and during sickness
Advice for teachers in vulnerable groups, including pregnancy
The fairness of the Government's approach

Autumn term 2020

Our latest operational advice for the autumn term is available on Covid-19 Autumn Term.

Safety, medical issues and contingency planning

My school said everyone must have a temperature check before entering the site. What are the implications of this? Can I refuse to have my temperature taken?

Public health authorities have stated that temperature checks are an unreliable method for determining infection, especially as it is accepted that individuals are infectious for 48 hours prior to symptoms emerging. The accuracy of devices is also extremely variable.

Temperature checks must not, therefore, be used to reduce other important mitigations and controls against virus transmission, including stringent social distancing, handwashing, thorough cleaning of surfaces and, as appropriate, the use of face masks/coverings.

Teachers must not be expected to conduct the administration of temperature readings of pupils or of other members of staff. Taking temperature readings constitutes a personal procedure that does not require the skills of a qualified teacher. Teachers should not be asked to undertake this role.

While many teachers may be happy to have their temperature checked, in the absence of Government instructions your employer should not insist on temperature checks. Among other reasons, they constitute a medical examination and will also be subject to data protection regulations.

Where an employer asserts that a member has a contractual obligation to submit to a temperature check, please contact the NASUWT immediately for advice.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, my school has introduced a new system for medical appointments conducted over the telephone, which includes staying in class until the phone rings. Is this permissible?

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, many GP/hospital consultations are now conducted over the phone, sometimes with little indication of when the call will be received.

Such appointments remain private and confidential and teachers should not be required to take a call at work. They must be permitted to take the call from home if they wish due to the circumstances and context of the telephone consultation. In this case, leave to attend a medical appointment should be requested.
 
If, however, you are happy to take an appointment call during your working hours in your school/college, the school should be informed and must provide a private space in which a call of this nature can be taken confidentially.

If the time of the call is known, a private space should be made available in advance of the time of the call and cover must also be provided in order to enable you to take the call.

If the time of the call is unknown, the private space and cover should be made available until the call is received or another method agreed for you to take the call confidentially, such as deploying a cover supervisor who can take over the class when the call is received.

Should I be marking pupils’ books or paper worksheets?

It has been established by public health authorities in the UK that the virus responsible for Covid-19 can remain active on contaminated surfaces, ‘although the amount of infectious virus on any contaminated surfaces is likely to have decreased significantly by 24 hours and even more so by 48 hours’.

It is, therefore, essential that schools have effective processes in place to manage the risks to staff and pupils of handing paper, including exercise books and worksheets, that may have come into contact with the virus.

Given that teachers and school leaders often come into contact with exercise books and worksheets that have been handled by others, particularly when marking pupils’ work, it is important that these practices are assessed for the Covid-related risks they might pose.

The NASUWT advises that the following considerations are particularly important:

  • The core principle should be to minimise contact with potentially contaminated surfaces, including paper, as far as possible. The starting point in schools’ approaches should be to consider whether the quantity of marking teachers and school leaders are expected to undertake is currently necessary. The NASUWT has been clear that many existing marking practices in schools in normal circumstances are excessive, burdensome and add little to pupil progress and achievement. The Union continues to recommend full implementation of the recommendations of the DfE-endorsed Eliminating Unnecessary Workload Around Marking Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Teacher Workload. Although these recommendations were developed in the context of the education system in England, they represent minimum standards of good practice in any circumstances.

  • Schools must also consider whether there are ways in which feedback can be given to pupils without marking exercise books or worksheets. The increasing use of technology in teaching and learning during the Covid-19 crisis has supported the development of good practice in this respect and has considerably reduced the need for ‘pen and paper’ marking and feedback approaches.

The decision about whether or not learning and feedback approaches require the handling of paper-based work undertaken by pupils should be driven by the professional judgements of teachers. Where teachers determine that handling of paper-based work is unavoidable, they should follow good Covid-control practices. These include:

  • handwashing or sanitising before and after handling such materials;
  • avoiding touching their faces with hands that have not been washed or sanitised; and
  • under no circumstances taking pupils’ exercise books or paper worksheets home.

Is it appropriate for my school to organise parents' evenings or open days?

The COVID-19 outbreak requires schools and other educational settings to introduce strict control measures in relation to the presence of parents and other visitors on site.

Where consultations with individual parents on a one-off basis are necessary, it is critical that any on-site meeting is organised in a way that is in accordance with the control measures that schools must have in place when adults who are not members of school staff are visiting sites in person. These measures should be set out clearly in schools’ risk assessments.

It is often the case that parental consultation can be undertaken effectively and safely where done remotely.

The NASUWT is aware that some schools are planning to hold open days or parents' evenings at which large numbers of adults are likely to congregate on school sites at the same time. Such events pose clear risks to the health and safety of those present, including staff, as well as in wider public health terms, given the close proximity of large numbers of adults from different households.

The Union believes that the safest approach available to schools is to postpone any such events to a time when they can be accommodated safely without the need for the kind of substantial, COVID-19 control measures that are required currently.

As a minimum expectation, no such event should be held:

  • without a full dedicated risk assessment, given that such events would not be addressed in the assessments relating to schools’ day-to-day operations;
  • unless the risk assessment indicates that appropriate social distancing can be maintained at all times on site in line with official advice, including if an evacuation of the premises is required;
  • if established day-to-day control measures, such as access to hand sanitisers and arrangements for the circulation of people around the site, would be compromised;
  • without requiring all those present on site to wear a face covering at all times; and
  • without taking advice from the relevant local public health authorities on the appropriateness of organising such an event and any specific control measures that would need to be in place.

Schools planning to hold virtual consultations with individual parents need to be clear about the risks associated with such activities.

If possible, such activities should be postponed until a more suitable time. However, as a minimum expectation if they are to go ahead, it remains important that no teacher should be expected to engage remotely with the parents of individual children unaccompanied. This reflects good practice in face-to-face parents' evenings where no teacher is expected to meet with parents in a room on their own with a closed door.

There should, therefore, be at least one other member of staff in on any video or phone conference with parents, either by joining the conference remotely or by joining the call from the same physical location as the member of staff. In the latter case, the members of staff concerned would need to be located on the school site and would need to adhere to social distancing and other COVID-control measures in place at the site.

In any virtual consultation, teachers should not be expected to make use of their own equipment to conduct such conferences. This may mean that such sessions can only be held while teachers are on site rather than working at home if they do not have access to school equipment while off site.

In all circumstances, virtual parent/teacher consultation events should not take place without a prior workload audit to ensure that they do not result in additional burdens for teachers and school leaders.

I was on holiday when the announcement was made about government quarantine restrictions on the country I was visiting. My employer says that I will have to take unpaid leave for the two-week quarantine period. Is that correct?

