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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice

Coronavirus FAQs for schools

Note – this advice applies to Dorset Council Maintained Schools only. Where Dorset Council is not your employer, you will need to contact them directly as the advice may differ.

For our Academy customers please contact your designated HR link if your question is not answered below.

Q1. I will be attending school for the next 2 weeks as per the Government notification to provide childcare for keyworker children but if I do not have cover for my own children due to their own children's school not being open, will I need to take unpaid leave?

A1. As a key worker in a school, your role has been identified as critical to the Covid 19 response. 

If you can safely leave your child at home please do, to limit the amount of social interaction.

However, if due to school or childcare provider closures, you are unable to make alternative arrangements for your own child/children for you to continue in your role, you will be eligible under the educational provisions allowing your child/children to attend an appropriate setting.

In the first instance please talk to your child’s normal school/childcare provider who will be able to provide you information.

In the event that your child’s normal location is fully closed please contact Dorset Council Children’s Services who can help re direct you to a school/childcare provider in your area that your child/children can attend.

Q2. I have been told not to come to work due to my own health conditions eg. diabetes, severe asthma, pregnancy for 12 weeks. Will I remain on full pay?

A2. Yes.

Q3. I am a Teacher and will be working during the Easter holidays. How will this be paid as it, potentially, falls outside of scope of the STPCD (i.e. 1265 hours per annum).

A3. There may be provision for your Headteacher to allow you to take the additional time you have worked later in the school year, but you will need to speak to your Headteacher or Business Manager about this matter. For example, a number of schools are organising the situation in-house so that they have roster arrangements, ie. some staff have 2 weeks off now, some work over the Easter holidays and some work 2 weeks after the Easter holidays.

If it is necessary for you to work over Easter and you haven’t been able to take time off the current working practice is that TOIL would be given for additional hours undertaken. Headteachers and Governors will manage this locally at present, although it is recognised that some national guidance may emerge on this matter.

Q4. I am a member of support staff in a school and have been asked to work through the Easter holidays when I would not normally be in school. How will I be paid for the extra hours I will work?

A4. There may be provision for your Headteacher to allow you to take the additional time you have worked later in the school year, but you will need to speak to your Headteacher or Business Manager about this matter. For example, a number of schools are organising the situation in-house so that they have roster arrangements, ie. some staff have 2 weeks off now, some work over the Easter holidays and some work 2 weeks after the Easter holidays.

If it is necessary for you to work over Easter and you haven’t been able to take time off you will be paid additional hours, this will be paid at plain time.

If you are going to paid for extra hours worked over and above your normal contracted hours, then this will need to be claimed via submission of the Time and Travel system (TTE) in the usual way. There are a small number of cases where this is not in place and if this is the situation the school will need to complete a spreadsheet of any additional hours worked by their employees and then submitted to Payroll for processing.

Q5. I am a teacher who is due to be working when the school is open for children of keyworkers, and my partner is also a teacher and would need to be working. We have children under school age who need to be looked after, if we do not attend work in this period would this still be considered time off for dependants (unpaid) or paid absence due to the current circumstances?

A5. Child care providers should be open for key workers and so this should not be an issue. Please contact the Early Years Team for advice. It may be the case that you can agree with the individual schools that each of you work fewer hours (on a rota basis for example).

Where caring responsibilities continue to prevent employees from being able to undertake their role in full, employees will receive their substantive pay for any periods of school closure during school term time (i.e. excluding school holidays).  Employees should still attempt to complete as many of their substantive hours as possible during such times.

Q6. What is the situation with regards to Freelancers who submit invoices?

A6. If the school is open and requires you to still undertake the work you were engaged to do you should do this and submit your invoice as usual.

If you are not expected to work the Minimum Income Floor in Universal Credit will be suspended 'for everyone affected by the economic impacts of coronavirus'. This means that self-employed people can now access Universal Credit.

If you need to self-isolate due to coronavirus symptoms, you may be eligible to claim Employment Support Allowance, this will be from day 1, instead of the usual day 8.

Q7. Do I need to continue to pay agency workers?

A7. Agency workers should continue to be paid for agreed assignments only where there is a clearly specified end date, otherwise no payment.

Q8. Do I need to pay my casual workers?

A8. Please contact your HR department for further advice

Q9. Will my childcare vouchers continue to be paid?

A9. Dorset Council will continue to pay childcare vouchers at currently agreed individual arrangements

Q10. Can I suspend my childcare vouchers until I use them again?

