Please find here, a selection of frequently asked questions from members. Red text indicates new questions or where answers have been updated. Please check back regularly for the latest updates.
1. Is there any specific advice re COVID-19 for pregnant teachers? I am 28 weeks pregnant and have heard rumours that some councils have told pregnant teachers to work from home. Am I allowed to work from home?
Councils will have employees who are in the vulnerable groups where they could be looking at months of working at home. This group includes those who are:
There are some clinical conditions which put people at even higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This week the NHS in Scotland will directly contact people in this category with advice about the more stringent measures that should be taken in order to keep themselves and others safe.
People falling into this group are those who may be at particular risk due to complex health problems such as:
2. I am a teacher with a serious underlying health condition currently employed by a Council. I have been very anxious attending work the past two weeks with the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19. I have raised my concerns with my headteacher who is seeking advice. Can I self-isolate?
The Scottish Government that as of 13 March anyone developing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, however mild should self-isolate for 7 days.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are recent onset of:
Information for the public on COVID-19, including stay at home advice for people who are self-isolating, can be found on NHS Inform.
There is no need for EIS members to go a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital nor do they need to contact NHS 111 to tell them they’re staying at home. We have been advised that currently NHS will not be testing people who are self-isolating with mild symptoms.
Members should check whether the above is still the current NHS advice, then:
The EIS is not able to advise you to stay away from work in other circumstances as potentially there is no guarantee that you would be paid, either to self-isolate when there is no NHS advice to do so or simply to avoid contact with others. In such circumstances, you may find that your employer treats your absence as unauthorised. However, in our view that would be unreasonable behaviour on the part of your employer and we would seek to challenge it.
We would advise that if you have a health condition, or indeed that you have care responsibilities for a family member with such, and the employer is rejecting self-isolation, then you should ask your employer to carry out a risk assessment and seek reasonable adjustments as a consequence e.g. remote working or non-class contact duties. Failure to make such could lead to a grievance being taken out but our hope would be that employers act reasonably in the circumstances we face.
3. I am a teacher with a child who is prescribed immunosuppressants and I am very worried about bringing Coronavirus home with me. Do you have any advice for teachers in this position?
This is a scenario where we would hope for best practice on the part of the employer as there is no automatic provision available through contractual detail.
It is likely, however, that there will be a significant reduction of workforce due to care demands of young people, vulnerable persons and the elderly. In such circumstances Councils are required to be sympathetic to the pressures on staff.
In the first instance we would advise that you should ask your employer to carry out a risk assessment and seek reasonable adjustments as a consequence e.g. remote working or non-class contact duties as a preventative measure.
In the event of confirmed cases of coronavirus in a workplace, the situation changes with Councils being advised to seek medical advice on the management of risk.
Thereafter, the Council should consider transferring vulnerable staff to another work location or, if that is not practicable, assigning them duties for home working.
Councils already have arrangements for granting leave with pay but could consider reviewing and enhancing those to reflect the exceptional circumstances.
Additionally, under Section 57A of the Employment Rights 1996 employees have the right to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to care for or make arrangements for dependants. A dependant is defined in the Act.
4. What happens if I am a supply teacher and need to self-isolate? Will I get paid? Does it matter if I don’t have a written contract of employment?
Short-term supply teachers are engaged on periods of work of 2 days or fewer. Unless you are engaged on this basis, the EIS is of the view that you should be employed on a fixed-term contract and will be entitled to be paid as normal, with no detriment to your sickness allowance, for any period of school closure or self- isolation due to COVID-19.
Please refer to the SNCT Code of Practice for rules surrounding the engagement of short-term supply teachers.
If you have been undertaking fixed-term supply teaching, in the absence of a statement of particulars (contract or letter of engagement) you are still entitled to be paid for any COVID-19 related absence. If you have difficulty with this please raise with your EIS local association secretary in the first instance. Any pay unreasonably withheld during this period of national crisis will be vigorously challenged, if necessary through the courts, by the EIS.
5. If I have to self-isolate because I have coronavirus symptoms will I be paid?
It’s very important that you stay at home if you have symptoms that may be caused by COVID-19 or you live with someone that has symptoms. Staying at home will help to control the spread of the virus to friends and others.
If you have symptoms, you should stay at home for 7 days from the day your symptoms started. This will reduce the risk of you infecting others.
Employees who are undergoing self-isolation as instructed by their GP or as advised by Health Protection Scotland should advise their school and Council immediately. They should be entitled to full pay during this absence as COVID-19 is a notifiable infectious disease. The provisions of SNCT Handbook Section 6.34 will apply.
Section 6.34 states: "An employee who is prevented from attending the place of employment because of contact with notifiable infectious diseases, shall advise the council immediately and shall be entitled to full pay during absence. A period of absence, in this case, should not be reckoned against his/her entitlement to sickness allowance."
6. If I have to self-isolate because a someone in my household has coronavirus symptoms will I be paid?
If someone in your house has symptoms, the person who has symptoms should stay at home for 7 days from the day their symptoms started. All other household members should stay at home for 14 days even if they don’t have symptoms themselves. The 14-day period starts from the first day the person had symptoms.
