Staff management, recruitment and retention FAQs

We are reviewing all FAQs on a regular basis – adding new questions as they arise, updating answers to existing questions as information changes, and removing obsolete questions. 

If you have a question which is not covered here, and you are an ASCL member, please email coronavirus@ascl.org.uk, and we will try to find an answer and share it here. 

These FAQs are provided for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal or professional advice. They represent ASCL’s views, but you rely on them at your own risk. For specific advice relevant to your particular circumstances, please contact your employer’s HR service or legal advisers.

No.  The DfE have issued Guidance on induction for newly qualified teachers (NQTs) and absences as a result of COVID-19.  Subject to parliamentary agreement, this states that NQTs absent for reasons related to the current COVID-19 public health emergency will not have their induction period automatically extended.

This guidance was updated in August 2020 when the government, subject to parliamentary agreement, extended the period during which NQT absences related to coronavirus (Covid-19) will not contribute towards the absence limit that would extend statutory induction. This provision was originally to 1 September 2020, but has now been extended to 1 September 2021.

Current arrangements state that ad-hoc absences totalling 30 days or more automatically extends induction by the aggregate number of days absent. However, the DfE intend to amend the regulations to ensure that any absence related to COVID-19, including school closures, sickness or self-isolation, will not count towards this limit. This means that NQTs who are currently undertaking statutory induction can complete their induction this academic year as expected, provided they meet the Teachers’ Standards.

Headteachers and appropriate bodies should continue to judge whether a NQT has met the Teachers’ Standards upon completion of the induction period, which for most, will be the end of the academic year.
If there are concerns that a NQT has not achieved the standards by the end of their induction period, we would strongly encourage headteachers and appropriate bodies to exercise their discretion to recommend an extension, allowing the NQT further time and opportunity to demonstrate their ability to meet the standards.
More detailed advice is available here.

* produced jointly with NAHT

 

The DfE’s view is that appraisals and performance management for support staff should be carried out in accordance with the employee’s contract of employment. The department does not specify pay or terms and conditions of employment for support staff.

Nevertheless, they have also said that they expect schools to take sensible and pragmatic steps to adapt their performance management arrangements to take account of the current circumstances. This may mean basing performance on a more limited time period – that is while ‘normal’ circumstances prevailed. 

However, employers should be cautious that such an approach does not disadvantage staff who may not have had the opportunity to fully demonstrate their ability to meet their objectives or those who were working towards particular targets which they now no longer have the opportunity to meet. 

Employers may therefore wish to consider temporarily postponing or delaying the performance management processes. Again, however, we would caution employers that they should ensure that any decision does not disadvantage staff, and that trade unions are consulted as appropriate.

Support staff employed on NJC terms and conditions are not subject to performance-related pay, this also applies to any staff who enjoy TUPE protections. 

For other support staff who may be subject to performance-related pay, we would encourage employers to follow the same advice given for teachers.
 

The DfE has said "maintained schools must continue to adhere to the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), which includes the requirement to ensure that all pay progression for teachers is linked to performance management. However, we would expect schools to use their discretion and take pragmatic steps, to adapt performance management and appraisal arrangements to take account of the current circumstances."

Where employers go ahead with performance related pay progression for the academic year 2019/2020, they should follow the DfE guidance which also states "Schools must ensure that teachers are not penalised during the appraisal process or in respect of any subsequent pay progression decisions as a result of partial school closures, where this has impacted on the ability of the teacher to meet fully their objectives."

ASCL, together with NAHT and NGA, believe schools should consider favourably those teachers and leaders eligible for pay progression for the academic year 2019/20 so that those who have been unable to successfully complete their performance management/appraisal objectives do not suffer a detriment.

Any employers who are considering not awarding pay progression due to concerns over performance would need to demonstrate that BEFORE the partial closures:

  • they had raised these concerns with the member of staff 
  • what opportunity the employee had been given to improve 
  • what support the employer had put in place to assist this

It would not be appropriate for them to expect staff to gather further evidence over the Summer.  Also, due to the 2020 exam situation, any objectives related to student outcomes should be disregarded.

We would expect employers to be consistent in their approach to performance management and pay progression and where they choose to award automatic pay progression, this should not just be for one group of staff ie, if they were awarding this to MPS and UPS teachers, we would expect the same for those on the leadership spine.

Headteachers will need to discuss how their own performance management arrangements will need to be adapted with their Governing/Trust Board, as this will be carried out by a Governor/Trustee Committee.