A10. It’s possible to remain in the scheme with a low or nil payment, so that you won’t lose the entitlement to the salary sacrifice scheme as long as you reduce the contribution rather than leaving the scheme and re-join within 12 months to retain your membership.  Kiddivouchers will be able to advise you.  The Kiddivouchers website will have more information or you can email them at info@kiddivouchers.com or telephone them on 0800 612 9015 quoting the council’s scheme number S278391

Q11. Can I carry out volunteer or community work through the epidemic?

A11. It is recommended that SLT approve the creation of a volunteering scheme that mirrors the nationwide scheme, whilst providing full pay for employees during any period of volunteering, where release can be agreed with minimal impact on the business. Requests should be made to line managers who should assess the impact of releasing employees for volunteering duties. As part of this assessment, managers should check with the Skills Agency to ensure that the skills and experience of the individual requesting release should not be deployed within the council first to help address any internal resourcing issues, before any release is agreed. Release could be in full or in part, depending on the nature of work to be undertaken on a voluntary basis. Where it is not possible to easily release employees to undertake voluntary activities (i.e. where they are key workers or where backfill would be required) the council will recognise the statutory right to time off. In such cases, any period of absence will be unpaid, in line with the national scheme.

Further information regarding voluntary work can be found here.

The Corona Virus Bill states to: 

  • enable employees and workers to take Emergency Volunteer Leave in blocks of 2, 3 or 4 weeks’ statutory unpaid leave and establish a UK-wide compensation fund to compensate for loss of earnings and expenses incurred at a flat rate for those who volunteer through an appropriate authority. This will ensure that volunteers do not suffer financial disadvantage as a result of performing a public good. Volunteers play a critical role in the delivery of health and social care services and are particularly important in caring for the most vulnerable in our society, such as the elderly, those with multiple long-term conditions or those suffering from mental ill-health 

Q12. Will the current notice periods for schools’ staff be changing?

A12. We have been notified by the Local Government Association that there are no changes to the usual notice periods that exist for Teaching Staff employed under the terms of the Burgundy Book. Please see the below for further guidance and the need for some flexibility perhaps being applied locally on this matter:

Covid-19 pandemic guidance – Burgundy Book notice periods for teachers and school leaders

Jointly agreed statement between ASCL, LGA, NAHT, NASUWT NEU and NGA

The Easter period and thereafter is typically a very busy time for school recruitment. In light of the current school closures, there may well be disruption to the recruitment and resignation processes for those schools governed by or using the Burgundy Book provisions; in particular the requirement for teachers to provide written notice by 31 May of their intention to leave a school’s employment by 31 August of any year. (For head teachers the deadline to provide written notice is by 30 April of their intention to leave a school’s employment by 31 August of any year).

The extent of the impact will vary from school to school and therefore we do not believe that there should be any changes to the notice periods. In this difficult period, there will need to be an element of flexibility all round. We would encourage schools to have a flexible response, if it appears that teachers and leaders are impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and submit a resignation outside of the normal timeframe. For those employees that are looking to resign and/or retire themselves, we would encourage you to provide your governing boards and/or senior leadership team with as much notice as possible and stay within the standard notice period dates as far as is possible, as you would do in normal circumstances. It may also be helpful to direct boards to NGA's current guidance on managing the head teacher recruitment process in the current situation.

In terms of recruitment, schools may wish to consider managing applications and interviews virtually while the advice from the government is to remain at home or choose to delay advertising vacancies until later in the year. Schools should not be conducting face to face interviews or encouraging applicants to visit schools during this period.

We are raising the potential impact of any disruption with the Department for Education (DfE), asking for further guidance and support for schools to ensure that there is not a deficit of teachers and/or leaders, who have been unable to move around the system, ready for the Autumn term.

For Support/Non-Teaching there are no planned changes to required notice periods either, but if this changes, we will provide an update for you as soon as possible.

This is a useful guide to school closures

Q13. How should we be amending our approach to recruitment and selection, when we can’t see candidates face to face?

A13. You may want to consider adapting your usual recruitment and selection process at this time. You could consider carrying out screening interviews by telephone and/or carrying out interviews via Skype or other electronic means.

As Teaching candidates will currently not be able to visit the school or carry out lessons for observations you may wish to consider asking them to submit a piece of written work based on a lesson plan and then ask them to do a presentation based on their submission. Platforms such as Google classrooms/Zoom or other media platform may also be used as appropriate.  A planned lesson observation can be carried out as the earlier opportunity under the normal appraisal process.

Q14. What if I have made a job offer and then need to withdraw it?

A14. In law, a contract of employment becomes binding when offered verbally to a candidate, even though a formal contract of employment will not have been issued at this stage.