No. Members who are required to quarantine who had either booked a holiday prior to a quarantine announcement or an announcement was made while they were on holiday are not on either sick leave or unpaid leave when they are carrying out the Government’s quarantine requirements. They are available to work from home.

As part of its arrangements to seek to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, my school requires staff to keep classroom doors and windows open. As the weather becomes colder this may not be a reasonable option. What does the NASUWT advise?

Even before the issues of COVID-19 arose, schools were required to ensure that classrooms were ventilated appropriately. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 which apply to England, Wales and Scotland and The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993 state that:

‘Effective and suitable provision shall be made to ensure that every enclosed workplace is ventilated by a sufficient quantity of fresh or purified air.’

They also state that:

‘Workers should not be exposed to uncomfortable draughts.’

Now that the autumn term has started, schools should be planning how they intend to meet the regulatory requirements regarding ventilation whist ensuring that classrooms do not fall below the minimum required temperatures in which staff and pupils can be expected to work. These temperatures are:

Nation Location Temperature (°C)
England* Any workplace 16
Workplace where strenuous physical effort is required 13
Northern Ireland General classroom 18
Gyms/PE halls/Dance halls 15
Multi-use halls (secondary) 18, with the ability to easily adjust to 15
Staff room 18
Multi-use hall (Primary) 18
Scotland Normal teaching space, including dining areas, and medical rooms, changing rooms etc. 18.5
Assembly area 15.5
Cloakrooms and corridors; gymnasia 13
Games hall 10
Wales Normal classrooms 18
Areas with higher than normal physical activity 15
Medical rooms 21

*There are no specific school temperature standards in England. These are suggested minimum temperatures.

Schools will need to consider the options available to them if they do not have in place effective heating and ventilation systems. They may for example have to increase the heating of rooms and possibly consider deploying additional safe, portable electric heaters. They may have to consider hiring or purchasing air purifiers in place of the ventilation through windows and doors. What is not an option is for employers to expect staff to trade off the safety measure of effective ventilation against a comfortable working temperature.

What should my school do if it receives pro forma letters setting out stipulations by parents/carers about our Covid-19 safety measures?

The NASUWT has become aware of advice for parents circulating on social media about schools' control measures in relation to COVID-19.

The advice often includes a model letter that parents are encouraged to send to schools about these control measures or other related matters confirming that they wish their children to be exempt from them. The letter makes a number of points that appear to be based on a misunderstanding of the control measures that schools are expected to have in place.

The letter includes requests that the school does not:

  • administer a COVID-19 vaccine to the sender's child/ren. At present, no COVID-19 vaccine is available. In addition, if one does become available, it is not yet clear how it will be distributed to school-age children. These will be matters for the Government to determine. Schools have established routines for the organisation of vaccines administered on school sites, including on issues related to parental consent, that should continue to be followed;
  • allow COVID-19 tests to be administered to the sender's child/ren on site. No school is expected or encouraged to allow testing to take place on site;
  • require the sender's child/ren to use hand sanitiser on the basis that it poses inherent health risks. The Government's guidance on control measures approves the use of hand sanitiser, although it is clear that its use should be supervised with young children. Hand sanitiser is often an important element in a school's approach to securing good hand hygiene alongside access to soap and running water. Where a child has a particular sensitivity to the use of hand sanitisers and has been medically advised not to use them, alternative hand hygiene measures should be in place;
  • use a forehead temperature sensor on the sender's child/ren. Public Health England's advice is clear that schools should not routinely subject pupils to temperature checks of any kind.
  • wish schools to participate in the NHS track and trace scheme by sending personal data to the NHS. The current arrangements for track and trace do not involve schools sending personal data to the NHS;
  • want schools to mandate the use of masks for their child/ren. Schools are not able to mandate the use of masks but can ask that they are worn by pupils in certain circumstances set out in the DfE's guidance. However, the wearing of masks can be mandated in some circumstances in schools in areas subject to local lockdowns;
  • detain a pupil without consent. Schools will have well-established procedures around the circumstances in which pupils can be detained. Schools do not need the consent of a parent to make use of detention as a behaviour management strategy although they are expected to ensure pupils' safety when detentions are used. This responsibility is usually discharged by informing parents that a detention has been issued;
  • subject the sender's child/ren to any measures for which parental consent has not been given. Schools should always be prepared to reassure parents that they will not act without parental consent in respect of any measure for which such consent must be obtained by law. 

Any member concerned by parental inquires received by a school on the issues covered above, should seek advice and support from the NASUWT.

I am currently breastfeeding my child. Is it reasonable for my employer to expect me to be in the workplace?

The  guidance available with regard to breastfeeding focuses on whether there is any risk to babies if breastfeeding takes place in the current circumstances.

The consensus from a number of organisations is that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any risks of transmission of the virus. The NHS advice states that mothers with suspected or confirmed coronavirus can continue to breastfeed.

There is no guidance which indicates that those who are breastfeeding are at a heightened risk in the workplace. If members who are breastfeeding have any specific concerns, they should consult their GP and if the GP raise any issues about them being in the workplace, then obtain that advice in writing to provide to your employer and contact the NASUWT if any issues arise.

Should my school be routinely screening the temperatures of pupils and teachers on entry?

There is little evidence that this will be beneficial, especially as it is accepted that people are infectious before they are symptomatic. It is far more important that parents, pupils and staff are aware that they must not attend school if they have any COVID-19 symptoms.

Any school that decides to test temperatures would need to ensure that the thermometer they use has a high degree of accuracy to prevent false negatives/positives.

Schools may choose to have a contactless thermometer of appropriate accuracy available to help detect suspected cases arising during the school day, but again this is not a substitute for good hygiene and other precautions.

As a BME teacher, I asked for a risk assessment and it was decided that I should remain working from home. My headteacher and some of my colleagues are now implying that I am ‘choosing’ not to go into work and I feel very isolated. What should I do?

Given the scientific and medical evidence about the impact of COVID-19 on BME communities, you are understandably anxious and concerned and did exactly the right thing in asking for a risk assessment, the outcome of which was that you should remain working from home.

It is not only disappointing that your headteacher and some of your colleagues are reacting in this way, but it also is unacceptable.  

It is as a result of scientific and medical evidence relating to the impact of COVID-19 that you are in this position and no employer, manager or work colleague should be unsympathetic to actions being taken to protect the health and welfare of any member of staff when they have been identified as being at risk. By allowing such attitudes to go unchallenged, your employer is failing to discharge their legal duty of care for you and is putting at risk your health and wellbeing as a result of the increased stress and anxiety you are facing.

The NASUWT will have no hesitation in challenging employers who fail to tackle these unacceptable and discriminatory attitudes.

I wish to wear a face covering/mask at school, but my headteacher has said I must remove it. Can they do that?

