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Information about school staff and their employment during the coronavirus pandemic.

First published:
24 March 2020
Last updated:

What advice is available for temporary teaching staff employed by an LA or school, and for those employed via supply agencies?

Supply staff can either be employed by LAs, supply agencies or directly by schools, and it is advised that temporary staff check the terms of their contract with their employer. This includes seeking clarity on whether they are entitled to SSP. The type of support available will depend on employment status and individual circumstances. If supply staff are unsure of their employment status, further information is available.

If supply staff are employed by a local authority or school on short-term, flexible, day to day, casual or zero-hours contracts, where possible local authorities/schools should look to redeploy those staff to support the COVID-19 response or consider whether schools need additional cover to manage current arrangements. Whilst local authorities and schools are best placed to make decisions relating to the employment and deployment of school staff in their areas, there is an expectation that all categories of worker, including casual and zero hours workers, should be treated consistently with other employees in terms of pay even if they are unable to perform work for the employer, e.g. during school closures. In April 2020, the WLGA issued advice to local authorities, which clarified how average pay could be calculated for supply staff who work directly for local authorities or schools on day-to-day or ad-hoc bookings, and who were unable to work due to school closures.

Where schools or local authorities had expected to use their public funding to engage such workers and had budgeted for this, but work is no longer needed due to COVID-19, we encourage local authorities and schools to once again implement the average earnings approach, as set out in April 2020.

Under the average earnings approach local authorities/schools should conduct a retrospective view of the previous 12 weeks (or as many weeks as the worker has been on assignment) to determine the average days or hours worked. This average should be used to underpin the calculation of 80% of gross pay (capped at £2,500 p/m). As the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not available to public sector employers, this approach ensures that casual workers employed directly by local authorities or schools have access to the same levels of support as casual agency workers (under the CJRS) during periods of partial or full school closures

Decisions will be made by individual employers and directly employed casual supply staff should contact their employer (either the LA or school) to discuss what arrangements are in place. 

Those employed by the LA or school on a long-term contract are entitled to the same terms and conditions as permanent staff and should be paid accordingly.

Where schools or local authorities are not the direct employer but had contracts in place with agency staff who are no longer needed due to COVID-19, these contracts should not be cancelled. We encourage schools or local authorities to continue to make previously agreed payments for the supply staff at 80% of the agreed contract rate. If the agency worker is required to complete the booking and is able to work, payment should be made at the full pay rate, as per the agreement with the agency. Agencies that receive money in line with this guidance should pay their staff accordingly, and not furlough them.

Staff employed via an agency will have a contract with that agency, and should discuss their terms with them.  

Schools who meet their supply teacher needs via agency staff are encouraged to only use agencies who have met the requirements of the National Procurement Service’s (NPS) Supply Teachers’ Framework for Wales. Framework agencies are required to register with a representative professional recruitment body and to sign up to the Welsh Government’s Code of Practice on Ethical Employment in Supply Chains and our Fair Work principles.

Whilst education policy is devolved to Wales, employment law is not and therefore advice on this issue is determined by the UK Government. This includes advice for supply agencies who may have queries regarding support for their businesses.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been extended until April 2021and allows employers (including agencies and umbrella companies) to furlough PAYE workers at 80% of their salary. The scheme is open to all UK employers with PAYE employees on payroll  between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020, provided the employer has made a PAYE RTI submission to HMRC between those dates. Employers can furlough employees for any amount of time and any work pattern, while still being able to claim the grant for the hours not worked. Under the revised arrangements for the CJRS, all employers are required to pay employer National Insurance contributions and pension costs for each member of staff placed on furlough.

Further information on the CJRS is available.

All decisions in relation to furlough will be made by individual employers. Agency supply staff should discuss this scheme and their terms and conditions and contract with their agency.

What financial support am I entitled to if I am a temporary worker and am not currently employed?

Currently, if someone is affected by COVID-19 directly or indirectly and unable to work, and has paid enough National Insurance over the last 2 years, then they can claim New Style ESA which is not means tested.

If someone is unsure about whether they have paid enough contributions through employment to claim New Style ESA they are advised to claim both New Style ESA and Universal Credit at the same time. This means that if they do not qualify for New Style ESA they will not have delayed a claim to Universal Credit and missed out on any entitlement days. If someone has not paid enough national insurance to claim ESA then they will need to claim Universal Credit.

Universal Credit is claimed online. The UK Government is currently looking at Universal Credit and therefore this advice may change.

If supply staff have been asked to self-isolate, there may be support available through the self-isolation support scheme.

Are teachers and support staff to be tested as they are frontline staff?

Information relating to testing of critical workers is available is available at the following links,  and will be updated regularly:

gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19-testing-process

gov.wales/critical-workers-testing-policy-coronavirus-covid-19-html

gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19-testing-your-questions 

For all staff, social distancing, thorough handwashing using soap and water, and frequent cleaning and disinfection of hand contact surfaces are the best course of action.

What are you doing to reduce the burden on headteachers and schools in this unprecedented situation?

For a temporary period, schools have a new purpose. We will therefore be removing or relaxing requirements on schools which would be in place in normal circumstances. We will continue to keep this under review.

Estyn halted its inspection arrangements as of Monday 16 March, and we intend to temporarily relax requirements to undertake national tests and assessments and to report the outcomes, and requirements to undertake moderation. 

We intend to temporarily relax requirements to undertake national tests and assessments and to report the outcomes, as well as requirements to undertake moderation.

We have cancelled all statutory data collections that would have been due to take place before the school summer holidays and have not yet started. Normal arrangements for reporting of Key Stage 4 and post-16 performance measures will be suspended for this year and we are also actively considering the associated arrangements and statutory requirements that depend on the availability of data.

Will Welsh Government still be expecting statutory data collection returns from schools?

We will not expect returns for all statutory data collections that would have been due to take place before the school summer holidays and have not yet started. This includes:

  • Attendance: Primary 2020 data collection;
  • Attendance: Secondary 2020 data collection;
  • National Data Collection (NDC) 2020 data collection
  • Welsh National Tests (WNT) 2020 data collection

Undertaking performance management during the COVID-19 pandemic

Schools should continue to implement their performance management arrangements during this current situation, particularly as this will enable teachers to discuss the development and support required in the next academic year, which could help the school as they forward plan.

However, we would expect schools to use their discretion and take pragmatic steps, to consider adapting their School Performance Management Policy, in line with the Regulations, to take account of the current circumstances. For example, schools could consider whether some objectives are suspended or postponed.

Schools must ensure that teachers are not penalised during the appraisal process.