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Coronavirus Employment and Pay Implications - FAQs for Academies and Maintained Schools

on Friday, 01 May 2020.

In this article, we consider the most common questions around pay for staff affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This note is for academies/publicly funded schools so is on the basis that the Job Retention Scheme is not being utilised to furlough staff, but do see our more detailed FAQs in relation to the application of that scheme to academies.

Employment and Pay FAQs

 

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Staff continuing to work either on site or remotely

Where staff can fulfil their full contractual duties either on site or remotely (or a combination) then they should be paid as normal. This will include the cases where staff are shielding or self-isolating.

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Reduced work/hours

Where there is a reduced requirement for work, schools may need to consider if they reduce pay and hours in accordance with contractual terms or with agreement of staff.

Ultimately, if agreement cannot be reached, schools may need to consider a formal redundancy process to reduce staffing.

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Where staff are sick

Where an employee is suffering from the symptoms of coronavirus, they will be entitled to receive sick pay in the usual way as they are unwell.

The statutory sick pay provisions have been amended so that this applies from the first day of coronavirus-related sickness absence.

Staff will also be entitled to contractual sick pay in accordance with their usual terms.

Where a teacher on burgundy book terms contracts an infectious disease (which would include COVID-19) and there is a reasonable probability this was through work, then they are entitled to full pay and this is not set off against their contractual sick pay entitlement.

Where a member of support staff on green book terms is prevented from attending work because of contact with an infectious disease, then they shall be entitled to receive normal pay and this shall not count against their contractual sick pay entitlement.

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Where staff are self-isolating on medical advice or government guidance

If a member of staff is able to work from home then they should be paid as normal.

Under the new Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/287), if an employee self-isolates in accordance with government guidance (and are not working) then they are deemed to be sick for entitlement to statutory sick pay (SSP). This applies from day one of their absence and can last for 14 days. Online isolation notes should be used as evidence.

In these circumstances schools would also be expected to pay contractual sick pay.

Where teaching staff are engaged on burgundy book terms, then periods of self-isolation on medical advice because someone in their household has an infectious disease will be on full pay, and will not be set against their contractual sick pay entitlement.

Where a member of support staff on green book terms is prevented from attending work because of contact with an infectious disease, then they shall be entitled to receive normal pay and this shall not count against their contractual sick pay entitlement.

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Where a member of staff is 'shielding' based on government advice

If a member of staff is able to work from home then they should be paid as normal.

If they are unable to work then under amendments to the statutory sick pay legislation any individual who is shielding will be deemed to be sick to 30 June. They will be entitled to statutory sick pay and it will also be appropriate to pay contractual sick pay in these circumstances. These are employees who are defined in public health guidance as 'extremely vulnerable' and at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 because of an underlying health condition, and they have been advised by a notification that they need to follow rigorously shielding measures in line with that notification.

Where a member of support staff on green book terms is prevented from attending work because of contact with an infectious disease, then they shall be entitled to receive normal pay and this shall not count against their contractual sick pay entitlement. This is likely to include those staff who are shielding. The provisions of the burgundy book are slightly different and schools may need to consider their approach.

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What about staff who are in the increased risk category and expected to more rigorously social distance?

This includes;

  • Individuals aged 70 and over (regardless of medical conditions).
  • Women who are pregnant.
  • Individuals aged under 70 with an underlying health condition (being any adult instructed to get a flu jab each year on medical grounds). These include those with chronic respiratory diseases, chronic heart, kidney or liver disease, diabetes and those with a weakened immune system.

Ideally these individuals should work from home and the government guidance is clear that schools should support this wherever possible. Otherwise careful consideration should be given as to whether these individuals can effectively socially distance in the work place. If not then technically they can be placed on unpaid leave unless an alternative agreement is reached with them. Where it is on grounds of pregnancy then paid suspension under maternity legislation should be considered.

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Where schools ask staff to self-isolate

Where a school has concerns about an employee working and asks them not to work (but this is outside the government guidance), then they should receive their usual pay in the normal way - as such absence is at the request of the school.

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What if employees do not want to come to work due to fears of being exposed to the virus (or risk spreading it to others)?

If an employee refuses to attend work (where it is not possible for them to work from home and they are not from a vulnerable group) then schools can usually ask them to do so.

Schools should carry out written risk assessments in respect of the risks posed by coronavirus in order to ensure that they are taking reasonable steps to control risks posed by the virus to its employees, and anyone else affected by its operations.This could include pupils, parents, external contractors or anyone else who may be affected. As part of the risk assessment, schools should identify and put in place adequate control measures to respond to risks posed by coronavirus. Schools should provide employees with adequate information about these measures and ensure that they are understood and that training is provided to employees, where necessary.

Any refusal to attend work will be unauthorised absence, albeit sensitivity should be displayed particularly in circumstances where, for example, the member of staff shares a household with somebody who is considered extremely vulnerable due an underlying health condition. In these circumstances it is likely to be most pragmatic to agree a period of unpaid leave.

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What if employees need to take time off to care for dependants?

  • Employees are entitled to a reasonable period of time off work to care for dependants in an unexpected event or emergency.
  • If employees have children they may need to look after them and arrange further childcare because their child's school is closed. They may also need to help their child or dependant if they are ill, or have to self-isolate or go into hospital.
  • There is no statutory right to be paid for this time off, but some schools may offer paid time off for a limited period under a contract or policy.
  • Where staff have a paid holiday entitlement this could be used.

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For further advice on legal issues arising from the spread of coronavirus, please contact Alice Reeve on 0117 314 5383, or complete the form below.

 

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