Please check regularly on Wescom for further updates to this document.

Updated on 24 March 2020

National guidance

Keep up to date on the current government advice

Guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19) for education settings

National joint guidance for local government services

Department for Education helpline 

The Department for Education has launched a new helpline to answer questions about COVID-19 related to education. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline as follows if they have any worries or concerns:

Opening hours are 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday

Department for Educaion and Cabinet Office Guidance for Schools, Colleges, Childcare Providers and Local Authorities in England on Maintaining Educational Provision

ACAS on COVID19 foe employer and Employees

New and updated DfE guidance (23 March 2020)

Guidance on the principles the government would like all schools to follow

Covid-19: closure of schools (20 March 2020)

Government Workforce and HR support

HR Consultancy, revised on 20 March 2020

1. Will schools remain open during the coronavirus epidemic?

Yes, Schools will remain open to provide childcare for key workers or pupils with an EHCP or who have a named Social Worker

The defined list of Key Workers includes:

  • National Health Service
  • Armed forces
  • Teachers, childcare and support staff
  • Care home workers
  • Social workers
  • Police officers, community support, civilian staff
  • Prison officer or other probation staff
  • Firefighters
  • Local authority planners
  • Environmental health officers
  • Highway Agency traffic officers
  • Food and other necessary goods
  • Transport
  • Utilities, communication and financial services

2. Who should self-isolate if they suspect they have the coronavirus

View the latest NHS health advice on self-isolation and Coronavirus

3.  How do we manage our own staff who may need to take time off to take care of their own children?

While staff may have caring responsibilities arising from the current situation, if you would usually expect an employee to explore the options. This will minimise the impact of caring responsibilities on work. 

These options may include involving other family members, except those in the ‘at risk’ category to help with childcare to minimise disruption. Schools will remain open to support those most vulnerable children and children of key workers.

4. If a member of staff develops symptoms and has ran out of sick pay will she or he receive sick pay? 

Each case will be viewed on a case by case basis.

5. Do I apply the sickness absence triggers for staff absent due to the coronavirus?

Given the exceptional circumstances schools we recommend that school consider suspending the sickness absence triggers.

6. What do I do if an employee is unfit for work due to the coronavirus, and is unable to provide a fit note after 7 days?

In those circumstances, schools may need to be flexible if they require evidence from the employee.

7a) What do if I have agency member of staff working who I no longer require due to the number of pupils who have self-isolated?

If an agency member of staff is employed on a day-to-day contract the school can bring the arrangement to an end at any point in time. For agency staff on longer period of time, and there is a clear pattern of work, you will need to refer to your contract for services with the agency.

b)  A formal hearing has been arranged and the employee refuses to attend due to COVID 19, what is the advice?

Due to current circumstances, all face-to-face meetings are postponed.  This will be reviewed regularly, please contact HR for advice

c) has an Occupational Health appointment and they refuse to attend due to the COVID 19 outbreak. They are not showing symptoms nor are they in a vulnerable category.

All face to face Occupational Health appointments have been cancelled and are replaced with either a telephone consultation or a video Consultation. Occupational Health will contact all employees to make alternative arrangements.  

d)  an employee has an Occupational Health appointment and they cannot attend as in self isolation or off sick with viral symptoms?

Employees are expected to contact the clinic to notify them that they are unable to attend, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Updated 18 March 2020

8. Is evidence required for someone that falls under ‘at risk’ category, if so, what evidence is required?

Ask a member of staff to complete a self- declaration that they fall into one of the vulnerable group categories, as per government advice (please see WESCOM for form)

The ‘at-risk’ categories are currently defined as follows:
We are advising those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures.

This group includes those who are:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
  • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  •  chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  •  chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
  • diabetes
  • problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
  • those who are pregnant

There are some clinical conditions which put people at even higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. If you are in this category, next week the NHS in England will directly contact you with advice the more stringent measures you should take in order to keep yourself and others safe. For now, you should rigorously follow the social distancing advice in full, outlined below.

People falling into this group are those who may be at particular risk due to complex health problems such as:

  • people who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication
  • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia who are at any stage of treatment
  • people with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma (requiring hospital admissions or courses of steroid tablets)
  • people with severe diseases of body systems, such as severe kidney disease (dialysis)

Guidance on social distancing to protect older people and at-risk adults

9. Does a member of staff choosing to self-isolate due to their ‘at risk’ receive full pay or no pay?

Current advice is that if an employee is ‘at risk’ then they would receive full pay.

10. Does a member of staff who needs to stay home due to childcare or care reasons receive full pay or no pay?

Current advice is that employees will receive ‘normal’ pay.

