Guidelines for Staff Returning to School

Year Published: 2020

With the re-opening of schools proposed to begin from 1st June, school leaders are likely to be presented with queries from staff who are concerned about returning to school and the possible impact on their health and wellbeing. Below is a useful guide to assist you with responding to any staff concerns.

Vulnerable Staff

Previously, clinically extremely vulnerable individuals were advised to stay at home for a period of 12 weeks. This includes staff who have:

  1. Solid organ transplant recipients.
  2. Staff with specific cancers:
    • staff with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
    • staff with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
    • staff with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • staff having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    • staff having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    • staff who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  3. staff with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD).
  4. staff with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).
  5. staff on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
  6. Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.

Staff who fall in this group should have been contacted via letter to tell them they are clinically extremely vulnerable and given a 12-week period to shield. Where agreed, staff should issue the school with a copy of the letter.

Staff in this position should be shielding and are advised not to attend work until their 12-week period is completed.

Clinically vulnerable individuals who are at higher risk of severe illness are those who are:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab each year on medical grounds):
  • chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy
  • diabetes
  • a weakened immune system as the result of certain conditions, treatments like chemotherapy, or medicines such as steroid tablets
  • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
  • pregnant women

Staff in this category should work from home where possible. If they cannot, staff will be offered the safest available on-site space to ensure the required 2 metre distance. If it is found that this is unachievable and staff do work within 2 metres of other people, school should carefully assess and discuss with them whether this involves an acceptable level of risk and make the necessary adjustments.

If a staff member lives with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable), the current Government guidance is that they should attend work.

If you live in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable, you can attend work as long as stringent social distancing can be adhered to. School will be ensuring that stringent social distancing is in place for the safety of all. If this is found to be unachievable, staff will be supported to work from home.

Self Isolation

Staff who have symptoms of Coronavirus must self-isolate for 7 days.

Those who live with someone who has symptoms of the virus must self-isolate for 14 days from the day their symptoms started.

Childcare Issues When Returning to School

All staff who work in school are key workers, therefore, if your child is of school age, their school must provide a place for them to attend their school.

For staff who have children of nursery age, most nursery providers will also be re-opening on 1st June, therefore, their nursery should provide a place for them to attend.

Some schools are offering children of key workers a place at their own school to allow staff to work.

If staff refuse to attend work due to a lack of childcare provision or choose to keep their children off school, then they should be placed on dependants’ leave with a regular review of their circumstances. There is no entitlement to be paid during dependants’ leave.

For further advice on employees returning to schools, contact our Employment team on 0161 475 7676 or email [email protected].

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