 

The government has confirmed that the International Teacher Recruitment Programme will continue to recruit international teachers for the 2020 to 2021 academic year. This programme supports state-funded secondary schools in England to recruit maths, physics, computer science, general science and modern foreign languages teachers from a number of other countries.  The focus will be on recruiting teachers to start in January 2021 rather than September 2020, in case travel restrictions and the closure of visa application centres continue. More information is available here
 

The DfE has said that staff who are extremely clinically vulnerable (CEV) can come back into school again.  Additionally, they have said that schools in tier 3 may “wish to discuss flexibilities that support clinically extremely vulnerable staff, such as staggered start times to reduce travel during rush hour”. ASCL would encourage leaders and employers to have regard to the national advice that anyone who can work from home should do so, and to consider this option strongly when putting in place individual risk assessments for CEV staff.

The latest DfE guidance states that in the future, the government will only reintroduce formal restrictive shielding advice in some local areas in tier 3: very high alert where this has been advised by the Chief Medical Officer, and only for a limited period of time. The government will write to individuals to inform them if they are advised to follow formal shielding and not attend the workplace. 

Further guidance to the clinically extremely vulnerable is available.
 

The guidance published by the government on 20 December makes clear that staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV)/shielding in the new tier 4 areas should work from home and where that is not possible they should not attend work.  In the period of national restrictions in November, the DfE said that where a CEV individual wished to attend work, for example, as they feel the risk was outweighed by the mental anguish caused by staying at home, they could attend. 

However, we would strongly advise any employers who have shielding staff in tier 4 making this request to seek HR and legal advice.  Even with a robust risk assessment in place, any employer allowing this would be acting in breach of the guidance which they should be following as part of their duty of care.  Furthermore, allowing a CEV employee to attend work while this guidance is in effect could also place employers at risk with their insurance.

If a CEV employee feels that they are going to suffer mental anguish as a result of not attending work during this period, as part of their duty of care, employers should include the support they will be providing in their risk assessment.  

CEV employees who work from home or do not attend work as a result of the government advice or an individual risk assessment, should receive full pay in line with their relevant terms and conditions.
 

The guidance for tier 4 published by the government on 21 December provides no change to previous advice for staff who are clinically vulnerable (CV) (including those who are pregnant). 

The government guidance on full opening in the autumn term, states that school leaders should explain to staff the measures the school is putting in place to reduce risks. The government anticipates that adherence to the measures in this guidance will provide the necessary reassurance for staff to attend schools, including those who are clinically vulnerable (they categorise pregnant women as clinically vulnerable). 

We would advise employers to carry out an individual risk assessment for these staff, and in any case they should conduct a risk assessment for all pregnant women in line with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW).

The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG) has replaced its Occupational Health guidance with this statement.  This includes advice for women from 28 weeks gestation or with underlying health conditions who may be at greater risk: Our clinical advice is that social distancing is particularly important for all pregnant women who are 28 weeks and beyond, in order to lessen their risk of contracting the virus. For women with other medical conditions in addition to pregnancy, this should be considered on an individual basis. 

This clinical advice must be considered by your employer as part of your workplace risk assessment. The remaining factors involved in reaching a decision about your safety at work must be evaluated in an individualised risk assessment, conducted by your employer, that is individual to you and your employment setting. Employers are guided on this by sector specific advice published on the UK government Working safely during Coronavirus (COVID19) and NHS Employers websites.

Employers will need to consider these requirements when discussing arrangements for attending the workplace with pregnant staff. They will need to take appropriate advice and look at how pregnant staff can work safely, particularly with younger children.  

HSE advice on working safely during the COVID-19 outbreak also covers pregnant workers as follows:

There is a long-standing requirement for employers to put in place measures to ensure workplace safety where a significant health and safety risk is identified for a new or expectant mother.

Additionally, a proportion of pregnant workers will be at greater risk of severe illness from coronavirus. They should have received a shielding letter from the NHS advising them:

  • to stay at home where possible
  • that they are not expected to be in a workplace
Employers will need to take this into account in their risk assessment.

If you cannot put the necessary control measures in place, such as adjustments to the job or working from home, you should suspend the pregnant worker on paid leave. This is in line with regulation 16(3) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.


It is ASCL’s view that these staff should only be asked to attend the workplace where both employer and employee are satisfied that the risk assessment indicates it is safe to do so.
 

