We round-up the latest news affecting schools.
Government updates its guidance for full reopening of schools
On Monday 27 July, the government updated its
guidance to help schools prepare to reopen to all pupils at the end of the school holidays. The guidance:
Provides more advice on risk management
Provides clarification on the age requirements related to wearing face coverings on public and school transport
Confirms that revised guidance on cleaning has now been published
Sets out how the Department for Education will support schools over the summer, particularly when communicating to parents and pupils about the need to return to school
Gives more information about pupils with education, health and care plans
Gives more information about managing contractors and other visitors to schools, including immunisation programmes
Clarifies some details about the test and trace process
Provides additional advice for staff who are clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable
Expands on use of space and ventilation
Provides a link to the recorded webinar on mental health and wellbeing, clarifies resources available from MindEd, and links to e-Bug resources to support teaching children about hygiene measures
Provides advice on exam results day.
Unions call for teachers in England to be able to wear face masks
the Guardian, the NASUWT teaching union has asked the government to change its advice about face masks in the classroom.
The government updated its guidance on Monday 27 July to say that the "majority of staff in education settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work," and that it's only necessary in a very small number of cases, including:
Where an individual child or young person becomes ill with coronavirus symptoms while at school, and only then if a distance of two metres can't be maintained
Where a child or young person already has routine intimate care needs that involves the use of PPE
– in which case the same PPE should continue to be used.
The union says that the government’s wider public health advice is for anyone aged 11 and over to wear a face mask in most indoor spaces. The British Medical Association supports this. Its advice is that if people can't socially distance by two metres, they should wear masks as a way of limiting transmission.
Exams watchdog has a ‘legal duty’ to share COVID grading model
According to the
TES, the Public Law Project charity has asked Ofqual to share the precise details of how it will model this year’s GCSE and A-level grades to make sure its standardisation model doesn't discriminate against any group of students. Ofqual have confirmed they'll publish these on results day. Statutory Sick Pay extended to people in support bubbles
On Monday 6 July,
the Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Suspension of Waiting Days and General Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 came into force. These apply to England, Wales and Scotland.
Support bubbles: Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is now available to individuals who are part of a support bubble with people they don't live with, where someone from the other household has coronavirus. In Scotland and Wales, support bubbles are referred to as 'extended households' and in England 'linked households.' They are subject to specific rules.
People who are shielding: The Regulations clarify that SSP will continue to be available to anyone who is shielding if they meet up with other people outside their household, in accordance with public health guidance, and aren't strictly staying at home at all times. Extremely vulnerable people remain entitled to SSP until the end of the shielding period, which has ended in England and Scotland and ends in Wales on Sunday 16 August. Anyone who is notified to continue to shield or to restart shielding will still be eligible for SSP. The government has updated its guidance on shielding in England.
Negative tests: The Regulations also say that anyone who is self-isolating because they, someone they live with, or a member of their extended or linked household has symptoms of coronavirus will remain entitled to SSP until they or that person receives a negative test and stops self-isolating after less than seven or 14 days. PM announces changes to the 'work from home' advice
The Prime Minister said that from Saturday 1 August government advice on employers taking all reasonable steps to help people work from home will change. Instead, employers should "encourage staff" to return to work if it's safe for them to do so. But at the same time, the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, told the Commons Science and Technology Committee it was "quite probable that we will see this virus coming back in different waves over a number of years" and he didn't think there was any reason to change the advice on working from home.
Government responds to consultation about capping public sector exit payments
In April last year, the government launched a consultation into its proposal to cap public sector exit payments to £95,000. It's now published its
response. There are a few things to note:
Despite the passage of time, the cap will be set at £95,000 but will be kept under review and can be relaxed in exceptional circumstances
There will be a mandatory waiver for health and safety detriment and unfair dismissal cases (in addition to discrimination and whistleblowing cases).
The government hasn’t set a date for the cap to come into force.
New apprenticeship funding policy paper sets out new rules
The Education and Skills Funding Agency has published a
policy paper on apprenticeship funding in England from August 2020. This updates the former policy that's been in place since Monday 1 April 2019. It's supported by recently updated apprenticeship funding rules.
An incentive payment has been introduced to help 'kick-start the nation’s economic recovery.' The incentive payment will be made to employers who hire an apprentice between Wednesday 1 August 2020 and Sunday 31 January 2021. They must 'be a new employee to the business, have a contract of employment start date between Saturday 1 August 2020 and Sunday 31 January 2021 (inclusive) and must not have been employed by the employer within the six months prior to the contract start date.'
