The Department for Education said tonight that school staff who are pregnant should be talking with their school about working from home.
Government guidance, published this afternoon, says pregnant women should be particularly stringent to new measures aimed at protecting the most vulnerable groups, including working from home where possible.
However there’s some confusion over the guidance. Education staff have said it conflicts with today’s confirmation that schools are to remain open for the time being.
When asked for clarification, the DfE said that pregnant school staff are no different from all other employees and should be speak to their employer to work from home, if possible.
While employers should “support them to do this”, it appears the final decision is down to the employer.
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, called for greater clarity from the DfE to produce advice that applies specifically to schools and college.
Speaking tonight to sister title FE Week, she said: “Seventy-eight percent of the teaching and lecturing profession are female so the DfE should be alert to this and needs guidance on precautions pregnant staff should take in the context of working, or not, in schools and colleges.”
Bousted was critical of the DfE for “having no answers”, and added: “What the DfE should be doing is thinking about a duty of care to teachers and lectures and education professional and I don’t see that at the moment.”
One school leader, who did not wish to be named, told FE Week: “We’ve taken the view that pregnant staff shouldn’t attend work from tomorrow. The lack of help from the DfE is deafening.”
And a principal running a large college said: “We are recommending our pregnant staff to stay at home. All my focus is on supporting my staff and students but I understand that there’s a balance between medical decisions and staffing ones.
“We are in exceptional times and I’ve not doubt DfE are trying their best but they can’t leave us open much longer and a bigger issue for me is our international students being supported as many can’t return home.”
The latest government guidance on COVID-19 social distancing measures can be viewed here.