Please read this advice alongside the NEU’s main FAQ advice for members which covers a range of general matters. It includes the requirement for schools and colleges to maintain a voluntary approach to the mass testing from 4 January 2021.  Many support staff will have, as part of their job description, the requirement to administer medication to pupils, but that expectation must not be extended to cover mandated involvement in the new Covid-19 testing programme.

I work in Early Years provision, and the school have told us that we have to attend for work, unless we are deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV). Most of my colleagues do not have a problem with going into work, but I am extremely worried about doing so (I am 62, and live with my mother). How can I convince the Head to allow me to stay at home?

 The Government’s decision on early years provision - “Early years provision should continue to remain open and continue to allow all children to attend full time or their usual timetable hours” - has caused great anxiety for many of our EYFS members.

If you are unhappy about attending for work, you should liaise with your NEU Rep (or your District Secretary, in the absence of a Rep), with a view to approaching the Head and raising your particular concerns.

In particular, you should insist on an individual Risk Assessment, as a means of dealing with your issues. Please click here Coronavirus: medically vulnerable and higher risk groups | NEU for further advice on this point.

Should none of the above prove fruitful, then talk to your District about how the NEU can support you with regard to invoking Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, which can protect you if you refuse to work.

I am being expected to carry out all sorts of additional duties (I work in the school office). My manager says that there is no problem with this, because of the clause in my Job Description (JD) which says that I can be asked to carry out any additional tasks “deemed necessary” by management. Is that true?

We live in exceptional times, and the current crisis has meant that support staff have been required to show a greater degree of flexibility than normal.

However, the legal and contractual position on working outside of your JD hasn’t changed, and can be summarised as follows:

  • If you are asked to carry out a function that is normally regarded as one that is proper to a grade or grades higher than your existing grade, then you should be recompensed appropriately for the time spent in completing that work.
  • If you are asked to carry out a function that is normally regarded as one that is proper to a grade or grades lower than, or at the same level as, your existing grade, then the test of “reasonableness” will come into play. Factors such as adequate training, and what parts of your main role will need to be set aside, will need to be considered.

You should also email your manager when asked to carry out additional duties, to confirm that you will only be doing so for a time-limited period: Otherwise, at some future point, it could be argued that those duties have become a permanent part of your JD.

My Head has said that all of the support staff in our school have to take part in the Covid testing programme. Many of us are unhappy about this, especially where we might have to process samples. What are our rights?

The NEU believes that staff participation in carrying out the tests should be voluntary, as most staff working in a school or college will not be contractually required to carry out most of the tasks contained in the workplace roles listed in the NHS Guidance (see page 13).

Notwithstanding the contractual situation, many staff will also be unhappy about volunteering to perform specific tasks on their own merits, e.g.:

Test Assistant - "Collects completed swabs and pass them to the Processor. Ensures cleaning of swabbing bays."

Processor - "Prepares test sample for analysis, conducts processing of Lateral Flow Device (LFD) and interprets result. Provides results to Results Recorder. Ensures cleaning of processing bays."

For further advice on the testing programme, please see coronavirus: testing in schools and colleges.

I work in a state school and I am extremely concerned about continuing to work. I have raised my worries with my line manager, but she has proven to be most unsympathetic. What should I do?

Please refer to the guidance issued by the employers, which spells out the approach to be taken by managers in situations such as yours; and also read the NEU's checklist for continued opening.

I worked during the half-term holidays for no extra pay, even though I am only paid on a term-time only basis. What should I do?

You should immediately make a claim for a retrospective payment of wages and do so with support from your NEU workplace rep, or if you haven’t got a rep, your local NEU secretary.

Should TAs/LSAs agree to teach or cover a class or group (eg half a class) if this wouldn't normally be a part of our job?

No support staff member should be teaching at any time, except for HLTAs who can take small groups (but not a whole class or half a class) or cover a teacher for a short period in certain circumstances (up to 5 days). Please refer to the NEU advice sheet HLTA’s and Cover Supervisors for further information.

Can Term-Time Only (TTO) paid support staff be expected to work during school holidays and half terms?

TTO paid support staff are not required to work during school holiday periods.  If schools want TTO staff to provide cover during holidays, they must agree to do so and paid appropriately at the correct overtime rate or given time off in lieu (TOIL) at the same rate. The correct enhanced rates are set out in Green Book, Part 3, Section 2.6. Whatever payment method is decided upon, ask the head for confirmation in writing.  Different policies may apply if you work in an independent school or a post-16 college -consult your NEU Rep.

My school says that absence when self-isolating with suspected Covid-19 will be treated as normal sick absence. Is that correct?

No. Green Book, Section 10.9 says that absences caused by “contact with infectious disease” must not be offset against employees’ sick pay entitlements and should be recorded separately from normal sickness absence records. Different rules may apply for members in independent schools and post-16 colleges - consult your NEU rep.

I was unable to use all my annual leave before the end of the leave year. Does that mean that I will lose my unused leave?

No. New regulations allow you to carry forward your four weeks of statutory annual leave entitlement where it was not reasonably practicable to take some or all of it due to the impact of coronavirus. This leave can be carried over for up to two years and you will be entitled to pay in lieu if your employment ends before it is taken.  Employers have also been asked to relax their normal rules on carrying over contractual leave, so check your employer’s position if you wish to carry forward more than four weeks.  

IT tech guidance for working in education

The main areas for concern, when working in colleges and schools, during the pandemic.

  1. Carrying out work on IT equipment in situ that has been used within the last 72 hours.
  2. Cleaning of the inside of PCs with compressed air.
  3. Physical reporting of IT issues by staff and students.
  4. Air conditioning units and virus transmission.

N.B. The cleaning of IT equipment and classes remains the responsibility of the cleaning staff, and IT Technicians should not undertake cleaning duties which are normally carried out by the school or college cleaners.

Carrying out work with IT equipment in situ

Best practice would be to ensure the room in question is empty and the IT equipment has had its Covid-19 cleaning routine carried out before work can proceed.  Studies have shown that Covid-19 can live up to 72 hours on plastics and stainless steel at room temperatures.
During the work you should wear appropriate PPE, (FFP2 face mask and gloves) to reduce the risk of transmission to and from yourself.

Cleaning PCs with compressed air

This should not be carried out unless absolutely necessary. If this must be carried out, you need to wear an FFP2 face mask and gloves and it should be done in an environment where the partials will be transported away from you to avoid risk of you breathing them in. If you can use a shield to prevent blowback this would be helpful.

Reporting of IT issues

All IT issues should be submitted to IT staff via email, phone or problem reporting software.

Air conditioning units

Air conditioning units have been shown to speed up the transmission of Covid-19 by allowing the virus to travel much greater distances. (The Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning associations - page 5)
The recommendations are if possible not to use recirculating air conditioning units. But to open windows instead to introduce fresh air into the room. If the room has no windows to introduce fresh air then another room should be found to have the lessons in. Server room air conditioning cannot be turned off, but these are very low traffic areas. Visits to these rooms will only really be by IT tech staff. But we still recommend you wear PPE (FFP2 face masks and gloves).