Claims can be made by employers from September 2020 through the apprenticeship service. For apprentices aged 16–24 the payment will be £2,000, and for apprentices aged 25 and over the payment will be £1,500.
First furlough fraud arrests are made
According to Personnel Today, West Midlands Police have arrested a man suspected of defrauding the furlough scheme of £495,000. They've removed his computers and other documents as part of its investigation into suspected furlough fraud, money laundering and other tax fraud.
HMRC have repeatedly warned businesses that it will pursue those who deliberately defraud it. This public arrest demonstrates its intent.
Those that make
genuine mistakes have less to fear, but they will still have to repay HMRC. If you suspect you've got your sums wrong (the calculations aren't for the faint hearted) it's sensible to have another look at them and take steps to correct errors. HMRC are expected to offer a 30 day 'amnesty' soon to allow businesses who have made genuine mistakes, or have incorrectly claimed, to 'confess' and repay money to it without incurring penalties. Furlough grant can be used to pay contractual notice
The government has
confirmed that employers can use furlough money to pay for the notice period of their staff, even if this exceeds the statutory notice periods (which provide a week’s notice for each year of work, up to a maximum of 12 weeks).
Many employers were concerned because government guidance referred to statutory notice only. But the updated guidance now says: "You can continue to claim for a furloughed employee who is serving a statutory or contractual notice period, however grants cannot be used to substitute redundancy payments."
Read the answers to FAQs on furlough and redundancy. Furlough mistakes – employers can delete a claim within 72 hours
guidance on claiming wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been updated to tell employers they can use the online service to delete a claim within 72 hours of submitting it. This is particularly useful if you make an error. New data reveals 9.4 million people furloughed to end of June
HMRC has published
statistics for the number and value of claims made to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. These reveal that:
Around 9.4m employments have been placed on furlough – up 678,000 from claims made by end of May 2020
At least one CJRS claim was made by 1.14m employers – up 75,000 from claims made by end of May 2020
Total support claimed by end of June was £26.5bn
The sector with the highest proportion of furloughed employments was the accommodation and food services sector, with 87% of employers having furloughed staff and a total of 73% of employments furloughed
Men aged 41 to 49 were least likely to be furloughed (28%), while women aged 41 to 57 were also less likely to be furloughed (23%).
Brexit – option to extend the transition period has expired
The UK exited the EU on Friday 31 January 2020. To ease the transition, it entered into a one year implementation period to give the UK government time to negotiate its future trading agreement. That agreement is due to end at 11pm on Thursday 31 December 2020.
Many businesses hoped that the government would ask to extend this beyond 2020 to give them time to prepare for any new trading arrangements. In many cases, they need to concentrate on building up their businesses following severe disruption caused by coronavirus. The government had until Tuesday 30 June to request a one or year extension, but decided not to do so.
Instead, it launched a
new campaign to help businesses and individuals prepare for the end of the transition period. There’s a checker tool which 'quickly identifies the necessary next steps they need to take.' Government provides more information about the new points-based immigration system
On Monday 13 July 2020, the government set out
further details on the UK’s points-based system. These new arrangements will take effect from Friday 1 January 2021.
The new rules will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally, and aims to attract people who can contribute to the UK’s economy. Irish citizens will be able to enter and live in the UK as they do now. Skilled workers must have a job offer from an approved sponsor before they can work in the UK. The job must be at a required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A level) and the salary must be at least £25,600 (although there are some ways in which applicants’ can trade points against their salary, which may mean that people earning less than this can still work in the UK). The individual must also be able to speak English.
Read how the points system will work.
If you’re not already a licensed sponsor and you think you’ll want to sponsor migrants through the skilled worker route from January 2021, you should apply now.
Small increase in numbers of people participating in a workplace pension
According to data published by the
Department for Work and Pensions, 88% of eligible employees are participating in a workplace pension in 2019 – an increase of 1% in 2018.
The analysis covers the period April 2009 to April 2019, and includes members of all qualifying workplace pension schemes: occupational pension schemes, group personal pensions, and group stakeholder pensions. It includes a detailed breakdown of measures for increasing the number of savers and increasing the amount of savings.
Read more – August 2020
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