The NASUWT’s position is that any teacher who wishes to wear a face covering or face mask should be allowed to do so and that it is unreasonable for an employer to prevent them from doing so.

Teachers have a right to take action to protect themselves and others under the Employment Rights Act 1996 which states, ‘An employee has the right not to be subjected to any detriment by any act, or any deliberate failure to act, by his employer done on the ground that...in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, he took (or proposed to take) appropriate steps to protect himself or other persons from the danger.

Additionally, the Health and Safety Executive has stated explicitly that ‘If people choose to wear face coverings in work, you [the employer] should support them.' Further guidance from the HSE on face masks and coverings can be found at HSE Face coverings and face masks during the coronavirus outbreak web page.

The NASUWT does not accept the argument put forward by some employers that pupils will feel intimidated by teachers wearing face coverings. Masks and face coverings are now extremely commonplace, being worn in supermarkets, on the street, and on public transport.

The Union does accept that there may be some special circumstances where there are pupils who need to be able to lip-read in order to communicate with the teacher, but believes that this can be overcome, if the teacher wants to have a face covering, by the use of the transparent visors, which the school should then provide.

However, if members choose to wear a face mask or face covering they should be aware that it is considered only to be beneficial as a protection for others and not themselves and is no substitute for social distancing and other hygiene measures to control virus transmission.

Teachers who choose to wear a face mask or face covering, where it is not required by their job, must make their own provision and have a responsibility to ensure that:

  • they wash their hands in soap and hot water before putting on the mask and after removing it;
  • they do not touch their face while wearing the mask and if they do it will need to be replaced;
  • if it is removed while in the workplace, it must be immediately bagged and disposed of safely – at no time should it be left on any surface in the workplace;
  • if masks become damp during the day, they should be replaced;
  • masks/face coverings should be changed/replaced regularly.

The risk assessment indicates a mask should be worn when undertaking certain tasks, including dealing with suspected cases. Should the mask comply with any standards? (England)

In high-risk circumstances (such as dealing with a suspected case), FFP3 masks that are clearly CE marked should be used.

In lower risk circumstances, an FFP2 mask may suffice, but must also be CE marked. If in doubt, an FFP3 mask should be used.

For masks to be effective, the wearer must be clean shaven and the mask fit tested and members should bear this in mind when undertaking tasks where a mask is required.

Where  close contact with pupils is required and this has been risk assessed and PPE is provided, it should be noted that  wearing  a clear visor without a mask is not appropriate. PPE should either be a face mask or a clear visor and a face mask.

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, which should have been checked by your employer and to have  the documents 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 hand washing 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 and if they are not used and disposed of properly can themselves be a source of infection. However, the NASUWT has been clear that if staff choose to wear face masks then they should be supported in doing so.

Where staff are asked to physically support, assist or restrain pupils, schools should under take a risk assessment of the activity with a view to providing consider the provision PPE to staff, including of protective clothing, gloves, masks, transparent face shields if appropriate  and other protective equipment which may be required.

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 who has an underlying health condition);
  • reducing unnecessary travel;
  • self-isolation expectations;
  • a plan in case the workplace needs to close temporarily; including how remote or blended learning will be provided
  • 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 a pupil or member of staff 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 has produced specific 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.

Staff who are not employed as cleaning staff should not be asked or expected to substitute for cleaning staff.

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

The NASUWT has made clear to Government our expectation that teachers and other staff n schools and colleges should be afforded not less protection than is being provided for the public and in other workplaces.

The Union is clear that plans and risk assessments to support opening of schools to all pupils must be based on seeking to maintain appropriate distancing and where this cannot be maintained then there must be specific  and clear safety measures, including having assessed the need for the provision of PPE

Staff have a responsibility to act at all times in accordance with the safety provisions in place . The health and safety at  work legislation places a responsibility on individual employees to maintain safe working practice and to raise concerns with their employer if they feel any working practices are putting them at risk.

I feel unsafe in the workplace because there are colleagues on the staff who are not taking the safety precautions in relation to COVID-19 seriously. What should I do?

If there are breaches in the safety procedures then you have a responsibility to report them to your employer under the provisions of health and safety legislation. The employer also has a duty to take reasonable steps to secure compliance with measures designed to keep staff and pupils safe. If the actions of anyone in the workplace make you feel at serous risk and imminent danger then you should immediately inform your headteacher and contact the NASUWT.

Covid-19 and sickness absence

I have been required to self-isolate and my employer says that I must be placed on sick leave while I self-isolate. Is this correct?

No. Members who show symptoms of COVID-19  and are required to self-isolate are on authorised leave not on sick leave,  until such time as they may test positive for COVID-19.

I have been required to self-isolate because a member of my family is self-isolating.  My employer says that I must take sick leave. Is this correct?

No Members who are required to self- isolate because a member of their family is self-isolating or has tested positive for COVID-19 are not on sick leave as they are  following government requirements and are available for work from home.

I have an underlying health condition and as a result of an individual risk assessment I am not in the workplace.  Should I be on sick leave?

No. Any teacher in a vulnerable groups , for example,  who  has underlying health conditions, is pregnant, has a disability or is from a BAME background, who has  been individually risk assessed and, as a result,  is not in the workplace , is available to work from home.  They  should not be classed as being on  sick leave because if  it was not for the risks from COVID-19 they would otherwise be in the workplace.

I have been risk assessed as needing to work from home.  My employer says that I should take unpaid leave.  Should I not be entitled to my normal pay?

Yes. Anyone who has been risk assessed as needing to work from home, is available to work from home and should not be put onto unpaid leave.

I have tested positive for COVID-19 and I am now ill with the virus.  Should I now been on sick leave?

Yes,  because you now have a diagnosed illness and should, therefore,  be on sick leave until such time as you are certified fit to return to work.

Where members are off sick with COVID-19,  the employer’s  normal sick pay arrangements will apply.

Supply teachers

As a supply teacher, my agency/umbrella company has asked me to disclose to them that I am COVID-19 free in order to obtain work. What does the NASUWT advise?

In the same way that an agency or umbrella company has an obligation to a supply teacher as part of its duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, agencies and umbrella companies also have an obligation to each school as the client or end user in respect of health and safety.

This would include satisfying itself that an agency worker does not, to the best of their knowledge, have COVID-19 or associated symptoms and disclosing this to the agency or umbrella company prior to being offered an assignment.

Supply teachers also have an obligation under health and safety, including a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of other people who may be affected by their actions at work, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes cooperating with the agency and the school and providing information which may impact on the school’s COVID-19 risk assessment.

Further to this, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 (pdf) which came into effect on 28th September 2020 places an obligation on a worker to tell their employer that they are self-isolating (Regulation 8).

