We are in the process of putting together a selection of frequently asked questions from members. More questions will be added and answers updated as more information becomes available. 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? 
  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? 
  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?
  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? 
  5. If I have to self-isolate because I have coronavirus symptoms will I be paid?
  6. If I have to self-isolate because a someone in my household has coronavirus symptoms will I be paid?

 

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:

  • pregnant women
  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (broadly anyone instructed to get a flu jab each year on medical grounds):
  • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
  • diabetes
  • problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  • being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)

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:

  • People who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication
  • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia who are at any stage of treatment
  • People with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma (requiring hospital admissions or courses of steroid tablets)
  • People with severe diseases of body systems, such as severe kidney disease (dialysis)

 

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:

  • new continuous cough and/or
  • fever or a temperature of above 37.8°C

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:

  • If the NHS advice is telling you to self-isolate, you should stay away from work.  The NHS advice should be treated as being the same as advice from your own GP (and you should not be visiting your GP in these circumstances).
  • If your employer asks you to stay away from work, even though the NHS advice is not telling you to self-isolate, you should comply with your employers’ instruction.

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?

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 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.

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."

 

7. I am a supply teacher working week to week what financial support will I be offered?

 We are aware of the current situation supply teachers are facing and are working with COSLA and the Scottish Government and hope to have solutions and answers soon. Given the UK Government's wage protection for private sector staff on precarious earnings, we would expect to reach some agreement on this issue.

 

8. 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.