We round-up the latest news affecting schools.
Increase in the number of councils who say schools can’t re-open on 1 June
A number of councils have indicated that they will not be ready to re-open schools on 1 June,
according to a report in the Guardian. For some, it’s because they’re still undertaking detailed risk assessments (and consulting on these). For others, it relates to the localised health picture in their areas.
Government scientific advisers have also
cast doubt on the safety of opening up schools and colleges before a “well-functioning track and trace system” is in place. Furlough scheme extended to end of October
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended by a further four months to the end of October, according to an
announcement by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The scheme will continue unaltered until Friday 31 July, but from Saturday 1 August, a number of changes will be made to make it more “flexible”:
1. Workers will be able to return on a part-time basis and claim furlough for their full time hours, something that unions and employer representatives have been asking for.
2. Employers will also have to "make a contribution" towards the employee's furloughed salary. It's not entirely clear what percentage the government will continue to fund, but there have been suggestions that it’ll reduce funding to 60%.
If that's the case, the remaining 20% will have to be topped up by the employer. The Chancellor made it clear that employees must still receive up to 80% of their normal salaries capped at the existing rate of £2,500 per month.
There was some debate about whether the scheme would be withdrawn from those sectors who can continue to operate. That doesn't appear to be the case. The scheme will continue “for all sectors and regions of the UK”, as explicitly stated in
the Chancellor’s official Twitter feed.
We don't yet know if other changes are anticipated. For example, many businesses have asked for the minimum furlough period of three weeks to be reduced so they can more easily rotate workers required to be in work. That may be answered when further information is published later this month.
One in five UK workers furloughed
Approximately 800,000 employers have used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to furlough 6.3 million workers at a cost of £8 billion so far, according to the
latest government announcement.
Coronavirus – guidance on apprenticeships updated
The Department for Education, working together with the Education and Skills Funding Agency, has updated its
guidance note for apprentices. The updates relate to furloughed apprentices, end-point assessments, functional skills apprentices and qualification certification. Importantly, the guidance says that if an employer asks a furloughed worker to undertake training, they should be paid the relevant national minimum wage for this time.
The guidance also covers frequently asked questions to help apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations understand the changes that have been introduced.
TUC sets out strategy to get the UK back to work
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has a report setting out the steps it wants the government and employers to undertake to ensure a safe transition from lock-down:
Preparing for the return to work outside the home. The report calls on the government to make it clear that restrictions won’t be eased until adequate measures are in place to protect the health and safety of working people.
It recommends that any business employing more than five members of staff should be required to carry out a new, robust risk assessment before employees are allowed to return to work. This should identify the risks of exposure to Covid-19, provide an outline of the business's health and safety (H&S) plan, and the measures it is taking to reduce the risks identified.
This might include changing the layout of the working space to ensure that people can socially distance themselves, and also adjusting shift patterns. For example, employers might adjust start times and alternate the working patterns of sections of the workplace to reduce the numbers of people working in the same place at the same time. If these steps can't be taken, employers must supply appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Employers should also have to consider the specific H&S requirements of anyone who is shielding or is more vulnerable if they catch the disease. This includes pregnant women and those from a black and minority ethnic background, as this group is thought to be at greater risk than other ethnic groups.
The TUC wants these plans to be approved by an accredited H&S representative or an inspector from the H&S executive before the business reopens.
Furloughing staff: House of Commons examines the inconsistencies between government guidance and the Treasury Direction
As regular readers of this blog will know, there are significant inconsistencies between
government guidance about the scope of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Treasury Direction.
The House of Commons Library has provided answers to frequently asked questions about the CJRS in its recently published
Briefing Paper. Its aim is to inform MPs about the issues rather than to help employers decide how to interpret the rules. But it has some interesting things to say about the differences between the two documents, including:
Agreement to furlough
Sick leave and furlough
Staff who are shielding.
You can read our overview of the inconsistencies here. New regulations governing calculation of statutory maternity and other parent payments for furloughed staff
New regulations came into force on 25 April 2020 dealing with the calculation of ‘normal weekly earnings’ for the purposes of statutory maternity pay (SMP) and other statutory parental payments where the recipient is on furlough.
Read the new regulations in full on gov.uk. Law Commission recommends changes to the employment tribunal system
The Law Commission has revealed the ways in which employees can bring employment claims in the employment tribunal, employment appeals tribunal and civil courts in a
detailed report on employment law hearing structures. The report was commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and may lead to change.
The report makes a number of recommendations. These include:
Extending the time limit to bring claims from three to six months
Increasing the cap on breach of contract claims to £100,000
Extending the types of claims that can be issued as unlawful deductions
Improving the way in which claimants can recover awards.
Read our detailed summary of the employment law hearing structure report here.
Read more – May 2020
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