• The government’s recent guidance on returning to work for those who are unable to work from home has caused uncertainty for many. It particularly affects those in the education sector.

    Staff concerns – returning to work

    According to a recent question asked of event attendees at our latest online Education Matters Forum, run in partnership with Kreston Reeves, only 5% of teachers and school workers attending indicated that they felt ready at that time to accommodate the return of pupils to reception, years one and six from 1 June 2020, as currently proposed by the government.

    This is in line with the results of a NASUWT teachers’ union poll of almost 30,000 members released today (20 May 2020). The poll found that just 5% believed it was safe for more children to return to schools in England from 1 June.

    Understandably, there were also key concerns around staff who might refuse to return to work. This is despite protective measures being put in place and what steps schools may be able to legally take.

    Current guidance on returning to work

    Current guidance states that if someone is considered ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ they should not be working outside their home. This means not returning to work within a school.

    Those considered ‘clinically vulnerable’ should work from home where possible. Alternatively, they should be given the safest option available.

    If someone is living with an extremely vulnerable person, they can attend school to work. However, this is only if stringent measures can and are being taken in the workplace. If living with someone who is a clinically vulnerable person, employees can still return to work.

    We have covered this issue in more detail here.

    Guidance for education providers

    Before considering the return of greater numbers of pupils to school, it will be an important part of the planning to carry out an audit of all staff to check their position and views on returning. This will impact on your ability to provide teaching to pupils and on pupil numbers. We advise you take into consideration what staff are saying and ensure consultation takes place. Do also bear in mind any employment law implications (such as reasonable adjustments that may be required) before returning staff to the workplace.

    Another point of discussion at the Education Matters Forum was around good practice in terms of home working. This encompasses data protection legislation and in particular, the need to update or refresh training around policies. This would include data protection policies, IT policies, and home working policies.

    Further guidance can be found here.

    Education events and support

    Last week’s online forum formed part of the Education Matters series. These regular round table events and online discussions are designed for those in the education sector to share best practice with peers. They are also a good way for attendees to gain expert legal and financial guidance on shared issues.

    The sessions are facilitated by Brachers’ education specialist lawyers, alongside representatives from leading accountancy firm Kreston Reeves.

    The latest government guidance

    Key guidance for schools considering returning to work are listed below. We would recommend that these guides are carefully reviewed when planning a return to school.

     Further support

    To find out how you can participate in the next forum or for expert education legal advice, please contact Brachers Education team.

    This content is correct at time of publication

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