Newsflash: Questions arise over teachers' pay as a result of absence due to childcare

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Article

30 October, 2020

Despite the wider reopening of schools in England from September 2020, Coronavirus continues to have a lasting impact on the ability to provide continuous staffing in schools, particularly where infection rates continue to be high.

Many schools have continued to pay their teaching staff in the usual way, with teachers working either in school or remotely. During this time, school leaders were tasked with ensuring that members of staff received the correct pay, particularly where they had fallen ill with Coronavirus or were required to self-isolate with a person in their household. Now, schools are tasked with considering how they approach members of staff who need to remain at home, to care for their own children/ dependents who may need to self-isolate.

Obviously, the wider reopening of schools has meant that teachers' own children have also returned to the school environment. As part of this, teachers are now tasked with balancing their own work, with the need to arrange childcare and support their children, who may have been sent home due to exposure to the virus. School's adherence to the bubble concept has meant that whole classes of children can be sent home at any one time, even multiple classes of children. For some parents, this will undoubtedly cause problems with arranging childcare, particularly if the area where they live is under Tier 3 Coronavirus restrictions.

A significant question is now arising about how teaching staff, who may need to stay at home due to their child's exposure to Coronavirus, should be paid.

In general, this is quite a grey area, with a number of different approaches being taken. Strictly speaking, schools are not under any obligation to provide their teaching staff with pay during this period, as this would generally be treated as a period of dependents leave and/or parental leave, both of which can be unpaid, depending on the organisation. We are aware that some schools have opted to take this approach and whilst there is nothing legally preventing them from doing this, it has been met with some resistance. The feeling is that teaching staff, when struggling to find childcare for their child who must self-isolate, are often given no option but to stay at home, particularly where they are in an area facing some of the toughest Coronavirus restrictions, such as a restriction on mixing between households. During this time, it is also likely they will be unable to work from home. This is quite an unprecedented situation, unlike anything the education sector has faced before, and as such, the feeling is that staff should continue to be given full pay during these periods, as they are not in control of the times they are required to be at home.

Another significant point being raised by Unions is that schools are not actually losing out financially, by choosing to give a teacher full pay during this time, as their salary is something already budgeted for. However, a counter to this is that whilst the teacher's salary is accounted for, something that is not likely budgeted for is the need to bring in additional supply teachers, to cover lessons missed. This means it will largely be a balancing act for many schools between the losses they may be set to suffer and the impact of failing to pay teaching staff during these period, which could result in a loss of morale and/or trust.

One solution we foresee is school leaders initiating a clear approach on the application of their policies and procedures and a consistent approach to staff communications about the instances in which they will be paid/ unpaid. For many, this will involve an in depth look at the additional costs when compared with the decrease in morale retention rates as the effects of the virus continue to be felt for some time.

If you would like some support with understanding the implications of teachers pay during Covid-19, or support with the application/ review of your policies and procedures, please contact

For more information contact Ruth Rule-Mullen in our Education department via email or phone on 01772 220195. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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