In addition, the Regulations make it an offence for an employer to knowingly permit a worker, including a supply teacher working through an agency, to attend any place other than where the individual is self-isolating (Regulation 7). This includes those who are required to self-isolate because they live with someone who has tested positive. 

If an employer knows a worker has tested positive, or lives with someone who has tested positive, they are now responsible for stopping the worker from working, unless they can work from home.

Any individual who breaches self-isolation will, normally, commit a separate criminal offence (Regulation 11).

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

Whilst 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.

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.

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:

●     https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay

●     https://www.gov.uk/jobseekers-allowance

●     https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit

●     https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance

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

 

The Extended Job Retention Scheme and Flexible Furlough

WHAT CHANGES HAVE BEEN MADE TO THE EXTENDED CORONAVIRUS JOB RETENTION SCHEME?

The Government Job Retention Scheme has been extended until 31st October for those employers with a UK bank account who were operating PAYE on 19th March 2020.

The Scheme enables employers to continue to furlough employees, including supply teachers working for employment businesses or umbrella companies. The employer receives a grant to cover 80% of an employee’s usual wage, or £2,500, whichever is lower, provided the employee was employed on 19th March and on the PAYE payroll on or before the 19th March 2020.

Whilst this remains in place, the Government has introduced a number of key changes to the way in which the scheme operates going forwards, notably:

  • From 1st July, employers will have the flexibility to bring back furloughed employees part time. This is known as flexible furlough.
    • Employees, including those on variable hours, e.g. supply teachers, will able to work for some of the week and be furloughed for the rest, with the employer claiming a grant proportional to the hours not worked.
    • Employees can enter into flexible furlough arrangements more than once.
  • From July onwards, whilst the amount received by eligible employees remains at 80% of wages, capped at £2,500, the way in which the payment is comprised changes.
    • From August, employers will be expected to pay employers’ National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and relevant pension contributions.
    • From September, employers will be expected to pay 10% (up to £312.50) towards the employees’ furlough pay and the Government will pay 70% (up to £2,187.50)
    • In October, employers will be expected to pay 20% (up to £625) towards the employees’ wages and the Government will pay 60% (up to £1,875).
  • From 1st July, the three-week minimum period for which employees can be furloughed, including supply teachers, has been removed.
  • Each claim period an employee makes after 1st July must start and end within the same calendar month and must be at least seven days, unless the employee is claiming for the first few days or the last few days in a month.

IF I HAVE NOT YET BEEN FURLOUGHED, CAN MY EMPLOYER STILL FURLOUGH ME UNDER THE EXTENDED CORONAVIRUS JOB RETENTION SCHEME?

From 10th June, the Scheme closed to new entrants who had not been furloughed for a minimum of three weeks.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I WAS ON A PERIOD OF MATERNITY LEAVE AND HAD NOT BEEN FURLOUGHED PRIOR TO 10TH JUNE?

If an employee was on a period of statutory maternity leave, including adoption leave and shared parental leave which began before 10th June, they are eligible to be furloughed after 10th June, provided that the employee was on the PAYE payroll on or before 19th March and the employer submitted a claim for other employees for a period of three consecutive weeks prior to 30th June.

For those on an enhanced or contractual scheme, i.e. the Burgundy Book, these would be included in the wages that can be claimed if the employee had been previously furloughed and began their period of leave on or after 25th April 2020.

WHAT IS THE FLEXIBLE FURLOUGH SCHEME?

From 1st July, under the Flexible Furlough Scheme, employees can start to work for some of the week and be furloughed for the rest.

Employees, including those on variable hours, e.g. supply teachers, will be able to work for some of the week and be furloughed for the rest, with the employer claiming a grant proportional to the hours not worked.

Employees and employers will be able to vary the agreement to work. For example, an employee may work three days one week and one day the following week or they could be fully furloughed for a week and work four days the following week.

IF I ALREADY HAVE SOMETHING IN WRITING FROM MY EMPLOYER REGARDING FURLOUGH, DO THEY NEED TO PROVIDE SOMETHING ELSE IN WRITING REGARDING FLEXIBLE FURLOUGH?

Your employer is required to confirm the agreed details of the new arrangement with you in writing if they intend to move you to flexible furlough.

It is good practice for the employer to include the following details in the flexible furlough agreement:

  • the date furlough starts;
  • the days or hours worked;
  • the days or hours not worked (furlough);
  • how much you will be paid; and
  • when it will be reviewed.

The employer has to retain any information for a period of five years, as well as retaining information detailing the number of hours employees work and how many hours employees are furloughed, together with the details of the amount claimed and the relevant calculations for six years.

If the work you undertake varies, you may need to enter into a flexible furlough arrangement more than once.

UNDER THE EXTENDED JOB RETENTION SCHEME, DO I HAVE TO BE ON FURLOUGH AS AT 30TH JUNE IN ORDER TO QUALIFY?

Under the extended Job Retention Scheme, provided you have been previously been furloughed with your employer, you are still eligible for the Scheme if you were working on 30th June.

IF I WAS TAKEN OFF FURLOUGH PRIOR TO 10TH JUNE, CAN I BE FURLOUGHED AGAIN AFTER 10TH JUNE UNDER THE EXTENDED JOB RETENTION SCHEME?

Provided that you have undertaken a full consecutive three weeks' furlough period prior to 10th June, you are eligible to be furloughed again after the 10th June.

The Government advice and guidance states that from 1st July, employees will only be eligible to be furloughed if the employer has claimed in relation to a period of three consecutive weeks between 1st March and 30th June.

HAS THE MINIMUM FURLOUGH PERIOD CHANGED UNDER THE EXTENDED JOB RETENTION SCHEME?

From 1st July, under the extended Job Retention Scheme, the minimum claim period an employer can make is one week. You can still be furloughed for longer, e.g. three weeks, depending on what you have agreed with your employer.

Any period of furlough prior to 1st July must still be for a minimum of three weeks and only when this has expired (e.g. 12th July) could you be flexibly furloughed for any period if appropriate.

You are still able to be furloughed multiple times and each period could vary based on whether or not you are on flexible furlough.

IF I STARTED A NEW JOB AFTER 19TH MARCH, CAN I BE FURLOUGHED UNDER THE EXTENDED JOB RETENTION SCHEME?

No, the extended Job Retention Scheme still requires an employee to have been on the PAYE payroll on or before 19th March 2020.

IS THERE A CHANGE TO THE WAY IN WHICH MY EMPLOYER CLAIMS FOR ME UNDER THE EXTENDED JOB RETENTION SCHEME?

Under the extended Job Retention Scheme, from 1st July employers’ claim periods must start and end within the same calendar month (unless claiming for the first few days or the last few days of the month).