If others develop symptoms within the 14 days, they need to stay at home for 7 days from the day their symptoms started. They should do this even if it takes them over the 14-day isolation period.
It’s likely that people living within a household will infect each other or may already be infected. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the risk of the household passing the infection to others in the community.
7. What are the SNCT pay arrangements for supply teachers during the COVID-19 outbreak?
The SNCT Circular SNCT 20/75: School Closures – Coronavirus (COVID-19) which outlines the ‘no detriment in pay arrangements for all staff and extends that provision to all supply teachers except for those not in a contract as at 20 March 2020, can be found here.
In summary, pay will be as normal during the period of School Closure.
The SNCT Joint Secretaries letter of advice JS/20/78 on how the issue of payment for supply teachers not in a contract as at 20 March 2020 should be applied by all Councils, can be found here.
In summary, if a supply teacher has been on a supply list during the 2019/20 school year and has been engaged for the period 1st January 2020 to 31st March 2020, the mechanism for determining the compensatory payment for loss of expected earnings until the end of June will be calculated with reference to the average hours worked over the three month period.
If the above applies to you and you have not been contacted by your employer you should contact your LA Secretary for advice. You may then be asked to send an email request, using the standard text provided here.
There is currently no specific payment provision for supply teachers who have not worked in 2020. If members believe they have been unfairly disadvantaged and had expected to be in work from the 23 March 2020 onwards the EIS will provide support in pursuing this, on a case-by-case basis.
If the above applies to your situation you should contact your LA Secretary for advice. You may then be asked to send an email request, using the standard text provided here.
Members are asked to note that the SNCT Joint Secretaries letter of advice JS/20/78 refers to a Supply Teachers Job Retention Payment scheme which will apply in Scotland's Councils. It should not be confused with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
The UK Government guidance applies to zero hours employees and COSLA is treating supply staff and casual workers under its own scheme. Therefore, as long as individuals are still on a Council's payroll (and were pre-28 February), it may be possible to argue for a furlough payment based on an average of the last 12 months' pay or the pay for the same month the previous year (e.g. April 2019), if higher.
There is no national agreement on this, however, which is why it would need to be considered on a case-by-case basis please contact your EIS Area Officer for further advice.
8. My fixed term temporary contract has now ended, what happens to my pay?
The Council should now pay you under the same terms as for supply teachers who were not in contract on 20 March 2020: JS/20/78, see Question 7 above for details.
If you have not been advised by your Council that you are to be paid in this way until the end of the current session by Tuesday 21 April you should send an email request, using the standard text provided here to the Council's payroll department, contact details found here.
Please copy your EIS Local Association Secretary into your email correspondence.
9. What information will be useful in pursuing payment if my employer has denied my request?
It will be helpful if you have access to your payslips from January to March 2020 and that you are clear what time periods these payments relate to. Please note that different employers may have different cut off and payment dates for supply teachers so if you work for more than one employer you will need all relevant payslips.
10. Can the Job Retention Payment be accessed by Associated Professionals (eg Music Instructors/Instrumental Music Teachers or Educational Psychologists?
Yes JS/20/78 applies to Associated Professionals. If this applies to you please follow the initial steps outlined in Question 7 above and the standard text provided here can be used.
11. Is the Job Retention Payment subject to tax and national insurance deductions?
Yes. This is pay and subject to normal deductions.
12. Will pension contributions be taken from the Job Retention Payment?
Yes. Both employer and employee contributions will be made on all Job Retention Payments.
13. I am a part-time permanent/part-time fixed-term or temporary teacher but I also pick-up additional hours on an ad-hoc basis, will I be eligible for the Job Retention Payment?
Yes, you will be eligible for the average of the ad-hoc/supply hours under the terms of JS/20/78. Teachers who undertake both regular and ad-hoc additional/supply work will be eligible for payment of salary under SNCT 20-75 and the Job Retention Payment under JS/20/78, where applicable.
14. If I receive Job Retention payment but undertake work in a Hub school during the period of payment what will I be paid?
For all additional hours worked above the average hours represented by the Job Retention Payment you will be paid at your normal hourly rate of pay for each hour worked. If you work less hours than those the average hours represented you will be paid the full amount due under the Job Retention Payment.
15. When am I likely to be paid the Job Retention Payment?
The first payment will most likely to be made in May and further payments made in June and July.
16. Will my absence of COVID-19 count as part of absence management triggers?
COSLA has advised Councils to ignore COVID-19 absences for absence management purposes. This document is about sickness absence provisions during the period of emergency measures to delay the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.
17. Will the current school closures affect my pension?
No. Your pension contributions will be taken in the same way as usual and your service and pension accrual will not be altered. The Scottish Teachers Pension scheme is unfunded so will not be impacted by any downturn in the financial markets.
18. I intend to retire in summer 2020, what is the procedure?
Retirement applications should be submitted electronically where possible in line with the guidance in the SPPA circular. Where there is going to be a delay you should notify SPPA.