There have been no changes in the advice relating to staff who are clinically vulnerable (CV) (including those who are pregnant). This remains that they should attend work in line with current guidance. 

The government guidance on full opening in the autumn term, states that school leaders should explain to staff the measures the school is putting in place to reduce risks. The government anticipates that adherence to the measures in this guidance will provide the necessary reassurance for staff to attend schools, including those who are clinically vulnerable (they categorise pregnant women as clinically vulnerable, even those who are 28+ weeks). 

We would advise employers to carry out an individual risk assessment for these staff, and in any case they should conduct a risk assessment for all pregnant women in line with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW).

The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG) has replaced its Occupational Health guidance with this statement.  This includes advice for women from 28 weeks gestation or with underlying health conditions who may be at greater risk:

"Our clinical advice is that social distancing is particularly important for all pregnant women who are 28 weeks and beyond, in order to lessen their risk of contracting the virus. For women with other medical conditions in addition to pregnancy, this should be considered on an individual basis. 

This clinical advice must be considered by your employer as part of your workplace risk assessment. The remaining factors involved in reaching a decision about your safety at work must be evaluated in an individualised risk assessment, conducted by your employer, that is individual to you and your employment setting. Employers are guided on this by sector specific advice published on the UK government Working safely during Coronavirus (COVID19) and NHS Employers websites."

Employers will need to consider these requirements when discussing arrangements for attending the workplace with pregnant staff. They will need to take appropriate advice and look at how pregnant staff can work safely, particularly with younger children.  

HSE advice on working safely during the COVID-19 outbreak also covers pregnant workers as follows:

"There is a long-standing requirement for employers to put in place measures to ensure workplace safety where a significant health and safety risk is identified for a new or expectant mother.

Additionally, a proportion of pregnant workers will be at greater risk of severe illness from coronavirus. They should have received a shielding letter from the NHS advising them:

  • to stay at home where possible
  • that they are not expected to be in a workplace
Employers will need to take this into account in their risk assessment.

If you cannot put the necessary control measures in place, such as adjustments to the job or working from home, you should suspend the pregnant worker on paid leave. This is in line with regulation 16(3) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999."


It is ASCL’s view that these staff should only be asked to attend the workplace where both employer and employee are satisfied that the risk assessment indicates it is safe to do so.
 

The guidance published by the government on 20 December makes clear that staff in tier 4 who live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable or clinically vulnerable (this includes those who are pregnant), should continue to attend work if they are unable to work from home. We would advise employers to carry out individual risk assessments for these staff.

It is ASCL’s view that these staff should only be asked to attend the workplace where both employer and employee are satisfied that the risk assessment indicates it is safe to do so.
 

The latest DfE guidance which was published on 3rd December states that people who live with those who are clinically extremely vulnerable or clinically vulnerable can attend the workplace unless advised otherwise by an individual letter from the NHS or a specialist doctor.

We would advise employers to carry out individual risk assessments for these staff.

It is ASCL’s view that these staff should only be asked to attend the workplace where both employer and employee are satisfied that the risk assessment indicates it is safe to do so.
 

No. The government guidelines over self-isolation are very clear. The national agreements for teachers and support staff also state that any absences relating to this are not reckonable against the employee’s entitlement to sick leave. As such, it would be inappropriate to deal with them through the normal absence management procedures and impose any sanctions.

* produced jointly with NAHT
 

Quarantine should be treated in the same way as self-isolation. If the member of staff has no symptoms or is well enough to work, they should be allowed to work from home for the isolation period and in which case they would be entitled to normal pay.  Where their role cannot be done from home, it is ASCL’s view that they should still be paid their normal pay.

Employers should have consulted on how they will manage the introduction of quarantining, and the possible short notice closure of travel corridors, with their staff. This could have been done by requesting that all staff declare what their holiday plans were so that they could assess how many staff may be self-quarantining at the start of September (and possibly the autumn half term) and plan accordingly.  

Alternatively, they could have sought to amend their policies so that staff are not able to book any holidays during school closure periods that may incur a period of quarantine during term time.  This type of change to policy would need to go through the relevant consultation processes to do this.

Employers need to bear in mind that the latter would mean effectively restricting the holiday period from six to four weeks for staff who wish to travel abroad. This would also affect staff who may wish to visit family and friends who they have been unable to see for an extended period of time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The updated government guidance published 27 July acknowledges that there is a risk that where staff travel abroad, their return travel arrangements could be disrupted due to factors arising beyond their control in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19), such as the potential for reinstatement of lockdown measures in the place they are visiting.