Employers can no longer make claims that straddle calendar months and this could result in a situation where the claim period is different to the pay period. This may have an impact on the amount you are paid and when you receive payment, although employers are expected to try to match claims with their payroll.

Your employer can still have you on longer furlough periods if appropriate, it is just the claim period that has altered to start and end within the same calendar month.

IS THERE A CHANGE TO THE WAY IN WHICH MY EMPLOYER CLAIMS FOR ME UNDER THE EXTENDED JOB RETENTION SCHEME?

Under the extended Job Retention Scheme, from 1st July employers’ claim periods must start and end within the same calendar month (unless claiming for the first few days or the last few days of the month).

Employers can no longer make claims that straddle calendar months and this could result in a situation where the claim period is different to the pay period. This may have an impact on the amount you are paid and when you receive payment, although employers are expected to try to match claims with their payroll.

Your employer can still have you on longer furlough periods if appropriate, it is just the claim period that has altered to start and end within the same calendar month.

WHAT PAYMENT WILL I RECEIVE UNDER THE EXTENDED JOB RETENTION SCHEME IF I AM FURLOUGHED?

Under the extended Job Retention Scheme, whilst the amount you receive remains at 80% of wages, capped at £2,500, the way this payment is comprised changes.

From August, employers will be expected to pay employers’ National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and relevant pension contributions.

From September, employers will be expected to pay 10% (up to £312.50) towards the employees’ furlough pay and the Government will pay 70% (up to £2,187.50).

In October, employers will be expected to pay 20% (up to £625) towards the employees’ wages and the Government will pay 60% (up to £1,875).

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 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.

HOW WILL I BE PAID IF I AM ON FLEXIBLE FURLOUGH UNDER THE EXTENDED JOB RETENTION SCHEME?

If your employer opts to utilise flexible furlough, they need to work out 80% of your usual wage in order determine how much to claim for you as a grant and how to pay you as the employer.

From 1st July, an employer reports the hours worked as well as the hours not worked and claims a pro rata amount of 80% based on the proportion of hours not worked out of your normal working hours (‘usual hours’ include any hours of paid leave at the full contractual rate and any hours worked as overtime, but only if the pay was non-discretionary).

●     For full-time or part-time employees, ‘usual hours’ are based on the number of hours worked in the relevant pay period before 19th March 2020.

For example, if you work three days a week instead of five, you would receive 100% of your wage for the three days paid for by your employer and 80% of your wage for the two days claimed for by your employer as part of flexible furlough under the extended Job Retention Scheme.

WILL THE CALCULATION FOR THE RELEVANT PAY PERIOD BEFORE 19TH MARCH BE AFFECTED IF I WAS ON ANNUAL LEAVE?

If you were on annual leave at any time during the last pay period before 19th March, the advice and guidance on the extended Job Retention Scheme states that the period of leave is ignored.

WILL THE CALCULATION FOR THE RELEVANT PAY PERIOD BEFORE 19TH MARCH BE AFFECTED IF I WAS ON SICK LEAVE?

If you were on sick leave at any time during the last pay period before 19th March, the advice and guidance on the extended Job Retention Scheme states that the period of leave is ignored.

WILL THE CALCULATION FOR THE RELEVANT PAY PERIOD BEFORE 19TH MARCH BE AFFECTED IF I WAS ON FAMILY-RELATED LEAVE (E.G. MATERNITY LEAVE OR PATERNITY LEAVE)?

If you were on a period of family-related statutory leave at any time during the last pay period before 19th March, the advice and guidance on the extended Job Retention Scheme states that the period of leave is ignored.

CAN MY EMPLOYER ASK ME TO FOREGO ANY ADDITIONAL EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTIONS COVERED BY THE EXTENDED JOB RETENTION SCHEME?

Despite changes to the level of contributions expected from the employer, they must pay you all the grant that they receive and the wages owed as part of a flexible furlough arrangement up to 80% of your wages, capped at £2,500.

The additional level of contributions expected by employers (between 14% to 23%) is far less than pre-furlough salaries.

Your employer cannot ask you to forego any additional costs that they are obliged to pay from August 2020 to make up the 80% employees are entitled to.

If an employer suggests that you should accept less than the amount you are entitled to under the Job Retention Scheme, 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.

HOW DOES FLEXIBLE FURLOUGH IMPACT UPON HOLIDAY PAY?

As you are still employed during the period of flexible 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 on 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.

The extended Job Retention Scheme does not change the fact that employers are 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 as well as requesting workers to take holiday, provided the employer engages with you to explain the reasons and gives the relevant notice period.

The reduction in the grant from the Government means that employers will be expected to contribute more to your normal rate of holiday pay.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has produced advice and guidance which outlines the situation for holiday pay during the COVID‑19 pandemic. It makes it clear that employers requesting someone takes leave during furlough must consider whether the person is under any restrictions that prevent them from resting, relaxing and enjoying their leisure time, i.e. self-isolating or social distancing.

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 gives a day of holiday in lieu.

CAN I STILL BE PUT ON AND OFF FURLOUGH BY MY EMPLOYER UNDER THE EXTENDED JOB RETENTION SCHEME?

Yes, your employer is still able to operate a rotating furlough for staff from 1st July, provided staff had been placed on furlough on or before 10th June. However, your employer now has greater flexibility in the way the work pattern is constructed.

This will still need to be agreed with you and a written copy of the furlough agreement retained.

WHAT HAPPENS IF MY EMPLOYER ARGUES THAT APPLYING FOR THE JOB RETENTION SCHEME WILL CREATE DELAYS IN THEIR ABILITY TO PAY ME?

The NASUWT does not believe that delays in the payment from the grant claimed by the employer is a justifiable reason to delay payments to employees.

 

Employers are expected to pay employees according to their contract of employment, i.e. weekly or monthly, which may mean the employer has to wait for the claim to come through from the extended Job Retention Scheme.

 

If employers need short-term cash flow support, they may be eligible for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme until the employer is reimbursed by the Government.

 

If the employer seeks to change the way in which you are paid, you should write to the employer stating that this could potentially be a breach of contract and unlawful deduction of wages and that you reserve the right, at the appropriate time, to pursue all legal remedies available to you to recover the deducted salary.

The Extended Job Retention Scheme and Flexible Furlough

What changes have been made to the extended coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

The Government Job Retention Scheme has been extended until 31st October for those employers with a UK bank account who were operating PAYE on 19th March 2020.

The Scheme enables employers to continue to furlough employees, including supply teachers working for employment businesses or umbrella companies. The employer receives a grant to cover 80% of an employee’s usual wage, or £2,500, whichever is lower, provided the employee was employed on 19th March and on the PAYE payroll on or before the 19th March 2020.

