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.

An employer must protect their workers from the health risks of working with display screen equipment (DSE), such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.  This includes where they are using DSE to deliver lessons or attend meetings.

An employer’s responsibilities are set out in The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 and they apply to workers who use DSE daily, for an hour or more at a time (the regulations don’t apply to workers who use DSE infrequently or only use it for a short time).

Advice and guidance on meeting your responsibilities is available on the HSE website.

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 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 has amended 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. 

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 years impacted by the pandemic, 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 believes that schools should consider favourably those teachers and leaders eligible for pay progression for the academic years affected by the pandemic 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 or AFTER 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
Also, due to the 2020 and 2021 exam situations, 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.

 

Previous government guidance (4 May) stated that employees who are clinically vulnerable (CV) (including those who are pregnant) could continue to attend school. The guidance stated that while in school they must follow the system of controls to minimise the risks of transmission. 

The government guidance for pregnant employees was updated on 2 November.  The guidance advises that vaccination is the best way to protect against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy for both women and babies.  However, it also goes on to say that having a COVID-19 vaccine will not remove the requirement for employers to carry out a risk assessment for pregnant employees and that the risk assessment should follow the rules set out in this government guidance. 
The guidance includes advice for pregnant women at any gestation who are vaccinated and also for pregnant women at any gestation who are unvaccinated, or not fully vaccinated.

It still states that information contained in the RCOG/RCM guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) in pregnancy should be used as the basis for a risk assessment.  The RCOG previously stated that the most relevant sections for use in a risk assessment are sections 1.5, 1.6 and 1.7 and this information has not changed.

ASCL advise employers to carry out thorough individual risk assessments for pregnant employees, taking into account relevant guidance, mitigating factors such as vaccination status, advice from the employee’s medical professional/s and any changes made to mitigations through the system of controls. 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). 

HSE advice on working safely during the COVID-19 outbreak also covers pregnant employees 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.

Some pregnant employees will be at greater risk of severe illness from coronavirus.  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 employee 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 employees should only be asked to attend the workplace where both employer and employee are satisfied that the risk assessment indicates that is safe to do so. 

Please see our other FAQ for further guidance for pregnant women who are 28+ weeks.

The government guidance for pregnant employees was updated on 2 November.  The guidance advises that vaccination is the best way to protect against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy for both women and babies.  However, it also goes on to say that having a COVID-19 vaccine will not remove the requirement for employers to carry out a risk assessment for pregnant employees and that the risk assessment should follow the rules set out in this government guidance. 

The guidance includes advice for pregnant women at any gestation who are vaccinated and also for pregnant women at any gestation who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

It still states that information contained in the RCOG/RCM guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) in pregnancy should be used as the basis for a risk assessment.  The RCOG previously stated that the most relevant sections for use in a risk assessment are sections 1.5, 1.6 and 1.7 and this information has not changed.  

ASCL advise employers to carry out thorough individual risk assessments for pregnant employees, taking into account relevant guidance, mitigating factors such as vaccination status, advice from the employee’s medical professional/s and any changes made to mitigations through the system of controls. 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). 

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.

Some pregnant workers will be at greater risk of severe illness from coronavirus.

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 be supported to work from home wherever possible, and they should only be asked to attend the workplace where both employer and employee are totally satisfied that the risk assessment indicates it is safe to do so.


 

On 17 March the government announced that shielding guidance would be paused. Since 1 April, the government advice has beenthat clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people no longer need to shield.  

Latest government guidance (11 August) for CEV staff says: "From 19 July, social distancing measures have ended in the workplace and it is no longer necessary for the government to instruct people to work from home. 

However, employers still have a legal responsibility to protect their employees and others from risks to their health and safety. Your employer should be able to explain to you the measures they have in place to keep you safe at work. Some employers may request employees to undertake regular testing for COVID-19 to identify people who are asymptomatic.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published guidance on protecting vulnerable workers, including advice for employers and employees on how to talk about reducing risks in the workplace
."


