NEU advice to members will be regularly updated as matters develop.

The NEU has established a Hardship Fund to provide financial assistance to members facing financial difficulties as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Find our more on Hardship Fund.

Where to find Government and NHS advice

The latest NHS advice on Coronavirus and the DFE guidance about the Coronavirus for educational settings are both being updated regularly. The NEU advises all members and all school leaders to read and follow the latest advice but reserves the right to give our own different advice if we disagree with the DfE’s advice on any matter.

In Wales, read the advice from Public Health Wales and the Wales Government

In Northern Ireland, read the advice from the  Northern Ireland Department of Education, Education Authority and the Public Health Agency.

In Scotland, refer to the Education Institute of Scotland website in line with our partnership arrangement with EIS.

FAQs

Our frequently asked questions below cover:

ATTENDING OR NOT ATTENDING WORK

What is the current position on school opening?

Schools and colleges across the UK continue to remain closed to all students other than to a limited number of children of key workers and vulnerable children. 

Employers should continue to monitor advice from Government and health authorities, review their risk assessment and safety policies and procedures, consider additional safety measures, and communicate information to staff, students and parents.

How many staff should be in school?

Only staff working directly with students or who are key to opening and cleaning should be on site. Staff should not be asked to be on site if they are not looking after pupils. They should not be asked to attend full staff meetings or othe unnecessary things which increase the risk of exposure to the virus. 

We expect arrangements such as rota systems to be implemented where necessary for those staff who are in school, complying with the Government direction that staff and students who can be at home should be at home.  For further information, please see our Joint Advice agreed with ASCL and NAHT.

Who should not be in school?

The Government’s position is that everyone who can work at home should do so and that the vulnerable must be protected, whether they are at home or at work.

The Government says that all people with serious health conditions that make them extremely vulnerable (the “shielding” category) must not attend work.  The DFE advice on social distancing  goes further and says that anyone with conditions putting them at increased risk of serious illness, including those who are pregnant, should work from home where possible and schools should endeavour to support this.

The NEU advises that anyone in a vulnerable or extremely vulnerable category should work from home. The NEU also advises that anyone living with or caring for someone in a vulnerable or extremely vulnerable category should not be expected to run the risk of bringing the virus home from work. Given the way in which schools are currently operating, such staff should also be able to choose to work from home.

You should inform your head teacher that you will not attend school but are available to work from home.  We expect head teachers to accept your concerns and you can seek support from the NEU locally if necessary.

The NEU does not advise you to stay away from work in other circumstances simply to avoid contact with others as you may find that your employer treats your absence as unauthorised.

What if staff or students develop Coronavirus?

In the event of a case being confirmed at a school or college, DfE advice on the procedure to be followed is set out in point 4 of its guidance

What if staff and students may have been exposed to Coronavirus?

Schools are under a duty to protect the health and well-being of those employed at and studying at the school.  Students and staff should not be admitted to the school where this would conflict with NHS advice on self-isolation. If staff or students seek to attend when they should be self-isolating, the school should send them home.

Can schools reopen if they want?

Schools and colleges are not permitted to reopen for more students without Government authority – if this is proposed, read our advice on the legal position and how to prevent this happening.

WORKING ENTITLEMENTS IN SCHOOL OR AT HOME 

What can I reasonably be asked to do while working from home or in school?

All safety protocols, rotas and changes to normal duties should be negotiated rather than imposed.  Staff working in school or at home can only carry out a reasonable workload which should be discussed collectively.  Staff should not be asked to carry out duties which are clearly outside the scope of their job description and employment contract. Staff should only be in school to supervise students and carry out essential duties.  If you are not needed for those purposes, you should not be in school.

Schools cannot seek to work normally. The main focus must be on ensuring that children are safe and supported. Staff will have demands and pressures of their own, such as childcare.  Staff who are in school cannot support home learning at the same time.

Where can I find advice on safe working in school? 

NEU advice is on safe working in school covers the need to minimise the number of students and staff at school and to establish, in consultation with staff, protocols for social distancing, contact with and between students, and hygiene and cleaning procedures.

Where can I find advice on safe working at home? 

See also NEU advice on keeping your self safe while working at home.

Where can I find advice on distance teaching? 

For advice on distance learning and educational activities students can do from home, read the NEU advice on distance teaching.

Where can I find advice on supporting students who are at home?

See NEU advice on vulnerable students.

What is happening with appraisal and performance management?

The NEU does not believe that procedures can realistically continue during the current period or that staff can be expected to fulfil objectives set before the crisis.  We are calling on the DFE to issue advice that all eligible teachers and support staff should receive pay progression this year irrespective of statutory and contractual procedures.

What if I am involved in a discipline, grievance or capability procedure?

The NEU believes that procedures cannot continue during the current period.  The law’s requirements for consultation, representation and a fair hearing can’t realistically be met and in some circumstances individuals’ health may be placed at risk. Procedures should therefore be put on hold.  The same applies to collective consultations on matters like restructuring and redundancy, academy conversion and withdrawal from the Teachers Pension Scheme.  If employers continue with these processes, you should, collectively, make representations about freezing the process and if necessary, seek NEU support. We will seek to stop unreasonable employers seeking to act unreasonably.

PAY AND SICK PAY WHEN YOU CANNOT ATTEND WORK 

Will I get full pay when working at home?

Yes – if you are working at home due to school closure with the employer’s agreement, then you will get full pay.

What if I can’t go into school due to being vulnerable or due to living with or caring for a vulnerable person?

If you are fit to work, but cannot go into school due to being vulnerable or due to living with or caring for a vulnerable person, you should be allowed to work at home and receive full pay.

What if I am off sick?

Your sick pay entitlements will be set out in your contract.  However, the NEU is calling on all employers to act in line with ACAS advice and provide full pay for all sickness absence, regardless of employees’ actual entitlement, and disregard such absence for the purpose of sickness absence management. Otherwise, employees may simply try to come into their workplace, increasing the risk of transmission.

What if I am self-isolating in line with NHS advice?

If you are self-isolating as a precaution but are fit to work, you should arrange with your employer what work you can do while at home. The NEU is again calling on all employers to act in line with ACAS advice and provide full pay for all such absence, regardless of employees’ contractual entitlements.

Do I need to provide a sick note if I am sick or have to self-isolate?

Schools are not obliged to ask for medical certification, even after the first seven days during which employees can self-certify, and we hope that schools will not feel that they need to request any evidence.  If they do, you can obtain an “isolation note” from NHS  which satisfies this requirement for yourself or someone else by answering a few short questions.

What about notifying fitness to return from sick leave?

When you are fit to return to work, notify your employer as normal then discuss whether you will be working at home or on a rota basis in school and at home.

BEING FURLOUGHED

You can find detailed advice on the Government’s furlough scheme in our advice for members in independent schools and supply educators.This advice applies also to members in other sectors.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK YOUR SCHOOL IS NOT SAFE 

Can we refuse to work in school on health & safety grounds and will the law protect us?

Employers are legally required to maintain safety by implementing safety measures, reviewing procedures regularly, consulting with union reps and staff and seeking expert advice. 

In any situation where serious issues on staffing or hygiene have not been rectified and are posing an imminent danger of infection – for example, cleaning is not being carried out properly or social distancing measures are not being complied with – you should first of all make sure that your head teacher or principal is informed (by your rep if you have one) about your concerns.  If that doesn't resolve the matter, get in touch with the union for advice.  

The law provides some protection to employees individually if they leave or refuse to enter the workplace in circumstances which they reasonably believe to represent 'serious and imminent danger'.  You should always seek union advice, however, other than in extreme situations such as a clear danger to life.

Specific sectors advice