The guidance says that where it is not possible to avoid a member of staff having to quarantine during term time, school leaders should consider if it is possible to temporarily amend working arrangements to enable them to work from home.
 

Yes, it applies to any staff who have an annual leave entitlement which they book rather than being employed on a term-time only contract. The new Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 will apply for workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19. They will now be able to carry four weeks (20 days) of leave, in addition to any existing contractual entitlements to carry leave forward, over into the next two leave years, easing the requirements on business to ensure that workers take the statutory amount of annual leave in any one year.
 
Schools and colleges should ensure that support staff are given the opportunity to take sufficient, regular breaks from work. The guiding principle of the four weeks of annual leave is to protect health, safety and wellbeing through adequate rest so employers should continue to bear this in mind.
 

If the employee does not wish to attend the workplace and is not in one of the groups PHE says should self-isolate, the employer must listen to the concerns of the employee. 

On 2 June, Public Health England published a review of the disparities in the risk and outcomes from coronavirus, including disparities associated with age, ethnicity, gender and geography. This review will inform the Government’s approach. When considering their preparations for wider opening, schools should be especially sensitive to the needs and worries of individuals who may be more severely affected by coronavirus. 

Employers should especially consider the needs of any employees who may have particular cause for concern about the risk of infection, such as pregnant women, those with compromised immunity and employees in the groups identified by PHE and the WHO as at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. 
If an employee has a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010 which results in a compromised immune system or a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19, the employer may have a legal duty under that Act to make reasonable adjustments to the employee’s working arrangements.

The employer should carefully consider concerns expressed by staff in the light of its obligations to take reasonable steps to provide a safe working environment.   ASCL would advise employers to ensure that they address these areas in their risk assessments.

Whilst staff not in the groups identified by the PHE of the WHO should be able to come into school, it is natural that some employees will be worried about doing so even if the risks for them are very low. 

In agreeing the best approaches for their schools, headteachers and school leaders should work closely with employees and unions, where appropriate. School leaders will be in the best position, knowing their staff and school circumstances, to decide how to proceed in individual cases. 

We are working in an unprecedented context, and more reassurance and discussion than usual may be required. It is always best, if at all possible, to work out a sensible way forward in individual cases that acknowledges any specific anxieties but which also enables the school’s responsibilities to be effectively discharged. If you need support in finding a solution, speak to your local authority or trust.

Acas has recommended that, where there are genuine concerns, the employer must try to resoIve these to protect the health and safety of their staff by, for example, offering flexible working. Alternatives which might be agreed are taking annual leave or taking a period of unpaid leave.

Where an employee says they are unwilling to attend work because one or more work colleagues or pupils are not following hygiene rules and they fear they are placed at increased risk, the employer will need to consider the employee’s concerns very carefully before deciding how to respond.

In addition, in some extreme cases the anxiety caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 will itself render the employee unfit to work and entitled to sick pay.
 

Arrangements for teachers and school staff sick pay are agreed between employers and relevant unions. The DfE have confirmed that schools will receive the same level of funding regardless of any period of partial or complete closure, and so would expect pay to continue as normal.  The government has also confirmed that Statutory Sick Pay is payable for periods of self-isolation. We would expect employers to pay contractual sick pay where this is in place.

If the member of staff has no symptoms or is well enough to work, they should be allowed to work from home for the isolation period and in which case they would be entitled to normal pay.  Where their role cannot be done from home, they should still be paid their normal pay.
 

Yes.  The STPCD has not been disapplied and so teachers have a right, through their terms and conditions, to be required to provide cover ‘only rarely, and only in circumstances that are not foreseeable’. 

If bubbles or year groups are required to self-isolate, this will not result in teachers having ‘gained time’ as they will still be required to provide education for their affected classes.  

Headteachers and school leaders will want to take this into consideration when assessing staff availability and risk assessments.
 

Employers should have in place clear guidance and protocols for keeping in contacting with pupils and parents during periods of local lockdown or self-isolation, including vulnerable children/young people and their families.
 
ASCL advises that schools and colleges adopt the following as part of their procedure:

  • Contact and conversations should be logged (including unsuccessful attempts) and undertaken with the full knowledge of the DSL.
  • The school/college/key contact sets out clear expectations for families – a regular day and a time when calls will be made. 
  • Parents and pupils are aware who they should contact in a crisis and the remit of their key contact.
  • Give staff a script for common questions or concerns (these will change as time goes on and should be regularly reviewed with staff).
The procedure will also need to make clear WHO is responsible for keeping in contact with pupils and parents.
 
