COVID-19 FAQs

To help members stay apprised, here are some answers to the questions we're getting asked most often. We'll keep this updated as the situation progresses. (Last updated 24 November 2020: Health and Safety)

GENERAL QUERIES 

As further guidance is published, we will update our advice

Safe Workplaces

According to the Prime Minister’s announcement on 10 May, employers should ensure that the workplace is safe by meeting the COVID-secure standards – these can be found here

What is essential is that every employer undertakes robust and transparent risk-assessment of every different aspect of re-opening and share these with their employees to ensure that any return can be done as safely as possible. 

5 Steps to Working Safely 

There are five basic principles of COVID-19 workplace control and these should be at the forefront of considerations when developing the safe systems of work to become COVID Secure 

  1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment 
  2. Develop and implement cleaning, hand washing and hygiene procedures 
  3. Help people to work from home wherever possible 
  4. Maintain 2 metre social distancing where possible  
  5. Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk by implementing additional measures  

In addition to this, in education settings, bubbles should be implemented and closely adhered to. Staff should not move across multiple ‘bubbles’.   

Face Coverings

The advice on face coverings and PPE is different in each of the four nations of the Whilst the official advice from PHE and the Department for Education is that the majority of staff in education settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, Voice Community believes that, should you want to wear a mask, or deem it necessary in your place of work, then you should not be prohibited from wearing one.  

Members should consider carefully the needs of children when making a decision on wearing a mask in the workplace and should consider whether other forms of PPE would be more appropriate – especially for those children who rely on lip reading such as the deaf and hearing impaired. 

Further details on Face Coverings 

Risk Assessments 

Every school and education setting must carry out a risk assessment before re-opening which they should make available to all staff. The assessment should consider the risks associated with coronavirus (COVID-19), so that sensible measures can be put in place to control those risks for children and staff. This risk assessment should be revisited and updated whenever necessary (i.e. after a positive case of COVID-19 in the school or after a government update).  

Voice Community is encouraging members to engage in the risk assessment process so that you are having your opinions heard and your concerns addressed. You are entitled to see a risk assessment because Employers have a duty to consult employees on health and safety matters, and although your employer doesn’t have to produce a risk assessment for each individual employee, they do need to identify the ‘at risk’ groups and individuals (including BAME) and this may mean they need to produce individual risk assessments for those impacted to ensure their health and safety. 

Since you know your workplace best, you are the most appropriate person to know if the risks identified are being addressed, however, Voice Community has produced a risk assessment checklist, which although not exhaustive, may help guide you on what you should be looking for. 

What do the new Covid Alert Levels knowns as TIERS mean for Education and Childcare? 

Schools, Colleges & Childcare 

The government guidance emphasises that keeping education settings open is a major priority. This means that at all levels education and childcare will remain fully open to all in most circumstances.  

The government have recognised the impact the lockdown has had on children and young people’s wellbeing and educational development and appreciates that for a number of reasons they should be in school or college (unless required to self-isolate).  

What about University? 

Universities will also remain open at every Local Covid Alert Level, but not all facilities and activities will be able to operate.  Universities will have to discuss with local Public Health and local partners should consider at Local Covid Alert Level: High or Very High when and how they move to greater online provision as this will vary across campuses and courses - for example medicine, dentistry and the creative arts will require a face-to-face element.  

Vulnerable staff in the workplace 

Guidance which clinically extremely vulnerable individuals are strongly urged to follow, published 4 November and covering the November lockdown says that: 

  • socialising: stay at home as much as possible, except to go outdoors to exercise or attend health appointments. People can exercise with those they live with or in their support bubble 
  • work: if people cannot work from home, they should not attend work. They may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit or the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme during this period of national measures. People in the same household who are not clinically extremely vulnerable can still attend work, in line with the new national restrictions 
  • school: children who live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, but aren’t themselves, should still attend school 
  • going outside: avoid all non-essential travel – they should continue to travel to hospital and GP appointments unless told otherwise by their doctor. They are strongly advised not to go to any shops or to pharmacies 

Who is Clinically Extremely Vulnerable? 

