Key Points & Thoughts
1. Yesterday the Financial Markets suffered their worst crisis since Black Monday in 1987. The last crisis over ten years ago allowed the 1% to impose austerity on us whilst their personal wealth increased massively. This cannot be allowed to be repeated.
2. The Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty to the UK Government says worst case scenario is that 80% of us will get infected and that ~ 1% of the populations will die, that’s 500,000 people. (Most of us will only suffer mild symptoms). In addition he says we are approximately 4 weeks behind Italy. These types of coronaviruses mutate, so the situation could worsen still or improve.
Your Questions & concerns
1. The Government says we must self isolate for 7 days if we have a fever and/or a continuous cough; will I get paid? Will this trigger the school’s ‘absence policy’?
2. We are coming up to exam season; my students are worried they will fail, I’m worried I that I will fail my PM targets, I’m worried Ofsted will fail us because our results will be poor.
3. I have or live with someone who is; pregnant, diabetic, has respiratory issues, have a poor immune system or are onelderly?
4. If some of us are self isolating, should those of us in school do cover, or double up classes?
5. Should school trips and parent evenings go ahead?
6. If the school is partially or completely closed or if I am self isolating should I teach using online methods and/or video-call a lesson?
Answers & Guidance
1. Yes you will be paid. This does not count as a sick day and will not trigger your school’s absence policy. This is part of your Terms and Conditions as stated for teachers in the ‘Burgundy Book’ and the ‘Green Book’ for support staff. Further, Ealing’s guidance to headteachers via EGFL also states this.
2. Whilst this Government hasn’t yet closed schools like the rest of Europe, it has clearly implied that it will when the ratio of infected per percentage of the population increases. Northern Italy closed its schools on the 22nd of Feb and are unlikely to open until end of April – that’s almost 10 weeks! So our schools are very likely to close just as the bulk of the exams start next term. At the NEU National Executive meeting a week Saturday I will be arguing that the NEU calls for our schools to be closed immediately, all exams SATs GCSEs & A Levels be cancelled and all Ofsted inspections suspended for a year – preferably forever. We will have to rely on teacher judgement and course work. This is clearly not ideal, but with the prospect of up to 0.5 million people dying, this morally must take precedent. In the advent of our schools closing for so long Ealing NEU will support any school action up to and including strike action if any teacher is failed their PM targets this year. Before Performance Related Pay ten years ago all teachers moved up the pay scales automatically. All school union groups should seek guarantees that everyone will be moved up the pay scale from their headteacher.
3. Seek advice from your GP and/or call 111. If they say self isolate do so. Ealing Local Terms and Conditions entitles a teacher to be paid for up to 5 working days for a sick child or close relative ie Mum or Dad. You should hold a school union group meeting and call upon the school to pay all staff, teachers and support staff, alike for anyone in this category; pregnant, diabetic, respiratory issues, a poor immune system, onor elderly. The school must also extend the 5 days for as long as necessarily. The NEU will offer full support to anyone who has their pay docked or are threaten with disciplinary action. (Please note that as we do not yet have negotiating rights for support staff, your position must make this an official ‘dispute’; we successfully campaigned to defend paid religious leave for teachers and we rightly wanted it extended to all support staff. Shamefully Ealing UNISON formally objected to us fighting for support staff to have the same rights as teachers. To avoid this repeating when speaking to your headteacher simply include the word “dispute”. We can be in dispute when standing up for our support members but we can’t ‘negotiate’).
4. No. Your school should employ supply teachers, who will suffer severe financial hardship when schools are closed. Our Terms and Conditions are also covered by the ‘School Teachers pay & Conditions Document’. It states that we should only do cover “rarely and only in circumstances that are not foreseeable”. Clearly teachers self isolating as recommended by the Government is foreseeable.
5. Whilst the government is only advising to do a risk assessment. I believe that it would be wise for parent evenings and school trips to be postponed. Again call a union meeting and agree to put this to your headteacher.
6. There are many stories of teachers in Italy and China finding ways to teach their pupils via video calling and using online material. Some more useful and creative than others. Firstly it is important to note that whilst commendable and where possible desirable, children from disadvantaged backgrounds will suffer due to access of laptops if they are at home. If you are self isolating, only suffering mild symptoms and feel able to do this, then you should. School development plans could be worked upon too. However if you are too ill to do this then don’t, you are ill end off. Schools must consult with NEU school groups about the amount of work that one could be expected to do especially if you are looking after children or elderly parents.
We should also call upon our schools to continue to pay/hire staff that are employed by agencies and staff who are on very short notice temporary contracts.Staff should not be expected to deep clean their school if the Covid-19 is found in it.
Finally; in anticipation for when our schools do close, School NEU groups should call upon their school to find ways to continue to feed those children who rely on free school meals e.g. vouchers from supermarkets.
The Heath and Safety Act states “It shall be the duty of every employee while at work to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work”
Clive Romain the NEU’s senior solicitor says.
Can an employer discipline or dismiss an employee who refuses to go to work because they are concerned about catching the disease from colleagues or others?
i. Potentially yes, as long as fair process is followed and decision is reasonable.
ii. However if the employee is dismissed for refusing to attend work because he/she employee reasonably believes that they are in serious and imminent danger that would be automatically unfair under s100 ERA 1996.
In practice, employee may have difficulty in establishing “reasonable belief” in the absence of guidance from PHE or Government that the pandemic disease has become so contagious that employees should remain at home. Employee who is pregnant, over 60 or in some other higher risk group may be more likely than others to be able to demonstrate “reasonable belief”.
This important qualification re-emphasises the need to resolve these concerns collectively
Wider demands – We Should Not Pay For This Crisis
The Government should cancel; Utility bills, rent & mortgage payments and massively increase statutory sick pay for all those not able to work during this crisis. Additional food banks or distribution centres need to be set up supplied by the supermarkets – there is so much food that goes to waste. Private Hospitals should be made available to the NHS to cope with this coming tsunami of demands and pressures. The homeless should be housed in empty buildings.