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Schools need encouragement to follow Cabinet Office guidance to financially support supply teachers during school closures

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Supply teachers and other vital agency staff, including those in the NHS, must be supported financially during COVID-19 with schools being encouraged to follow Cabinet Office guidance to continue paying 80% of their temps’ salaries, the REC has said.

REC members have expressed concern that many schools and colleges are not aware of this guidance or that they are choosing not to use it. Additionally, there is confusion about whether this guidance overlaps with the Job Retention Scheme – it doesn’t. The REC has called on the government to write to all schools to highlight the Cabinet Office guidance and ask them to take it up.

In a letter sent yesterday (5 May) to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, the REC welcomed guidance that public bodies, including schools, should to continue to pay agency supply staff. Those who were on a live assignment but unable to continue to work when schools closed are still eligible to receive 80% of their usual salary if the Cabinet Office guidance is followed.*

Tom Hadley, Director of Policy at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), said:

“Schools want to protect the jobs of their employees and supply teachers so that they are ready to go when their doors open again. So it’s vitally important that schools are encouraged to follow the Cabinet Office guidance to support supply teachers through a continued salary. That’s why we’re asking the Department of Education to write to all schools to ensure they are aware of, and understand what they need to do. This will go a long way to helping schools protect jobs and their teachers’ livelihoods at this difficult time.

“However we navigate the opening up of schools after the lockdown, it’s essential that schools have the teachers they need – including supply teachers – to get up and running again. This will make all the difference to how fast the economy bounces back.”

Commenting on the issue, Samantha Hurley, Operations Director at APSCo said:

“We have had reports of schools asking recruitment firms to furlough supply teachers and then claim the 80% of pay back from the Government which goes completely against the rules and is akin to asking recruiters, which have seen their activity slashed, to basically act as a bank for the public sector. The guidance clearly states that payment of the temporary worker during this period should be funded via the public sector organisation that has the temporary worker on assignment and it is incumbent upon schools to follow these rules.”

According to APSCo many schools are ignoring specific instructions from the Government which says that public sector contingent workers who are on live assignments but cannot work due to COVID-19 should continue to be paid at least 80% of their salaries by their employer – and should not be furloughed.

This includes supply teachers working in state funded schools but, according to The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), many schools have either misunderstood – or are ignoring – this latest guidance.

In short, this instruction requires that all of the public sector continues to pay contingent workers 80% of their rates, via the relevant recruitment firm, together with the pro-rated margin. This is an attempt by Government to ensure temporary workers (whether agency worker, umbrella worker or a contractor working through a personal services company) continue to receive most of their contractual earnings during any period when they can’t work due to COVID-19. It is also designed to avoid the absurd scenario where Government is claiming money back from itself. However, it seems that this is not always being followed.

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* Although schools cannot be mandated to follow the Cabinet Office guidance, a recent update  to the Department for Education’s website clearly states that schools should follow this procurement policy.

REC letter to Gavin Williamson

Dear Secretary of State, 

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation represents more than 3,200 recruitment and employment businesses, with roughly 350 supplying education staff. As I’m sure you’ll agree, supply teachers and other agency support staff provide a vital service to schools and colleges. And at this time of great uncertainty, whilst schools are shut and there is very little work available, it is important they are supported financially. Additionally, ensuring that agencies are able to supply these workers to schools when we emerge out of the crisis is a crucial component to resuming normal operations.  

The Cabinet Office’s Procurement Policy Note 02/20 is designed to address this. The guidance states that public sector bodies should continue to pay agency supply staff, who were on a live assignment but unable to continue to work due to the crisis at 80% of their usual rate. A recent update to the Department for Education’s website clearly states that schools should follow this procurement policy.  

However, feedback we’ve had from agencies is mixed. Whilst some schools are using this scheme to pay supply teachers and suppliers, not all are, despite having supply teachers who meet the criteria. In part this is due to confusion of the scheme with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, but not entirely. There is a general a lack of awareness by schools of the need to be using this scheme to protect temporary school staff.   

We appreciate that you cannot mandate schools to follow the guidance. However, we would ask you to do more to increase understanding and uptake of the guidance. Writing to all schools to highlight the cabinet office scheme and asking them to take it up will go a long way in supporting supply teachers, other agency support staff and employment agencies at this difficult time.  

Please do get in touch with my Ellie in my office if you or your team would like to discuss this important matter further.  

Yours Aye

Neil Carberry 

Chief Executive  

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