News item

Updated government guidance on supplier relief and payment of supply teachers

4th February 2021

The government has published new guidance, Supplier Relief for Schools, which covers how maintained schools and academy trusts should support suppliers though the pandemic. It also links to updated guidance on Financial Support for Education, Early Years and Children’s Social Care which contains information on payments to supply teachers and other contingent workers as well as use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) in publicly-funded schools.

Use of the CJRS in publicly-funded schools

The Financial Support Guidance provides further detail for publicly-funded schools and early years providers on the DfE’s expectations around the use of furlough in circumstances where a private income stream has ceased or reduced due to the pandemic. This guidance is not new as it mirrors that provided during the first version of furlough.

The guidance reiterates previous advice that, in general, schools are not expected to furlough staff, however where:

  • a private income stream has reduced or ceased;
  • it is not possible to make savings from the existing budget in order to retain staff; and
  • all options have been considered for redeployment;

schools may seek support for these staff through the CJRS.

This is provided:

  • the employee works in an area of business where services are temporarily not required and whose salary is not covered by public funding;
  • the employee would otherwise be made redundant or laid off;
  • the employee is not involved in delivering provision that has already been funded;
  • the employee is not required to deliver provision for an attending child;
  • the grant from the CJRS would not be duplicative to other public grants received and would not lead to financial reserves being created.

The guidance clarifies that schools are not expected to consider each stream of private income separately so, for example, a school obtaining 4% of its total monthly income from private sources may, after exhausting all options to meet costs from existing budgets and redeployment, furlough staff (whose usual salary or combined salaries are linked with the income lost), provided their combined salaries are no greater than 4% of the school’s total salary bill and claim support though the CJRS.

Payment of supply staff during the pandemic

The guidance states the following:

Where schools directly employ supply staff

  • In line with existing advice, if the assignment is live the school should continue to pay these staff from their existing school budgets and not furlough them.
  • If a contract has been terminated due to COVID-19 earlier than the original terms set out, schools should reinstate these contracts on the terms previously agreed, as long as the contractor is not already accessing alternative support through another government support scheme.
  • Schools should continue to engage zero hours/casual staff where they are needed during this period, paying them as normal under the terms their contracts of employment.
  • Where schools or local authorities had expected to use their public funding to engage supply staff directly and had budgeted for this, but work is no longer needed due to COVID-19, the guidance encourages schools to pay staff at 80% of their typical gross pay.
  • In such an event, this should be calculated using a reference period of the previous 12 weeks (or as many weeks as the individual has been on assignment) to determine average days/ hours worked. Payments are subject to a cap of £2,500 per calendar month with the total amount payable limited to the amount the school had originally budgeted for such staff from their public funding.

Where schools use agency supply staff

  • In line with previous guidance, staff on live assignments who can continue to work (either supporting face to face education or supporting remote education) should continue to be paid in the usual way.
  • Where agency staff on live assignments cannot continue to work due to COVID-19, schools are encouraged to continue to make previously-agreed payments for the supply staff at 80% of the agreed contract rate.
  • Where agency staff are not on live assignments with schools, or where a previously-agreed assignment is due to end, schools and agencies should discuss any further demand for work. If there is no further demand, the agency can apply to furlough supply staff via the CJRS.

Where the school pays a member of supply staff via a Personal Service Company (PSC):

  • Where the services of the supply staff are still required and they continue to work, it is expected schools will ensure they will be paid in the usual fashion, from existing staff budgets.
  • Where the school is closed or has reduced capacity and no longer requires the supply staff, schools are advised to continue to pay the staff at 80% of the agreed rate up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
  • If an agency pays the supply teacher’s PSC, rather than the school, it may be appropriate to continue to claim for grants under the CJRS.

Schools will note that the guidance above creates a higher expectation than before about the range of circumstances in which supply teachers will continue to be paid (albeit at 80% of the agreed rate, presumably to mirror furlough rules). However it remains an expectation only and it will be for individual schools to take a view on what’s most appropriate in such cases.