People who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable are at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. There are 2 ways you may be identified as clinically extremely vulnerable: 

  1. You have one or more of the conditions listed, or 
  2. Your hospital clinician or GP has added you to the Shielded patients list because, based on their clinical judgement, they deem you to be at higher risk of serious illness if you catch the virus.  

The group list is updated regularly as patients’ conditions or the scientific evidence changes, so the majority will have received a letter previously from the NHS or their GP advising them of their inclusion. 

Please check here if you believe you may be clinically extremely vulnerable for the latest list of conditions. 

We have been told that letters will be going out to all those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, providing them with further detail on the updated guidance and on how to access the support available. 

Coronavirus and pregnancy 

What is the main advice for pregnant women? 

According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), there is no evidence that pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from coronavirus but pregnant women have been included in the list of people at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) as a precaution.   

Pregnant women should follow the latest government guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing) and avoid anyone who has symptoms suggestive of coronavirus.  

If you are in your third trimester (more than 28 weeks’ pregnant) you should be particularly attentive to social distancing. 

Read more

Mental Health 

For so many reasons, we are living through a very difficult time. Voice Community cares deeply about your health and wellbeing and this includes your mental health. If you think you require any help and support, then please access help from one of the services below - they are all free to access. 

A discussion about guarding mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here https://www.rehab4addiction.co.uk/coronavirus/mental-health-coronavirus 

Childcare issues 

The government has, on numerous occasions, expressed the importance of employers being flexible as workplaces across the country begin to reopen. On 3 June, in the daily Coronavirus briefing, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said that employers would need to be flexible if employees were experiencing childcare issues as a result of schools/nurseries being closed.  

If you are experiencing difficulties, then you must explain the issue and should ask your employer to be flexible around your return to the workplace. You may be able to work flexibly, or you may need to take some annual or unpaid leave. 

If, after discussing this with your employer, you feel you need support, then please call Voice Community on 01332 372337

Workload 

Your school leaders should consider the wellbeing of all staff, including you, your colleagues and the senior leaders themselves.  This might mean introducing flexible working practices in a way that promotes good work-life balance and supports teachers and leaders – especially those who have caring responsibilities at home. 

It is unreasonable for you to be expected to prepare work for children to do at home, if you are also expected to be fully working in the classroom.  And no one should be expected to work whilst they are ill. 

Workload should be carefully managed, and your Head Teacher should assess whether those staff who are having to stay at home due to health conditions are able to support remote education, leaving those on-site to focus on face-to-face provision. 

Curriculum and Resources 

In April 2020, the Government temporarily disapplied and modified certain elements of the Early Years Foundation Stage framework. This means that schools and nurseries were required to use their “best endeavours” to meet learning and development requirements and other duties.  But the rest of the EYFS remains in place. 

Please be aware that the requirement to have someone with full PFA certification on-site remains in place where children aged 0-24 months are on-site, due to the higher safety factors for babies and children in this youngest age bracket. See our nurseries and childcare FAQs for more information.

What about childminders? 

From 1 June, childminders were able reopen to look after children of all ages. This is in line with your current Ofsted registration, and within usual limits on the number of children you care for.  

Be particularly careful as you will be welcoming people into your own home.  You may wish to consider limiting the number of rooms your children use and must ensure all equipment is thoroughly cleaned every day. 

I am a nanny. Can I still go to work? 

Yes. If you provide paid-for childcare in a child’s home, you can go to your place of work.  However, it is important that you take as many precautions as possible in line with Public Health England guidance, such as walking and cycling to work, or wearing a face covering when using public transport.  

Your employer should complete a risk assessment and share this with you.  It should identify the risks and look at ways of reducing them.  This could include limiting the rooms you use, an increased cleaning regime and use of PPE and face coverings.  

No nanny should be forced to continue to work if they do not feel safe to do so. 

What about Tutors? 

