DfE publishes furlough rules for schools

State schools that have private income streams such as catering, sports facilities lettings or boarding provision, can furlough these staff, the government has confirmed.

In an update published this evening, schools were also advised to reinstate the contracts of any contingent workers, such as supply teachers, that were terminated because of the coronavirus, but only where the school was the workers’ employer.

The guidance states that in this case, 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.”

It also confirms private schools should access the furlough scheme “in order to retain staff and enable the school to reopen fully in due course”.

The document adds that the government “do not, in general, expect [state] schools to furlough staff”.

However they “understand that, in some instances, schools may have a separate private income stream (for example, catering, sports facilities lettings, or boarding provision funded by parents in state boarding schools).

“Where this income has either stopped or been reduced and there are staff that are typically paid from those private income streams, it may be appropriate to furlough staff. Schools should first seek to make the necessary savings from their existing budget or consider options to redeploy these staff before furloughing them.”

 

Here is the DfE guidance in relation to schools in full:

 

State-funded schools

This includes maintained schools, academy trusts, alternative provision, non-maintained special schools, state funded boarding schools and school-based nursery provisions. Maintained nursery schools should refer to the early years section above.

Mainstream state-funded schools

Local authority maintained schools (including pupil referral units) and academies (including free schools) will continue to receive their budgets for the coming year, as usual, regardless of any periods of partial or complete closure. That will ensure that they are able to continue to pay their staff, and meet their other regular financial commitments, as we move through these extraordinary times. We know that schools may face additional costs as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19). We have put in place additional support to help schools meet these costs; guidance is available on this additional funding.

We do not, in general, expect schools to furlough staff. However, we understand that, in some instances, schools may have a separate private income stream (for example, catering, sports facilities lettings, or boarding provision funded by parents in state boarding schools). Where this income has either stopped or been reduced and there are staff that are typically paid from those private income streams, it may be appropriate to furlough staff. Schools should first seek to make the necessary savings from their existing budget or consider options to redeploy these staff before furloughing them. Only after all other potential options have been fully considered should schools furlough those members of staff and seek support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The following conditions need to be met:

  • 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
  • (where appropriate) the employee is not required to deliver provision for a child of a critical worker and/or vulnerable child
  • the grant from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme would not duplicate other public grants received and would not lead to financial reserves being created

Where these conditions are met, schools should receive a grant from the CJRS which is in line with the proportion of its paybill which could be considered to have been funded by a school’s private income.

Schools are not expected to consider each stream of private income separately so a school should consider its total income from private sources, as a proportion of its overall income, and the pay of all the staff it proposes to furlough, as a proportion of its total paybill.

The DfE is considering appropriate measures to monitor the use of this scheme in order to detect any duplication of funding, and will be considering potential options to recover misused public funding as required.

 

Supply teachers and other contingent workers in state-funded schools

The below guidance sets out the general principles that state-funded schools (hereafter referred to as ‘schools’ in this section) and employment intermediaries (hereafter referred to as ‘agencies’ in this section) should follow for contingent workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Where schools are the workers’ direct employer

Schools will continue to receive their budgets for the coming year as usual, regardless of any periods of partial or complete closure. This will ensure that they are able to continue to pay for staff and meet their other regular financial commitments.

Hence, we expect schools to ensure any employees funded by public money continue to be paid in the usual fashion from their existing staff budgets, and correspondingly not furloughed, in line with the HM Revenue and Customs guidance for public sector organisations.

Where schools have live assignments with contingent workers, and where the school is the workers’ employer, schools should continue to pay these workers from their existing school budgets and not furlough them.

Where schools have terminated contracts with contingent workers due to coronavirus (COVID-19) earlier than the original terms set out, and where the school was the workers’ employer under that contract, 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.

Where schools are not the workers’ direct employer

Schools are advised to refer to all parts of the Procurement Policy Note 02/20 (PPN 02/20), which provides guidance for public bodies on payment of their suppliers for the purposes of ensuring the continuity of critical service during and after the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Where schools have agency workers on live assignments who can continue to work, they may continue to make previously agreed payments for the supply of workers in line with the approach set out in PPN 02/20. Agencies who receive money for workers in line with this guidance should not furlough these workers, and should follow the open book accounting rules set out in PPN 02/20 to provide schools with proof that workers are continuing to be paid as normal.

Where schools have agency workers on live assignments who cannot continue to work due to coronavirus (COVID-19), schools and agencies should refer to the guidance set out in Procurement Policy Note 02/20: Contingent Workers Impacted by COVID-19.

The supplier relief guidance covers the length of existing live assignments up to the end date that had been previously agreed. It does not require these assignments to be extended further if the resource will not be required.

Where agency workers 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 the worker. If there is no further demand, the employer can apply to furlough the worker via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Once a worker has been furloughed, they become unavailable to work and cannot provide services for their employer for a minimum of 3 weeks. Schools and agencies should bear this in mind when discussing ongoing resource requirements and agencies should keep this under regular review. Please refer to the supplier relief guidance for more information.

Where a worker is self-employed

Self-employed workers who are unable to work because of coronavirus (COVID-19) will be able to access support through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

Starting new temporary contracts

We expect schools will use their existing staff to maintain necessary provision, but schools may also continue to need supply teachers and other temporary workers throughout this period. We encourage schools and agencies to continue to liaise about any potential need to ensure workers are available where required.

School workforce employers can find additional guidance on the school workforce in the guidance on temporary school closures.

 

Private schools

 

Mainstream independent schools

In line with other settings, independent schools have been asked to remain open for the children of critical workers and the most vulnerable children. Independent schools are, in general, funded by fee income paid by parents. Since schools have closed to the majority of pupils, they, like other businesses, may be facing a sudden and substantial loss of income. These institutions should access the support schemes referred to above, in order to retain staff and enable the school to reopen fully in due course.

However, if there are any activities for which schools continue to receive public funding, such as looked after children placed by a local authority, or local authority support for pupils with EHC plans, we expect schools to use that money to continue to pay those staff in the usual fashion – and therefore not furlough them or seek support via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

 

Independent special schools

The majority of pupils in independent special schools have been placed there by local authorities under an EHC plan, funded from the high needs block of the DSG.

As noted above, local authorities will continue to receive their high needs budgets and should continue to pay top-up and other high needs funding to independent special schools, so that the employment and payment of staff supporting children and young people with SEND can continue. Some independent special schools also have pupils who are funded privately instead of under an EHC plan. These institutions should only access the support schemes identified above in relation to the proportion of staff that is not supported through public funding, and only to the extent that the school is facing a loss of income because the children have been withdrawn by their parents leading to a loss of fee income.