Members of staff who know the young person well may be best placed to keep in regular touch (key worker, form tutor, LSA), rather than a member of the senior leadership team or DSL.
 
Consideration needs to be given as to how staff will be contacting pupils and parents in order to both ensure appropriate safeguarding measures are in place and to comply with relevant GDPR legislation.
 
ASCL’s advice is that staff should not contact children or their families using their own phone.
 
Ideally, staff should make contact via the school or college’s online systems.  Where this is not possible, for example, during any periods of partial school closure through local lockdowns, ASCL would advise the purchase of cheap pay-as-you-go mobiles on behalf of the school or college wherever possible. Where staff have to make the purchase themselves, they should be reimbursed as soon as possible. 

In order to support safeguarding, calls should be recorded, as should one-to-one video calls.
 

The DfE fully recognise the pressure and uncertainty that schools and academy trusts are facing throughout the coronavirus outbreak and appreciate the need for pragmatism and sensitivity in the context of planned re-structures or redundancy. In the case of local authority maintained schools considering staff re-structuring and redundancy, it will be for local authorities to consider how best to support the governing bodies of the schools that they maintain at this time.

In the case of academies, academy trusts should assess their plans on a case-by-case basis. If academy trusts find themselves facing financial challenges as a result of these decisions, they can contact the DfE’s dedicated helpline at: DfE.CoronavirusHelpline@education.gov.uk.

In taking decisions about restructuring and redundancies, governing bodies of maintained schools and academy trusts will need to ensure they conduct processes in accordance with legal requirements, including requirements around consultation.

Given the unique current situation, ASCL believes that employers should consider carefully their ability to run meaningful consultation processes at the moment, particularly with regard to redundancy and restructuring. We would want to be assured that members were able to be properly represented during a time when trade unions, in line with government advice, are only undertaking essential travel. In addition, employers would need to ensure that members who are working from home are able to engage fully in the process. Where we have concerns over the viability of this we will be advising members accordingly.
 
On balance, we believe it would be very difficult, in the present circumstances, for an employer to be able to follow due process. We are concerned, if they were to attempt to do so, about the impact on the wellbeing of those both directly and indirectly involved.
 

The DfE have said that it will be for individual employers to decide how best to carry out TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) consultation during this period. They will need to consider how they will conduct these in accordance with legal requirements and proper consultation processes.

Given the unique current situation, ASCL believes that employers should consider carefully their ability to run meaningful consultation processes at the moment. We would want to be assured that members were able to be properly represented during a time when trade unions, in line with government advice, are only undertaking essential travel. In addition, employers would need to ensure that members who are working from home are able to engage fully in the process. Where we have concerns over the viability of this we will be advising members accordingly.

DfE guidance states that schools and colleges must continue to follow their legal duty to refer to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) anyone who has harmed or poses a risk of harm to a child or vulnerable adult. Full details can be found at paragraph 163 of Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE).
 
The guidance also states that schools and colleges should continue to consider and make referrals to the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) as per paragraph 166 of KCSIE and the TRA’s ‘Teacher misconduct advice for making a referral’. During the coronavirus period all referrals should be made by emailing Misconduct.Teacher@education.gov.uk.

Given the unique current situation, ASCL believes that employers should consider carefully their ability to deal with grievances, capability or disciplinary matters. We would want to be assured that members were able to be properly represented during a time when trade unions, in line with government advice, are only undertaking essential travel. In addition, employers would need to ensure that members who are working from home are able to engage fully in the process. Where we have concerns over the viability of this we will be advising members accordingly.

Any employers that do choose to proceed with any of these matters will need to ensure that they are carried out in line with all legal requirements.  Acas have produced some guidance which reminds employers that the law and Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures still apply during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The guidance advises that employers need to decide if the process can still be carried out fairly and reasonably if some or all of the people involved in the procedure are working from home.

If the process does go ahead employers must follow the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary or grievance procedures.  If a disciplinary or grievance case reaches an employment tribunal, judges will look at whether the employer has followed the Acas Code of Practice in a fair and reasonable way.

On balance, we believe it would be very difficult, in the present circumstances, for an employer to be able to follow due process. We are concerned, if they were to attempt to do so, about the impact on the wellbeing of those both directly and indirectly involved.
 

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