The various arrangements offering financial support to businesses and workers during the coronavirus crisis are not mandatory and involve no new rights for workers. The NEU’s position, however, is that businesses which have made significant profits from the hard work of our supply members over the years should do everything possible to ensure they receive financial support. The latest DfE guidance is available here.

NEU Survey on Supply Worker Employment and COVID-19

This NEU survey report sets out the findings of a survey conducted in April/May on how supply workers have been treated during the current crisis.

The support available to you depends on your working arrangements prior to schools closing. These are summarised below.

I was employed on an ad-hoc/short-term assignment basis directly by a school or multi-academy trust.

If you’re able and willing to work, you can continue working. If you are engaged directly, and employed and paid by an local authority, school governing board or academy trust, you are a public sector employee. The HMRC advice is that “where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, we expect employers to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion – and correspondingly not furlough them.”

The difficulty in this situation will be calculating how much supply staff should be paid during the crisis period. That is something you should negotiate with the employer, but it would not be unreasonable to calculate an average level of pay over a period of 12 weeks, ending on 28 February 2020.

I was working on an ad-hoc/short-term assignment basis through an agency.

If you’re able and willing to work, and there is work available, you can continue working. If there is no work available, then the agency can furlough you and access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

I was working on an ad-hoc/short term assignment basis through an umbrella company.

If you’re able and willing to work, and there is work available, you can continue working. If there is no work available, then the umbrella company can furlough you and access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Note: Due to contractual arrangements, umbrella companies are arguing they can only pay workers the National Minimum Wage element of their pay. NEU disagrees with this position: we believe all elements of pay (even when described as discretionary) are payable.

I was employed on a long-term temporary assignment directly by a school or multi-academy trust.

If you’re able and willing to work, you can continue working. The school still should be paying staff who would have continued to work there but for the coronavirus crisis, at least until the end of their engagements. If you are engaged directly, and employed and paid by a local authority, school governing board or academy trust, you are a public sector employee. The HMRC advice is that “where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, we expect employers to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion – and correspondingly not furlough them.”

I was employed on a long-term temporary assignment through an agency or an umbrella company.

Cabinet Office guidance states that agency workers (including those employed via an umbrella company) who are on long-term assignments to the public sector, but unable to work because of COVID-19, should be paid 80% of their salary (to a maximum of £2,500 per month) for the remainder of their assignment, or until the assignment can resume. This is a separate (but similar) arrangement to the Job Retention Scheme (known as furloughing).

Public sector education employers, including maintained schools, academies and colleges are strongly encouraged by the government (and DfE) to take the outlined approach, but central government cannot legally require them to do so.

I was working on an ad-hoc/short-term assignment basis through a local authority supply pool.

If you’re able and willing to work, you can continue working. NEU and Government advice is that you should continue to be permitted to work where you would have continued to so but for the coronavirus crisis. The NEU’s position is that the Cabinet Office advice applies, which states that contingency workers (supply staff) who are unable to work because of COVID-19, should be paid 80% of their salary (to a maximum of £2,500 per month).

The difficulty in this situation will be calculating how much supply staff should be paid during the crisis period. That is something you should negotiate with the employer, but it would not be unreasonable to calculate an average level of pay over a period of 12 weeks, ending on 28 February 2020.

I was working on a long-term assignment through a local authority supply pool.

If you’re able and willing to work, you can continue working. The NEU and Government advice is that you should continue to be permitted to work where you would have continued to so but for the coronavirus crisis. The NEU’s position is that the Cabinet Office advice applies, which states that contingency workers (supply staff) who are on long-term assignments to the public sector, but unable to work because of COVID-19, should be paid 80% of their salary (to a maximum of £2,500 per month) for the remainder of their assignment, or until the assignment can resume.

The key points about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

  1. Employers can claim for furloughed employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance, or need to stay at home with someone who is shielding, if they are unable to work from home and would otherwise be made redundant.
     
  2. Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities (i.e. childcare) resulting from coronavirus can be furloughed.
     
  3. Employers cannot claim under the scheme for employees receiving Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). But such employees can be furloughed and claimed for once they are no longer receiving SSP.
     
  4. If a worker has more than one job they can be:
  • furloughed for each job. Each job is separate and the cap of £2,500 applies to each employee individually.
  • furloughed in one job and continue to work for another employer (and be paid as normal).
  1. Employees on fixed-term contracts can be furloughed and their contracts renewed or extended during the furlough period. If the fixed-term expires during the furlough period, the employee will no longer be eligible for the scheme.
     
  2. Furloughed employees can undertake training and should be encouraged to do so.
     
  3. Employers’ National Insurance and pension contributions will still need to be paid and employers can claim for these (but only up to the mandatory employer pension contribution).
     
  4. Employers can claim for any regular payments they are obliged to pay workers, including wages, past overtime fees and compulsory commission payments. Payments that are related to performance are not included.
     
  5. If contractually allowed, employees are permitted to work for another (new) employer while they are furloughed. New employers must ensure they complete the HMRC new starter checklist form correctly, particularly Statement C.
     
  6. Furloughed employees will retain their employment rights including (but not limited to) SSP, maternity and other parental rights, unfair dismissal and redundancy payments.

See our more detailed advice on furlough for supply educators below.

Please contact the NEU adviceline if you need more specific assistance – adviceline@neu.org.uk.