Whilst this remains in place, the Government has introduced a number of key changes to the way in which the scheme operates going forwards, notably:

  • From 1st July, employers will have the flexibility to bring back furloughed employees part time. This is known as flexible furlough.
    • Employees, including those on variable hours, e.g. supply teachers, will be able to work for some of the week and be furloughed for the rest, with the employer claiming a grant proportional to the hours not worked.
    • Employees can enter into flexible furlough arrangements more than once.
  • From July onwards, whilst the amount received by eligible employees remains at 80% of wages, capped at £2,500, the way in which the payment is comprised changes.
    • From August, employers will be expected to pay employers’ National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and relevant pension contributions.
    • From September, employers will be expected to pay 10% (up to £312.50) towards the employees’ furlough pay and the Government will pay 70% (up to £2,187.50)
    • In October, employers will be expected to pay 20% (up to £625) towards the employees’ wages and the Government will pay 60% (up to £1,875).
  • From 1st July, the three-week minimum period for which employees can be furloughed, including supply teachers, has been removed.
  • Each claim period an employee makes after 1st July must start and end within the same calendar month and must be at least seven days, unless the employee is claiming for the first few days or the last few days in a month.

If I have not yet been furloughed, can my employer still furlough me under the extended coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

From 10th June, the Scheme closed to new entrants who had not been furloughed for a minimum of three weeks.

What happens if I was on a period of maternity leave and had not been furloughed prior to 10th June?

If an employee was on a period of statutory maternity leave, including adoption leave and shared parental leave which began before 10th June, they are eligible to be furloughed after 10th June, provided that the employee was on the PAYE payroll on or before 19th March and the employer submitted a claim for other employees for a period of three consecutive weeks prior to 30th June.

For those on an enhanced or contractual scheme, i.e. the Burgundy Book, these would be included in the wages that can be claimed if the employee had been previously furloughed and began their period of leave on or after 25th April 2020.

What is the Flexible Furlough Scheme?

From 1st July, under the Flexible Furlough Scheme, employees can start to work for some of the week and be furloughed for the rest.

Employees, including those on variable hours, e.g. supply teachers, will be able to work for some of the week and be furloughed for the rest, with the employer claiming a grant proportional to the hours not worked.

Employees and employers will be able to vary the agreement to work. For example, an employee may work three days one week and one day the following week or they could be fully furloughed for a week and work four days the following week.

If I already have something in writing from my employer regarding furlough, do they need to provide something else in writing regarding flexible furlough?

Your employer is required to confirm the agreed details of the new arrangement with you in writing if they intend to move you to flexible furlough.

It is good practice for the employer to include the following details in the flexible furlough agreement:

  • the date furlough starts;
  • the days or hours worked;
  • the days or hours not worked (furlough);
  • how much you will be paid; and
  • when it will be reviewed.

The employer has to retain any information for a period of five years, as well as retaining information detailing the number of hours employees work and how many hours employees are furloughed, together with the details of the amount claimed and the relevant calculations for six years.

If the work you undertake varies, you may need to enter into a flexible furlough arrangement more than once.

Under the extended Job Retention Scheme, do I have to be on furlough as at 30th June in order to qualify?

Under the extended Job Retention Scheme, provided you have been previously been furloughed with your employer, you are still eligible for the Scheme if you were working on 30th June.

If I was taken off furlough prior to 10th June, can I be furloughed again after 10th June under the extended Job Retention Scheme?

Provided that you have undertaken a full consecutive three weeks' furlough period prior to 10th June, you are eligible to be furloughed again after the 10th June.

The Government advice and guidance states that from 1st July, employees will only be eligible to be furloughed if the employer has claimed in relation to a period of three consecutive weeks between 1st March and 30th June.

Has the minimum furlough period changed under the extended Job Retention Scheme?

From 1st July, under the extended Job Retention Scheme, the minimum claim period an employer can make is one week. You can still be furloughed for longer, e.g. three weeks, depending on what you have agreed with your employer.

Any period of furlough prior to 1st July must still be for a minimum of three weeks and only when this has expired (e.g. 12th July) could you be flexibly furloughed for any period if appropriate.

You are still able to be furloughed multiple times and each period could vary based on whether or not you are on flexible furlough.

If I started a new job after 19th March, can I be furloughed under the extended Job Retention Scheme?

No, the extended Job Retention Scheme still requires an employee to have been on the PAYE payroll on or before 19th March 2020.

Is there a change to the way in which my employer claims for me under the extended Job Retention Scheme?

Under the extended Job Retention Scheme, from 1st July employers’ claim periods must start and end within the same calendar month (unless claiming for the first few days or the last few days of the month).

Employers can no longer make claims that straddle calendar months and this could result in a situation where the claim period is different to the pay period. This may have an impact on the amount you are paid and when you receive payment, although employers are expected to try to match claims with their payroll.

Your employer can still have you on longer furlough periods if appropriate, it is just the claim period that has altered to start and end within the same calendar month.

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

Under the extended Job Retention Scheme, whilst the amount you receive remains at 80% of wages, capped at £2,500, the way this payment is comprised changes.

From August, employers will be expected to pay employers’ National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and relevant pension contributions.

From September, employers will be expected to pay 10% (up to £312.50) towards the employees’ furlough pay and the Government will pay 70% (up to £2,187.50).

In October, employers will be expected to pay 20% (up to £625) towards the employees’ wages and the Government will pay 60% (up to £1,875).

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 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.

How will I be paid if I am on flexible furlough under the extended Job Retention Scheme?

If your employer opts to utilise flexible furlough, they need to work out 80% of your usual wage in order determine how much to claim for you as a grant and how to pay you as the employer.

From 1st July, an employer reports the hours worked as well as the hours not worked and claims a pro rata amount of 80% based on the proportion of hours not worked out of your normal working hours (‘usual hours’ include any hours of paid leave at the full contractual rate and any hours worked as overtime, but only if the pay was non-discretionary).

  • For full-time or part-time employees, ‘usual hours’ are based on the number of hours worked in the relevant pay period before 19th March 2020.

For example, if you work three days a week instead of five, you would receive 100% of your wage for the three days paid for by your employer and 80% of your wage for the two days claimed for by your employer as part of flexible furlough under the extended Job Retention Scheme.

Will the calculation for the relevant pay period before 19th March be affected if I was on annual leave?

If you were on annual leave at any time during the last pay period before 19th March, the advice and guidance on the extended Job Retention Scheme states that the period of leave is ignored.

Will the calculation for the relevant pay period before 19th March be affected if I was on sick leave?

If you were on sick leave at any time during the last pay period before 19th March, the advice and guidance on the extended Job Retention Scheme states that the period of leave is ignored.

Will the calculation for the relevant pay period before 19th March be affected if I was on family-related leave (e.g. maternity leave or paternity leave)?

