General advice for school workers

This page was last updated on 18 May at 13.10


The Government has announced that primary schools may be asked to reopen to children in reception, Year 1 and Year 6. This might be from Monday 1 June. The Government has also said it expects students in Years 10 and 12 to be able to access a degree of face-to-face education before the summer holidays.

Education trade unions, including UNISON, are concerned about the lack of detail about how schools will be safe for children, students and staff.

UNISON’s National Schools Committee met on Thursday 14 May and agreed that the union should continue to oppose the government’s unsafe proposal to increase pupil numbers in England from 1 June. The Committee was a little encouraged to hear that at a meeting earlier that day, Department for Education (DfE) officials were keen to stress that the 1 June date was ‘aspirational’ and that the guidance being provided was ‘non-statutory’.


Read our latest advice to school staff here.

Download a model letter you can give to your Head Teacher about reopening, or extending provision here.

Read the latest statement from UNISON’s National Schools Committee here.

All schools closed on 20 March. Some children will continue to attend school, such as those with additional needs, or the children of key workers. This does not mean that all key workers should send their children to school all the time. Children should be at home whenever possible.

NJC Joint Guidance 23 March (includes information on schools and key workers)

Some staff will be required to be in school. However, staffing levels must be the minimum required to look after the children present. If the number of children reduces during the day, staff should be sent home.

Staff must not be told to come into work to undertake any other duties other than the care of the children present. You can be asked to take work home, but only work that is reasonable for you to do at home.

Regardless of whether you are required in school or not, you should be paid your normal wage during any closure period. As you are still being paid, your school can require you to attend work (subject to government guidance about working from home where possible, avoiding unnecessary travel, etc).

The Local Government Association has confirmed that whilst some staff may be required to still come into work during a school closure, there may be some staff who can neither work from home nor be redeployed elsewhere. In these cases employers will have to accept that these staff will be staying at home on full pay for the duration of the emergency.

If schools need staff to be redeployed temporarily to other duties, or even other schools, some degree of flexibility will be required BUT schools should seek volunteers first. Additional costs associated with travel should be paid in accordance with whatever policies are in place.

If staff are asked to temporarily undertake different roles, they must be given suitable training and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). Staff who are asked to take on lower-grade roles should continue to be paid at their normal grade, and staff covering higher-grade roles should be paid the higher rate.

Term-time only staff

In recent years lots of our schools have reduced the pay of support staff so that they are only paid during term-time. We have always opposed this. One consequence is that those staff no longer have a contractual requirement to be available for work during school holidays. If you are employed on a term-time only contract you can choose whether to work during the holiday. If you do, you should be paid additional hours for this.

Consultations, redundancies, reorganisations

Our position is clear; there can be no meaningful consultation during this emergency. We have asked all schools to suspend consultations about redundancies, restructures and Academy transfers. You have enough to cope with at the moment without having to go through consultations.

We recognise that, thanks to Government cuts, many schools are struggling financially and may find it difficult to put off restructures and redundancies. In these circumstances we have called on the County Council to provide emergency financial assistance so schools can retain current staffing levels until the autumn.

North Yorkshire County Council Schools (‘maintained’ schools)

If your school is still a local authority school then you are covered by the Green Book terms and conditions for all local government workers. You should turn to our information for local government workers.

View our advice for local government workers

Academy schools

If you school has become an Academy, or has joined a Multi-Academy Trust then the position will depend on your particular Academy. When your employment transferred you will have taken your Green Book entitlements with you. As far as we are aware, most Academy Trust operating in North Yorkshire still honour the Green Book. In most cases you can use our advice for local government workers, but if your Academy does not honour the Green Book then you will need to contact us for advice. We will be urging all Academy employers to match the entitlements and support that County Council employees receive.

View our advice for local government workers

Private Schools and Free Schools

Your minimum entitlements are statutory entitlements (such as SSP when self-isolating or symptomatic, or the right to unpaid leave to care for dependents). However, individual employers may offer more than statutory entitlements and this will be explained in your employment contract.

Private contractors – such as cleaning and catering services

Sadly our members who have had their employment outsourced through the privatisation of cleaning and catering contracts are the most vulnerable workers within our schools. In most cases your rights under the Green Book will have transferred with you to your new employer. However, we know that most of these private companies refuse to recognise entitlements under the Green Book. For advice on sick pay, absence management processes and incremental progression; in the first instance please ask your manager and check your company polices. If you experience any problems, or think what you are being told is wrong please contact the branch so we can help you.

Regardless of contractual entitlements, you should continue to be paid as normal during any school closure. However, as you work for a private company, a reduction in work could be grounds for a lawful redundancy. If your employer threatens redundancy you must contact the branch office straight away.

View our general advice for members who work for private companies

Can I be asked to work during school holidays or on bank holidays?

Some schools may decide to open for the children of key workers during school holidays and/or on bank holidays. For staff who are paid full-year then you can be asked to work during the holidays (there are different considerations for staff who are employed on teacher’s terms and conditions). Employers should be reasonable and take into account childcare or other genuine cases which would mean you cannot come in to work.

If you are only paid term-time, then you are unlikely to have a contractual obligation to work during school holidays. If you volunteer to work, you should be paid additional hours.