11. What is the difference between self-isolation and social distancing?

Self- Isolation (stay at home)

Where the employee is not ‘unwell’ but a member of the household has shown symptoms of coronavirus, if possible then they could work from home.

or

The employee is self-isolating as they have shown signs of the virus, there would not be an expectation that they should work from home

Guidance for households with a possible COVID-19 infection

Social distancing (from other people)

Social distancing measures are steps you can take to reduce the social interaction between people. This will help reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

They are:

  • avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or 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. Please refer to employer guidance for more information
  • 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

Everyone should be trying to follow these measures as much as possible.

Government guidance on social distancing

12. If a member of staff is self-isolating and their job role wouldn’t normally facilitate working from home what should they do?

If an employee is self-isolating there would not be an expectation that they would undertake work during the 14 days

13. What happens if a member of staff is sick due to Coronavirus but Statutory Sick Pay exhausted?

We are awaiting clarity on those staff whose Statutory Sick Pay has run out.

14. If the school is considering possible dismissal hearing due to ill health and the staff member has immunity concerns is this likely to prolong the timescale for a decision being made – is it now higher risk to dismiss in light of the coronavirus concerns? 

The green book unions have indicated that:

  • if the employee is wanting to leave on Ill Health Retirement 

or

  • on no pay and who wish to proceed to dismissal, as they will get notice on full pay

They would support a process to conclude cases as soon as possible.  Please discuss with your HR Service about how to proceed with the ‘dismissal’ process.

15. A member of staff who is currently on maternity leave was planning to return from maternity leave in May. If schools are closed when she was hoping to return from maternity, can she get paid her normal salary as if she had returned from maternity leave?

Yes, the member of staff will be paid however that may still need to attend work if the school is open or work from home where applicable.

16. An employee has advised me that they will not be coming in next week because their partner falls under ‘very high risk’ category and they do not want to put them at risk by catching anything and taking germs home.   Please could you advise what I should do and what I should pay them?

There is not entitlement to be paid full pay in these circumstances, however Headteachers may choose to use discretion on this matter.

Updated 19 March 2020

17. Can I ask for volunteers to work in an area they do not normally work in?

Yes, volunteers from existing employees whose contractual role/duties do not normally cover the work in question can be asked to carry out other roles, but those who volunteer should be provided with adequate basic training and information to enable them to carry out the task safely and effectively. If employees from other areas of the authority volunteer to cover essential service delivery areas they will still have to meet any basic requirements of the role, e.g. checks or qualifications; if these cannot be met, then the situation will have to be subject to a relevant risk assessment agreed by a senior manager.

18. Can we redeploy individuals?

Covid-19 means a change to your service demands and employee attendance levels. Therefore, managers will need to identify any critical areas that are likely to have a shortage of employees as the situation develops in line with the Business Continuity Plan.

Employees are expected to be flexible to ensure that services can be maintained.Where necessary, employees who are suitably trained or skilled to carry out tasks can be asked temporarily to provide cover if the number of employees available for work who normally provide the service becomes too low.

The best way of obtaining flexibility is to get employees' agreement to changes and, therefore, the focus should be on reaching agreements on framework and protocols on staffing issues with local staff-side organisations.

In all cases though, no employee should be pressurised to undertake other duties that they are unfamiliar with and that they do not have the basic skills or knowledge to complete the tasks required.

Updated 20 March 2020

19. If an employee self-isolates do they get paid?

Yes

20.What will be put in place to protect staff - mental and physical health?

Schools who purchase Occupation Health from the Authority will be able to access the Employee Assistance Scheme, which provides 24/7 advice and guidance in a range of work and non-work -related issues, and provide counselling for staff who need that support. In addition, schools may need to look at getting Personal Protective equipment, where necessary

20. Can staff bring their our own children to school?

No, as a key worker you can take you children to their usual school, or in some cases the nearest school in the area.

21.What will the impact be if schools are expected to remain open during the Easter break?

It is not yet clear how the Spring break will be provided, however staff who are working during the Spring Break, will either be paid and maybe given time off at a later date

22. Are we working weekends?

No

23. How will lock-down work?

We are currently working on the implication of the lock down announced last night (23rd March 2020, we will update as soon as possible)

24. Will staff be put on a rota?

Where staff are not unwell, self-isolating or are defined as at risk, the remaining staff will be deployed in the school. Where there are more staff than are required then staff could either social distance in another part of the school e.g. classroom not in use or where practicable  work from home where appropriate.

Where staff work from home it is reasonable that you will be put into a rota to work with pupils in the school

25. What will happen in the school take students from other schools - safety concerns?

If student from another school attends your school, the school will ensure that you have the necessary training and skills to support the children and may involve the key worker attending with the pupil at the school.