We would urge employers to update their individual risk assessments for shielding/CEV staff, taking into account mitigating factors such as vaccination status and advice from their medical professionals.  

It is ASCL’s view that wherever possible, CEV staff should be supported to work from home. Where this is not possible, these staff should only be asked to return to the workplace where both employer and employee are satisfied that the risk assessment indicates it is safe to do so.
 

For people entering England, the government has categorised countries and territories onto three lists: green, amber and red.  As part of Step 3 of the roadmap out of lockdown, from 17 May people living in England may travel, including for holidays, within the UK or to the countries and territories on the government’s green list.  At present, under most circumstances, there is no requirement to quarantine on return to England from these countries and territories, but returning travellers will need to take a paid for Covid-19 test on day 2.  

However, the guidance also states that "government travel advice may change while you are in a country, to advise against all travel there, or all but essential travel, because of new COVID-19 risks."  This may then change quarantine requirements.

DfE guidance states that staff will need to available to work in school during term time.  The guidance advises school leaders to discuss any leave arrangements with staff to inform workforce planning, and that this will need to take into account individual contractual arrangements, for example, support staff whose contracts may allow them to take leave in term time.

There is clearly the potential for schools to be impacted by staff attendance if travel advice changes meaning that staff who are on holiday abroad in the half-term break need to quarantine on return.  Employers will need to consider how they will manage the implications from this. They could do this by requesting that all staff declare now what their holiday plans are so that they can assess how many staff may be affected and plan accordingly.  
The situation this year is different to the one last summer, as anyone booking a holiday will be doing so in the knowledge that the travel advice may change at any point, and that they may suddenly be required to quarantine on return to England.

Employers will need to look at all options available to them in the eventuality that staff are unable to attend work due to quarantine requirements which could include:

  • Working from home
  • Taking additional paid annual leave, where applicable
  • Taking unpaid leave
  • Taking special leave (paid/unpaid)
  • Making up the leave over a period of time so that they do not lose any pay

We would urge employers to have open conversations with any staff who may be affected, to ensure that they can give consideration to any extenuating circumstances such as attending a family funeral abroad or visiting family abroad, pre-booked/re-arranged holidays which cannot be changed without incurring financial costs. Employers will also need to ensure that they take a consistent approach to ensure that their actions are not discriminatory in any way.

Please also see joint guidance on international travel from ASCL, LGA, NAHT and NEU (27 May 2021) 

Previous government guidance (24 May) stated that staff who are clinically vulnerable (CV) (including those who are pregnant) could continue to attend school. The guidance stated that while in school they must follow the system of controls to minimise the risks of transmission. The latest guidance (27 August) states: "Social distancing measures have now ended in the workplace and it is no longer necessary for the government to instruct people to work from home."

We would advise employers to carry out an individual risk assessment for all CV staff taking into account mitigating factors such as vaccination status and advice from their medical professionals. 

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 that is safe to do so. 

Please see our FAQs for further guidance for pregnant women including those who are 28+ weeks.

The latest DfE guidance, updated on 24 May, states that those living with someone who is CEV can still attend work where home-working is not possible and should ensure they maintain good prevention practice in the workplace.

Staff who live with those who are CV can attend the workplace but should ensure they maintain good prevention practice in the workplace and at home.

We would advise employers to carry out individual risk assessments for these staff taking into account mitigating factors such as vaccination status and any advice from medical professionals.

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
 

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 Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 apply for workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19. This means that they are able to carry four weeks (20 days) of leave, in addition to any existing contractual entitlements to carry leave forward, over into the following 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 2020, 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.
 

The DfE has 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. The national agreements for teachers (Burgundy Book and Red Book) and support staff (Green Book) include payment and recording arrangements for absences relating to contact with infectious diseases, which would cover self-isolation.  Where employers do not follow these national agreements, we would expect them 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 carried out 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.

Any changes to this would require an amendment to the STPCD or for it to be disapplied, so unless either of these things have taken place, it will always still apply.

 

Related Pages

Surviving and Thriving: New to headship development programme

  • Leadership
  • Career Progression
  • Professional Development
  • CPD