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Update: how we’ve been supporting staff in light of COVID-19

The following correspondence was sent via email to all teaching and support staff working with Equal Education on 26th March 2020.

Good evening, Noswaith dda,

I hope this email finds you well at this challenging time.

The impact of COVID-19 is unprecedented in our living memories and as the crisis impacts us all, our families and our professional lives. All of us at Equal are affected and we understand how this affects so many of you too.

I’m writing this evening to update you on what Equal’s office team has been doing over the past week and a half to support our teaching and support staff members during the current crisis.

While so many of you have been speaking to Anna (and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank her for all she’s been doing to support our team members), Carolyn, Tom, Sian, Alisha and I have also been busy doing our level best to find ways to support you.

To elaborate further, here’s what we’ve been doing to support you over the past week or so:

Securing pay for teaching and support staff on long-term contracts

Last week and this week, through engaging with schools and local authorities, we ensured that our team members on long-term placements will be paid by schools and local authorities during the period of school closures up until the date the placement was intended for (whether up until the Easter holidays, May half term or summer holidays).

Bringing forward our pay date and paying out all holiday pay accrued to date

This week, we paid out all pay for last week’s work on Wednesday morning. In this most recent payroll, we have also paid out all holiday pay accrued to date to ensure that our team members have all their pay as soon as possible and to avoid any future holiday pay from interfering with other support you might receive.

Providing support to all team members via phone and email

Many of us are working remotely but we’re available over the phone and via email to all teaching and support staff members. We want to stay in touch with you and are doing our best to check in with you. Do feel free to get in touch for a chat at any time on 01554 777749 or keep in touch via text or email.

Researching and sharing information about financial support available to our employees

We’ve been paying particularly close attention to the evolving support being made available for employees paid via PAYE by the UK government. Given the uncertainty about this, in case it turns out our teachers and support staff have to rely on Universal Credit, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), we’ve been sharing information about these support mechanisms in the first instance.

Current UK government guidance states that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (80% payment until June 1st) will apply to agency workers. Before we can offer and implement this and advise any individuals we need further clarifications on who this will apply to (e.g. how recently must an individual have worked for Equal to qualify, how this applies to agency workers working with multiple agencies) and how the 80% will be calculated (e.g. for staff who work different days and whose pay varies each week).

Please trust that if we can we will do all that we can once we have further clarifications but we cannot roll this out until we know how to implement this in a fully compliant way which will enable us to recover the funds paid out in full.

Working to secure alternative work for our team members

We haven’t relied on or expected our employees to rely on the government support which might be available. Rather, we have been actively working to secure alternative work for team members in the following three areas:

[CONFIDENTIAL INITIATIVE]

Care homes – we’ve reached out to over 100 care homes across South & West Wales to secure work in the coming weeks & months for teachers and support staff who would be interested in working in a care setting over.

Private Tutoring – we’ve invested hundreds of pounds in paid advertising to reach parents who are looking for online tuition and hundreds more in licensing an online platform (bramble.io) to facilitate online tutoring in an effective and safe manner. Please note that we are not taking any payments for tutoring, but rather connecting teachers to be paid directly by parents for any tutoring undertaken.

Engaging with local, Welsh & UK government

We have actively raised the issue of the impact of COVID-19 on supply staff to the Directors of Education and councillors in all local authorities in which we work. We’ve also raised it with the National Procurement Service (NPS) education recruitment framework manager, the Welsh Government and the UK Government, and signed and promoted petitions to support payment to supply staff at this time.

Working with the REC, CBI & FSB

We’ve also been engaging with the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to raise our collective concerns and feed into their work to lobby the UK Government and inform the solutions they are bringing forward to support employment across the UK. In particular, we’ve worked to ensure as much as possible that the impact of COVID-19 on agency workers, including supply staff, is on the agenda.

I hope this email helps clarify what we’ve been doing over the past week and helps assure you that we’re doing our very best to support you at this time. We will continue to do so and will be in touch with further updates in due course.

In the meantime, do stay in touch and take care.

Thank you very much.

Very best wishes,

Liam (also on behalf of Carolyn, Tom, Sian, Anna & Alisha)


Liam Rahman
Director (Development & Partnerships)
Equal Education