26. Will there be measures like testing For COVID-19?

At the moment the government have indicated that the initial priority for testing for COVID-19 are key workers in hospitals.

27. An employee has a relative who falls in the ‘at risk ‘groups are they expected come into school?

Yes, there is an expectation that they should attend a work, unless they are self-isolating or ill due to the virus themselves/ or another illness

28. An employee is highly anxious about the coronavirus and does not feel they can come into school, even although they have no symptoms at this time, but has had their health compromised in the recent past?

If the person is unwell to attend school due to anxiety, they should be recorded as absent due to sickness due to anxiety not coronavirus.

29. An employee had a cold last week and has indicated that she had self-isolated, even though it does not match the symptoms of the virus. How do I record the absence on self-serve?

The employee should be declared as unfit for work due to a cold and not self-isolating due to coronavirus.

30. If the employee lives with someone who has been advised to self-isolate because they are in a vulnerable group or have an underlying medical condition? Do I also need to self-isolate?

No. The current Public Health advice is that there is no requirement for you to also self-isolate unless you or someone in your house is displaying symptoms. 

Additionally, social distancing measures are now recommended to reduce the social interaction between people. This will help reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

They are:

  • avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature or 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
  • 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

31. Will  the employee get paid as normal if my school is closed and they am unable to work at home?

Yes.  Employees are entitled to continue to receive their full contractual pay as a result of the government’s order to close schools. 

While some staff will still need to attend schools, in many cases employers will have no option other than to accept that some employees cannot work from home.

This does not include staff who were already on sick pay for non-COVID-19 related issues, although we recognise there may be challenges in managing cases going forward and are encouraging schools and councils to take a sympathetic and flexible approach wherever possible. Teachers conditions are clear on this point in the Burgundy Book paragraph 7.2 (which is copied below).   (from LGE document)

32. If the school is closed, could I staff be asked to work in another school?

Yes. During the period of COVID-19 school closures, you may be asked to work at another school.

33. I have a casual worker (employed by the school) what will happen with their pay?

If you are a ‘regular’ casual worker, the School will continue to pay you.  This will be based on an average weekly hours you have worked over 12 months.

34.  An employee works different hours each week depending on service demands etc – how will their pay be calculated?

Your pay will be based on an average weekly hours you have worked over 12 months.

36.  What will happen for an employee  who  lives alone and shows  symptoms of coronavirus illness, what should I do?

If the employee has  symptoms of coronavirus illness, the employee  needs to report their sickness absence in line with the school’s procedure and they have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) i.e. a fever and/or a new continuous cough, stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms started.

37.  An employee lives with others and one or more of them, in the same household, has symptoms what should they do?

The latest advice from Public Health England (18 March), specified that:

  • if you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for 7 days, but all other household members who remain well 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.
  • for anyone else in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14 day isolation period.
  • it is likely that people living within a household will infect each other or be infected already. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community
  • if you can, move any vulnerable individuals (such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions) out of your home, to stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period
  • if you cannot move vulnerable people out of your home, stay away from them as much as possible

if you have coronavirus symptoms: 

  • do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
  • you do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home
  • testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home
  • plan ahead and ask others for help to ensure that you can successfully stay at home and consider what can be done for vulnerable people in the household
  • ask your employer, friends and family to help you to get the things you need to stay at home
  • wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water, or use hand sanitiser
  • if you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days, then use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service. If you do not have internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.

38. In the event of a school closure, does an agency worker remain entitled to be paid if other directly employed employees continue to be paid?

Whether an agency worker will remain entitled to be paid will depend first of all on whether they are entitled to be paid under the Agency Worker Regulations 2010, who are entitled to the right to equal treatment in terms of "basic working and employment conditions", as if they had been employed directly by the hirer to do the same job.

However, that right only applies after a 12-week qualifying period. To determine entitlement under the Regulations schools will need to check whether the worker has met that 12-week qualifying period (for details of how that is calculated see, question 9).

To determine the length of the assignment the first step will be check the agreement between the agency and the school to see whether that sets out its length.

For a further detailed response please see LGA link above to LGA advice or contact your Hr provider

39. How does the school identify staff who are unable to work due to the current Coronavirus crisis?

The HR Team will provide a self-declaration form for employees to complete and indicate which criteria they meet i.e. self-isolation sickness absence or member of family has symptoms or they are in an ‘at risk’ category. The form will be placed on Wescom.

What can I do if I need to arrange a welfare meeting with an employee?
Where an employee if off sick you should try to maintain contact with the employee by phone. The schools HR team will provide you with a template of the relevant questions to ask employees, which will be available by 25 March 2020.