However, if it is necessary to withdraw an offer, then the employee could bring a claim for breach of contract. In order to avoid this, you should make a payment equivalent to the notice period specified in the contract of employment. For more detailed advice on cases please contact the HR Advisory Service on (01305) 224695 or by email at hradvisoryservice@dorsetcc.gov.uk

Q15.  What payment will support staff receive if they have to work on a bank holiday, and which roles are eligible to receive these?

A15. Employees will continue to receive enhancements for weekend and bank holiday working in line with the terms set out in their contract of employment. 

Q16. About Furloughed Staff

A16. A furloughed worker must have been on your payroll at 19 March 2020 and can be on any type of contract. Employees hired since the 19 March 2020 are not eligible.

Employees on Long Term sick or Self Isolating cannot be furloughed until the relevant period of current absence has concluded.

Employees that are shielding under Government advice may be furloughed.

Q17. An employee has resigned, what do I need to do?

A17. When an employee who has resigned and their new employment has been affected by COVID 19, the option to furlough is different to the private sector (such as advised by Martin Lewis via media).   

As a public body employer there will only be a limited number of cases where access the furlough funding would be appropriate, this would be for those that occupy roles that are not funded by external means, such as parental funding.

The vast majority of the cases, public funding has already been received by the school and are budgeted for so will not cause an additional cost to the employer, therefore it is not expected that public body employers will have access to the Job Retention Scheme.

Fixed Term contracts -  If the termination of that contract, is pursuant to terms as stated in the contract for example to cover long term absence or maternity leave, the Fixed Term contract can be ended as usual (ensure that normal fair procedures are followed). 

However, you cannot terminate a worker on a fixed term contract if it is for Covid 19 reasons (as this will not be pursuant to the terms of the contract) therefore the worker should continue to be paid until the expiry date and terms of the contract.   

Q18. Household Self Isolation – as the pandemic continues how does an employee self-isolate with multiple domicile family members showing potential Covid 19 symptoms at different times?

A18. If you have been symptomatic, then you may end your self-isolation after 7 days. The 7-day period starts from the day when you first became ill

Household isolation - If living with others, then all household members who remain well may end household-isolation after 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day illness began in the first person to become ill. Fourteen days is the incubation period for coronavirus; people who remain well after 14 days are unlikely to be infectious.

After 7 days, if the first person to become ill feels better and no longer has a high temperature, they can return to their normal routine. If any other family members become unwell during the 14-day household-isolation period, they should follow the same advice - that is, after 7 days of their symptoms starting, if they feel better and no longer have a high temperature, they can also return to their normal routine.

Should a household member develop coronavirus symptoms late in the 14-day household-isolation period (for example, on day 13 or day 14) the isolation period does not need to be extended, but the person with the new symptoms has to stay at home for 7 days. The 14-day household-isolation period will have greatly reduced the overall amount of infection the rest of the household could pass on, and it is not necessary to restart 14 days of isolation for the whole household. This will have provided a high level of community protection. Further isolation of members of this household will provide very little additional community protection.

At the end of the 14-day period, any family member who has not become unwell can leave household isolation.

If any ill person in the household has not had any signs of improvement and have not already sought medical advice, they should contact NHS 111 online. If your home has no internet access, you should call NHS 111.

The cough may persist for several weeks in some people, despite the coronavirus infection having cleared. A persistent cough alone does not mean someone must continue to self-isolate for more than 7 days.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection#if-you-are-living-with-children

Q19. How should schools be dealing with Annual Leave for staff on 52.14 weeks per year contracts?

A19. Schools are advised to encourage their employees to continue to book and take annual leave over the Easter and Summer holidays to prevent a build up of entitlements in the future. This should prevent a situation where the staff are looking to take leave at a time which would be more difficult for the school to manage at a later point in the school year.

Q20. How will the new Testing programme work for schools staff?

A20. Temporary mobile sites are being opened County. These are at Creekmoor, Poole (Park and Ride), Weymouth (Park and Ride), Chase and Ham car parks at Blandford and West Bay, Bridport.

The sites will make testing more accessible for key workers and increase testing capacity. This will help getting key workers tested quickly, so they can get back to work as soon as possible.

The testing is for key workers who are self-isolating with symptoms or who are self-isolating because a family member has symptoms. If you have any employees that currently meet these criteria and you would like to book a test at one of the  testing facilities please email covid19@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk and provide the following information:

  • Organisational identifier e.g. staff number (optional)
  • Key Worker's Name
  • Mobile Number
  • Personal Email address
  • Employing Organisation
  • Name of person for testing (if not the key worker)
  • Mobile number of person for testing (if not the key worker)

Further information is available via the following link: www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/employee-info.  If you have any questions not covered on the Dorset Council website please email covid19@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk

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