If you were on a period of family-related statutory leave at any time during the last pay period before 19th March, the advice and guidance on the extended Job Retention Scheme states that the period of leave is ignored.

Can my employer ask me to forego any additional employer contributions covered by the extended Job Retention Scheme?

Despite changes to the level of contributions expected from the employer, they must pay you all the grant that they receive and the wages owed as part of a flexible furlough arrangement up to 80% of your wages, capped at £2,500.

The additional level of contributions expected by employers (between 14% to 23%) is far less than pre-furlough salaries.

Your employer cannot ask you to forego any additional costs that they are obliged to pay from August 2020 to make up the 80% employees are entitled to.

If an employer suggests that you should accept less than the amount you are entitled to under the Job Retention Scheme, 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.

How does flexible furlough impact upon holiday pay?

As you are still employed during the period of flexible 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 on 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.

The extended Job Retention Scheme does not change the fact that employers are 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 as well as requesting workers to take holiday, provided the employer engages with you to explain the reasons and gives the relevant notice period.

The reduction in the grant from the Government means that employers will be expected to contribute more to your normal rate of holiday pay.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has produced advice and guidance which outlines the situation for holiday pay during the COVID‑19 pandemic. It makes it clear that employers requesting someone takes leave during furlough must consider whether the person is under any restrictions that prevent them from resting, relaxing and enjoying their leisure time, i.e. self-isolating or social distancing.

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 gives a day of holiday in lieu.

Can I still be put on and off furlough by my employer under the extended Job Retention Scheme?

Yes, your employer is still able to operate a rotating furlough for staff from 1st July, provided staff had been placed on furlough on or before 10th June. However, your employer now has greater flexibility in the way the work pattern is constructed.

This will still need to be agreed with you and a written copy of the furlough agreement retained.

What happens if my employer argues that applying for the Job Retention Scheme will create delays in their ability to pay me?

The NASUWT does not believe that delays in the payment from the grant claimed by the employer is a justifiable reason to delay payments to employees.

Employers are expected to pay employees according to their contract of employment, i.e. weekly or monthly, which may mean the employer has to wait for the claim to come through from the extended Job Retention Scheme.

If employers need short-term cash flow support, they may be eligible for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme until the employer is reimbursed by the Government.

If the employer seeks to change the way in which you are paid, you should write to the employer stating that this could potentially be a breach of contract and unlawful deduction of wages and that you reserve the right, at the appropriate time, to pursue all legal remedies available to you to recover the deducted salary.

The Extended Job Retention Scheme and Flexible Furlough for 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 Treasury Direction issued in May 2020, specifically paragraph 6.4, suggested that this was no longer the case. This was reiterated in the latest most recent Treasury Direction issued in June 2020, specifically paragraph 35, and some agencies have stated they are no longer able to include school closure periods in the calculation of furlough payments.

However, in response to a question raised in Parliament about the eligibility of supply teachers to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme during the school summer holiday period, the Treasury stated:

'Agency supply teachers are eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme during the school summer holiday period, where they are otherwise eligible for the Scheme.'

Furthermore, revised Government advice and guidance reinforces the fact that employers can still claim for supply teachers during school holiday periods provided they meet the usual eligibility criteria.

If your employee is a supply teacher

Supply teachers are eligible for the scheme in the same way as other employees and can continue to be claimed for during school holiday periods provided that the usual eligibility criteria are met.

Whilst a number of agencies have taken this to mean they can pay supply teachers during school holiday periods, the Union believes that the situation remains unclear and has written to the Secretary of State for Education and the Chancellor of the Exchequer seeking urgent clarification on the issue.

What payment will I receive under the extended Job Retention Scheme if I am furloughed? (Supply)

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.

Whilst many employers will have prepared payments based on one or the other calculations outlined above, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) guidance makes it clear that you should be paid the higher amount which means your employer should carefully look at which calculation for your ‘reference salary’ is used in order to give you the greater level of earnings.

Depending on how you are paid, it may the case that you are better off in one payment period having your ‘reference salary’ calculated according to the same month’s earnings from the previous year, yet for next pay period it is more appropriate to have your ‘reference salary' calculated according to the average monthly earnings from the 2019/20 tax year.

Based on the above information above, it may be the case that your employer may have underpaid you for one of more pay period. If that is the case, you should speak to your employer and they should contact HMRC about the under-claimed amount and the adjustment can be made.

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.

If you believe your employer has not paid you the correct amount you are eligible for under the Job Retention Scheme, then the Union wants to hear you. 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.

As a supply teacher, can my agency furlough me for the first time under the extended coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

From 10th June, the Scheme closed to new entrants who had not been furloughed for a minimum of three weeks.

As a supply teacher, my umbrella company has not put me furlough. Can my agency furlough me under the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

From 10th June, the Scheme closed to new entrants who had not been furloughed for a minimum of three weeks.

What is the Flexible Furlough Scheme? (Supply)

From 1st July, under the Flexible Furlough Scheme, supply teachers can start to work for some of the week and be furloughed for the rest, with the employer claiming a grant proportional to the hours not worked.

Employees and employers will be able to vary the agreement to work. For example, an employee may work three days one week and one day the following week or they could be fully furloughed for a week and work four days the following week.

How will flexible furlough work if I am a supply teacher with variable hours?

As a supply teacher with variable or no set hours, access to flexible furlough may be more complex, particularly as the opportunity for supply teachers to undertake work during the next few months is likely to be limited. Indeed, the DfE advice and guidance on actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak places an expectation on schools to draw on existing staff to maintain provision.

However, in situations where supply teachers may be able to access flexible furlough arrangements, agencies and umbrella companies report the hours worked as well as the hours not worked and claim a pro rata amount of 80% based on the proportion of hours not worked out of your normal working hours (‘usual hours’).

For employees whose pay varies, such as supply teachers, ‘usual hours’ are the higher of either:

  • the average number of hours worked in the tax year 2019 to 2020; or
  • the corresponding calendar period in the tax year 2019 to 2020.

The agency would then make a claim for the proportion of your 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 agency 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 agency can claim for an average of your monthly earnings since you started work.
  • If you only started in March 2020, the agency 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 an agency from topping up the salary you receive 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.

As a supply teacher, if I already have something in writing from my agency or umbrella company regarding furlough, do they need to provide something else in writing regarding flexible furlough?

Your agency or umbrella company is required to confirm the agreed details of the new arrangement with you in writing if they intend to move you to flexible furlough.

It is good practice for the agency or umbrella company to include the following details in the flexible furlough agreement:

  • the date furlough starts;
  • the days or hours worked;
  • the days or hours not worked (furlough);
  • how much you will be paid; and
  • when it will be reviewed.