Home tutoring and elective home educating 

The government guidance (4 November 2020) states: 

“Home tutoring and out-of-school activities to support elective home education can continue to operate provided that they are primarily used by home educating parents as part of their arrangements for their child to receive a suitable full-time education.” 

This means that whilst tutors can operate, they should only provide certain types of provision.  For example, if: 

  1. they are providing education to someone who is home educated 
  2. they are providing education whilst a parent is otherwise at work (and therefore it allows the parent to continue to be employed) 
  3. they are providing respite care for the parent 
  4. they are working with vulnerable children 

In all other instances we recommend that tutors work with their tutees virtually via video conferencing. 

We advise members also check with their insurers.  Since the general rule is that people should not be entering someone else’s house, unless they fall under one of the above categories, they may not be covered under their insurance.  This would equally apply if pupils were to come into their home. 

In any event, we recommend you complete a risk assessment and follow all social distancing rules and wearing face-coverings etc, as appropriate. 

Self Isolation 

If you are advised to self-isolate by Test & Trace or by the app, you must inform your employer immediately and should not attend work under any circumstance. 

If you then develop symptoms, ensure that your employer knows this and book a time to be tested. If you test positive, you will be notified by text, email or phone and asked to log on to the NHS Test and Trace website. You will then be asked for some personal information to assist in the tracing of people you may have come into contact with.  

It is illegal for your employer to knowingly permit any worker (including an agency worker) to attend any place other than where the individual is self-isolating.  This includes individuals who are required to self-isolate because they live with someone who has tested positive.  So, if your employer knows a worker has tested positive (or lives with someone who has tested positive), they are now responsible for stopping the worker from working (unless they can work from home).  Any employer who fails to do so will face a fine, starting at £1,000. 

Where self-isolation means buying deliveries (takeaway food, online deliveries, etc.) it is important that wherever possible you avoid direct contact with the person making the delivery – arrange for deliveries to be left on doorsteps or outside the room. See our FAQs on Self Isolation for more information.

What if I am contacted by the Tracers? 

If you are considered to be at risk of infection, you will be told to stay home for 14 days. This will still apply, even if you have no symptoms so that you don’t unwittingly spread the virus. The people you live with will not have to isolate with you unless they develop symptoms.  

Will I still be paid if I am not required to work? 

You should still be paid as per your contract and absence policy.  This will be different across the wider workforce so please check your contract.   If your contract has a temporary termination clause, this could be enacted. You may also be asked to work reduced hours and may only be paid for the hours you work.  

The government has said that if you are asked to self-isolate, without symptoms, by the NHS Track and Trace team, you are, as a minimum, eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) at £95.85 per week. In a televised interview on Thursday 28th May, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said  "If you are instructed by the NHS, for public health reasons, to stay at home then that is the equivalent in employment law to being ill and it is very important that employers are flexible about this." If you have any questions, then please call our membership line on 01332 378008. 

COVID-19 App 

Use of the NHS App in Education & Childcare Settings in England

The app is for people aged 16 and over so it is not recommended for nursery or school-aged children.  And there is no need to change existing policies on the use of mobile phones by pupils due to the use of the app. 

If your mobile is stored in a staffroom, locker or drawer during the day and is not on your person, please ensure you turn off the ‘contact tracing’ function to prevent false alerts. 

If, during the day, a student receives a message from the app., it is essential that they inform a member of staff. To support this, the notification itself will advise them that if they are under the age of 18, they should show the message to a trusted adult and self-isolate. Staff and students should then follow the setting’s agreed process, including making appropriate arrangements for the student to leave the setting at the earliest opportunity to begin self-isolation. 

If you or any other member of staff receive notification from the app., you must also follow the usual process of informing an appropriate person at the setting.  You should then self-isolate.  

Your workplace will consider what action they may need to take if a number of staff members were informed at the same time that they had been in close contact with a positive case, to ensure continuity of education or childcare.  

England and Wales NHS COVID-19 App  

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Protect Scotland App

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StopCOVID Northern Ireland App 

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