NEU checklist for supply members

If you are considering an offer of supply work or are asked by an agency to say whether you are available for supply work, read this NEU checklist for supply members before responding.

NEU position on January opening

“The NEU has advised members that adequate safety measures are needed in order for it to be safe for staff and students to be present in the workplace – read more here. We recognise that school closures create particular problems for supply members.  The NEU will expect all ongoing engagements to be honoured during closures. 

There are NEU model letters to raise this issue with schools and colleges and to help those of you without engagements press your agency or umbrella company to furlough you.  If you are struggling financially, you can contact the NEU hardship fund, established to help members facing financial difficulties as a result of the Covid-19 crisis

Supply staff and pay

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been extended until April. To be eligible to claim the employee must be paid under PAYE, and must have been on the employer’s payroll by 23:59 on 30 October 2020.

This version of the Scheme requires employers to pay the employer’s national insurance and pension contributions. This accounts for about 5% of the total employment costs.

As before, employees can receive up to 80% of their “normal” wages” (up to a cap of £2,500) from the government and the employer can choose to pay the other 20%.

Flexible furlough is still in place under the extended scheme, so employees are able to work for some of their “normal” hours, and be paid accordingly, whilst being furloughed for their remaining hours.

The Treasury’s Direction setting out details of the Scheme is available here

We have a drafted a letter for you to send to your agency or umbrella company to seek to persuade them to furlough you.

The government have issued further guidance on the issue of pay for supply staff during the current lockdown. We asked that the government issue this advice as a directive to encourage greater compliance, but they have not done so. The guidance is available here, and the key points are:

  1. Schools and colleges can continue to engage supply staff during this period and should consider how supply staff can assist in delivering remote and face-to-face learning.

Staff employed directly by a school or college

  1. Where a school or college has a live assignment with a supply staff member they should continue to pay them from existing budgets.
  2. If a contract has been terminated earlier than originally agreed, because of Covid-19, the school or college should reinstate the contract on the terms previously agreed.
  3. Where a school or college had expected to use public funding to continue to engage supply staff on a more ad-hoc basis, and budgeted for that, but the work is no longer needed because of Covid-19 the school or college should pay those staff at 80% of their typical pay (subject to the maximum of £2,500 per month).

Supply staff employed by an agency

  1. Agency supply staff on live assignments who can continue to work should continue to be paid as normal.
  2. Where a school or college has an agency staff member on a live assignment who cannot continue to work because of Covid-19, the school or college should pay them at 80% of the agreed contract rate (to a maximum of £2,500 per month).
  3. Where agency supply staff are not on live assignments with schools or colleges, or where a previously agreed assignment is due to end, the school/college and agency should discuss any further demand for work. If there is no further demand for work the employer (agency) should furlough the agency worker.

Worker set up as Personal Service Company (PSC)

  1. If the services of the supply staff are still required they should be paid as normal.
  2. If the supply staff is no longer required because of Covid-19 and their PSC is paid directly by the school or college, that school or college should continue to pay them at 80% of the agreed rate (to a maximum of £2,500).  
  3. Where the PSC is paid via an agency, the agency can make a claim under the CJRS.


  1. Self-employed workers who are unable to work because of Covid-19 can access support through the self-employed Income Support Scheme.

If you are struggling financially contact the NEU hardship fund, established to help members facing financial difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Will my agency place me on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

As before this is a purely voluntary scheme which creates no legal rights for individuals. However, we know that many of our supply members are still struggling to secure assignments. We will actively encourage agencies to take advantage of the Scheme.

Similarly, we expect schools and colleges to follow the guidance referred to above.

My agency is refusing to pay me SSP whilst I self-isolate. What can I do?

The advice is clear and can be accessed here.

If you must self-isolate because you (or someone in your household or support bubble) has symptoms or has tested positive, or have been in contact with someone with coronavirus you are entitled to SSP. You are not entitled to SSP if you are self-isolating following a trip abroad.

If your agency is refusing to pay you SSP you can contact the HMRC Statutory Payment Disputes Team.

What is the self-isolation support scheme, and am I eligible?

The self-isolation support scheme is a one-off payment of £500 available to  individuals who

  • Meet the benefits-linked eligibility criteria, or
  • Qualify for a discretionary payment because they cannot work from home and will lose income as a result of self-isolating

The scheme is administered by local authorities.

Schools should provide to their local authority Self Isolation Service Hub the names of people who have been instructed to self-isolate. This will enable those people to obtain an NHS Test & Trace Account ID so an application for a payment under the Scheme can be made to their local authority.  

I’m thinking of tutoring under the National Tutoring Programme. Do you have any advice?

Seek direct employment with a school or college if you can. The NTP has been dominated by commercial agencies and members have reported widespread exploitation of trainee teachers and supply staff under the tutoring scheme. If you can’t find direct engagement, ask the agency some questions before you commit to NTP training and tutoring.

Ask the agency to confirm in writing whether you will be paid to attend the training programme, and how many hours the training entails. Ask whether you will be directed, as a tutor, by a class teacher; whether you will be expected to plan and prepare for tutor sessions and if so whether you will be paid for this preparation time; whether you will be expected to assess pupil progress and if so whether you will be paid for this assessment time; and whether you will be paid for waiting time between tutor sessions. Ask whether you will be paid at national pay rates for teachers or teaching assistants, as appropriate.

If you decide to go ahead with tutoring, keep a detailed record of the date and time that you have been engaged in the training programme and in tutoring pupils, including preparation time, tutoring time, assessment time and any time meeting with classroom teachers or other school staff.

Keep in touch with your local NEU branch or district and seek advice if you think you have been underpaid.