The agency or umbrella company has to retain any information for a period of five years, as well as retaining information detailing the number of hours employees work and how many hours employees are furloughed, together with the details of the amount claimed and the relevant calculations for six years.

If the work you undertake varies, you may need to enter into a flexible furlough arrangement more than once.

As a supply teacher, has the minimum furlough period changed?

From 1st July, under the extended Job Retention Scheme, the minimum claim period an agency or umbrella company can make is one week. You can still be furloughed for longer, e.g. three weeks, depending on what you have agreed with your agency or umbrella company.

Any period of furlough prior to 1st July must still be for a minimum of three weeks and only when this has expired (e.g. 12th July) could you be flexibly furloughed for any period if appropriate.

You are still able to be furloughed multiple times and each period could vary based on whether or not you are on flexible furlough.

As a supply teacher, is there a change to the way in which my agency or umbrella company claims for me?

Under the extended Job Retention Scheme, from 1st July agencies and umbrella companies claim periods must start and end within the same calendar month (unless claiming for the first few days or the last few days of the month).

Agencies and umbrella companies can no longer make claims that straddle calendar months and this could result in a situation where the claim period is different to the pay period. This may impact on the amount you are paid and when you receive payment, although agencies and umbrella companies are expected to try to match claims with their payroll.

Your agency or umbrella company can still have you on longer furlough periods if appropriate, it is just the claim period that has altered to start and end within the same calendar month.

As a supply teacher, can my agency or umbrella company ask me to forego any additional employer contributions covered by the extended Job Retention Scheme?

Despite changes to the level of contributions expected from the agency or umbrella company, they must pay you all the grant that they receive and the wages owed as part of a flexible furlough arrangement up to 80% of your wages, capped at £2,500.

Your agency or umbrella company cannot ask you to forego any additional costs that they are obliged to pay from August 2020 to make up the 80% supply teachers are entitled to.

If an employer suggests that you should accept less than the amount you are entitled to under the Job Retention Scheme, then you must write to the agency or umbrella company 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.

As a supply teacher, if I was taken off furlough before 10th June, can I be placed on furlough again after 10th June under the extended Job Retention Scheme?

Provided that you have undertaken a full consecutive three weeks' furlough period prior to 10th June, you are eligible to be furloughed again after the 10th June.

The Government advice and guidance states that from 1st July, employees will only be eligible to be furloughed if the employer has claimed in relation to a period of three consecutive weeks between 1st March and 30th June.

As a supply teacher, how will flexible furlough impact upon holiday pay?

As you are still employed during the period of flexible 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.

The extended Job Retention Scheme does not change the fact that employers are 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 as well as requesting workers to take holiday, provided the employer engages with you to explain the reasons and gives the relevant notice period.

The reduction in the grant from the Government means that employers will be expected to contribute more to your normal rate of holiday pay than you are entitled to.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has produced advice and guidance which outlines the situation for holiday pay during the COVID‑19 pandemic. It makes it clear that employers requesting someone takes leave during furlough must consider whether the person is under any restrictions that prevent them from resting, relaxing and enjoying their leisure time, i.e. self-isolating or social distancing.

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.

As a supply teacher, what happens if my agency or umbrella company argues that applying for the Job Retention Scheme will create delays in their ability to pay me?

The NASUWT does not believe that delays in the payment from the grant claimed by the agency or umbrella company is a justifiable reason to delay payments to employees.

Agencies and umbrella companies are expected to pay supply teachers according to their contract, i.e. weekly or monthly, which may mean the agency or umbrella company has to wait for the claim to come through from the extended Job Retention Scheme.

If agencies or umbrella companies need short-term cash flow support, they may be eligible for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme until the agency or umbrella company is reimbursed by the Government.

If the agency or umbrella company seeks to change the way in which you are paid, you should write to them stating this could potentially be a breach of contract and unlawful deduction of wages and that you reserve the right, at the appropriate time, to pursue all legal remedies available to you to recover the deducted salary.

As a supply teacher on flexible furlough, what should I expect from the agency and school regarding an assignment?

The NASUWT is committed to ensuring that each individual member, including supply teachers, has the information they need in terms of health and safety and the obligations on employment businesses (i.e. supply agencies) during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the planning for the wider reopening of schools.

The Union recognises that the opportunities for supply teachers to undertake work during the current phased reopening of schools will be limited. However, where supply teachers are required to undertake work, they should ensure that they are fully informed about any health and safety issues with each assignment.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) places a responsibility on all employers to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all employees and non-employees in their workplace. There is a joint responsibility between the provider (i.e. the supply agency) and the end user with regard to the health and safety of agency workers, such as supply teachers. Supply staff must therefore be treated exactly as permanently employed teachers with regard to health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This applies equally if you are supplied via an umbrella company, as they are legally your employer. The umbrella company would therefore have the responsibility for your health and safety and to take steps to address this, as you are their employee.

As a supply teacher, you should expect your agency to take reasonable steps to identify any known risks concerning health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency should satisfy itself that the school for which you are undertaking an assignment has taken appropriate steps to mitigate the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

This should be provided to you by the agency in enough time to fully familiarise yourself with the situation with that employer.

If there is a concern over your situation which makes it difficult for you to undertake an assignment in a school, or should be disclosed to a school prior to an assignment, then you should disclose this as soon as possible. This would include any conditions that increase your vulnerability to COVID-19, e.g. you are pregnant or you are from a black or ethnic minority (BME) background. This may also include personal situations which impact on your ability to undertake an assignment, e.g. you are a single parent or you have issues relating to childcare.

Once disclosed to the agency, they have a statutory obligation to consider whether it will be safe for you to undertake an assignment.

What happens to casework referrals from headquarters or a Regional Centre?

Casework referrals will be sent to the new email addresses.

Job Retention Scheme/furlough

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 as well as requesting workers to take holiday, provided the employer engages with you to explain the reasons and gives the relevant notice period.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has produced advice and guidance which outlines the situation for holiday pay during the COVID‑19 pandemic. It makes it clear that employers requesting someone takes leave during furlough must consider whether the person is under any restrictions that prevent them from resting, relaxing and enjoying their leisure time (i.e. self-isolating or social distancing).

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.

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.

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.

Coronavirus testing

What happens if a coronavirus test result is positive?

Those who receive a positive result will be required to self-isolate for at least ten 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.

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.

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.
  • loss of smell 
  • loss of taste

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, including pregnancy

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.

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.

I am pregnant, have had an individual risk assessment and need to work from home. My employer has said that I should start my maternity leave early, but this seems very unreasonable. Do I have to do this?

No. Pregnant teachers who have been risk assessed to work from home are not on sick leave and neither should they be told that they are required to start their maternity leave early. Were it not for COVID-19, they would be in the workplace and therefore they should not be penalised in any way because their risk assessment results in them working from home.

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.