Coronavirus (Covid-19) Update

30th May 2020

Changes to critically vulnerable categories

Please find an additional update with our latest guidance related to the ever-changing world of COVID-19!

You may have seen in the press, over the past few days, that various categories of health conditions have been removed by the government from the shielding programme in England.  These include some people with cancer, liver disease or severe asthma.

As you know, people in the ‘shielding’ group should have been contacted by their GP initially to tell them they are clinically extremely vulnerable and must shield.  Over the past few days, some of these people were advised, by text message, that they no longer needed to shield.

The text sent from GOVUK states: ‘This is an update from the National Shielding Service. We understand that your GP or hospital clinician has recommended that you no longer need to follow government advice to shield.’

The lastest government guidance, issued yesterday (Friday 29th May 2020) does not refer to, or provide any clarity about the changes to ‘shielding’:


The government have confirmed it had asked clinicians to review the records of people to ensure that only those who needed to shield were on the shielded patient list, and stated that doctors should have written to explain the decisions that had been made.

Our advice, is that any workers that have been advised, by text, to no longer ‘shield’ should contact their GP for advice before having any discussions with the school about returning to work.  Although not stated in any government guidance, it would be sensible, whilst we wait further advice, to consider these workers as ‘clinically vulnerable’.  The school needs to bear in mind that many of these individuals are likely to qualify as disabled, within the definition of disabled under the Equality Act, and your duty of reasonable adjustments may require you to transfer them into safer alternative work or even allow unpaid leave. It is also important to recognise that the sudden change in the employees ‘category’ may cause stress and anxiety as this signals a significant change, to what has been, their day to day lives over the past few months.

 Heads HR advice in relation to ‘clinically vulnerable’ (issued 14th May 2020) remains unchanged:

Clinically vulnerable individuals who are at higher risk of severe illness have been advised to take extra care in observing social distancing and should work from home where possible. Education settings should endeavour to support this, for example by asking staff to support remote education, carry out lesson planning or other roles which can be done from home. If clinically vulnerable individuals cannot work from home, they should be offered the safest available on-site roles, staying 2 metres away from others wherever possible, although the individual may choose to take on a role that does not allow for this distance if they prefer to do so. If they have to spend time within 2 metres of other people, settings must carefully assess and discuss with them whether this involves an acceptable level of risk.

 These changes will also have a direct impact on staff that live with someone that has previously been advised too ‘shield’ – these employees can now return to work.

Changes to furlough (CJRS)

On 29‌‌ May 2020, the government announced more details about the extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), with the key details outlined below.

Flexible furloughing

From 1‌‌ July 2020, Schools may bring back previously furloughed employees on a part-time basis – This change comes a month earlier than previously announced.  This means that employees can work as much or as little, dependent on your business needs, with no minimum time that you can furlough staff.

Schools can decide the hours and shift patterns that your employees will work on their return.

If your employees are unable to return to work, or you do not have work for them to do, they can remain on furlough and you can continue to claim the grant for their full hours under the existing rules.

Changes to Employer contributions:

From August, the government grant provided through the job retention scheme will be slowly reduced.

Important dates

It’s important to note that the government have changed the cut-off date for new entrants and the scheme will close to new entrants from 30‌‌th June. From this point onwards, you will only be able to furlough employees that you have furloughed for a full three-week period prior to 30‌‌ June.

This means that the final date that you can furlough an employee for the first time will be 10th‌‌ June for the current three-week furlough period to be completed by 30‌‌ June. Employers will have until 31‌‌st  July to make any claims in respect of the period to 30‌‌th  June.

Appraisal update (COVID-19)

 The latest guidance states that schools are still required to follow their usual appraisal timings during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In maintained schools, you are required legally to appraise teachers annually (School Teachers’ Appraisal) (England) (Regulations 2012). If you are not required by law to conduct appraisals annually, we recommend you still carry out appraisals at the end of the current cycle.

The DfE have confirmed that maintained schools should follow the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) and continue to make decisions on teachers’ pay progression linked to performance.  However, the DfE expects schools appraisal arrangements to take account of the current circumstances e.g. judgements should be based on performance during the period your school was open before the coronavirus outbreak.

For support staff, it is recommended that you continue to carry out appraisals as set out in their contracts.

Schools are not expected to rewrite objectives or set completely new ones to reflect these changes, but make sure these altered expectations are clear for all staff.

 Points to consider:

The advice is not to use standard monitoring for appraisal purposes – if you want to do some form of monitoring, then look at the work set for remote learning (teachers) or how well normal admin functions are working (support).  Due to the circumstances it is fair and reasonable to change your approach to monitoring but schools need to make it clear to staff how they will be assessed

Appraisers need to be mindful that all staff, including themselves, have had to change the way they work and experienced potential unforeseen personal difficulties therefore it would be unfair to treat this work period as you would normally.

In addition, we do not suggest you ask staff to provide new evidence for the rest of this school year.  Staff will also need to be made aware that evidence such as lesson observations in the summer term and/or exam results will not be taken into account.

In summary:

Continue to prepare for appraisal

One of the most essential elements is to keep your staff fully informed and therefore we suggest you write to all staff to reassure them about your approach to appraisal for this year. A sample template, you may wish to use in your communications with staff, will follow early next week.

We understand that the complexities and ever-changing guidance alongside plans for reopening are extremely challenging for headteachers. The impact on individual staff needs and circumstances should to be considered on a case by case basis. If you wish to discuss any of the matters regarding these updates, or have any HR concerns please do not hesitate to get in touch on 0161 850 4343. 

« »

Get in touch