17 March 2020

Update to Covid-19 – Note on Staff Considerations for schools

Following on from our briefing note on Covid-19 issued last Friday, which may be accessed here, as the situation is evolving we wished to send out a note on the latest position as at 4pm on 17 March 2020.

Clearly, the Government guidance has changed last night, the updated guidance is not yet saying that vulnerable people must remain at home and not go to work but that it is “recommended”. Schools may wish to carry out a risk assessment for staff with “higher risk” conditions who may be considered vulnerable, this also includes pregnant women. It is recommended that these staff should now not be at work.

With regards to pay, if they are able to work remotely, they should be paid as normal. If they are unable to work remotely, you may exercise discretion and agree to pay them of course (until the Government requires all those who are vulnerable, pregnant etc to remain at home). At the moment, SSP will only kick in if the employee is incapable of working or is (as a result of the amended Regulations) “isolating himself from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with coronavirus disease, in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England etc.”

If you decide to send someone home from work, but they are ready and willing to work, they

should be paid.

Lay Off and Pay

We have been asked about reducing hours, laying staff off and pay. Any reference to unpaid leave or reducing hours will either be already in an employee’s contract of employment as a possibility, or it has just been agreed (collectively or individually) as an alternative to redundancy. In our experience this would be fairly unusual in the school sector.

It is open to schools to offer unpaid absence or reduced hours as an alternative to redundancy. It is also possible for employers and employees to agree a reduced salary payment during a lay-off. This cannot be imposed if it’s not already in a contract of employment. The employer’s bargaining position is that it would have to consider redundancies if reduced lay-off pay cannot be agreed. Specific advice should be sought here as collective obligations to consult will arise.

Schools may wish to:

  1. look at the contract of employment and/or handbook for anything at all that deals with lay-off and lay-off pay,
  2. check that there is no collective bargaining arrangement in place,
  3. consider how to agree with individual employees something less than normal pay ifthe employer needs to do that.

If you would like to download a PDF version of this, you can here.

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About the Author
Kristine Scott, Partner, Head of Education Sector and Cheltenham Office

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