Britain’s army of supply teachers – and the recruitment firms that partner with them – face an uncertain future as schools across the UK close their doors to pupils due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. That is the warning from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).
There are currently tens of thousands supply teachers working across the UK, with government figures revealing that £1.3 billion was spent by maintained schools and academies on supply staff in 2015/16 and 2016/17 alone.
Unlike permanent teaching staff, supply teachers who are out of work due to school closures are likely to be directed straight towards the benefits system.
According to guidance from teacher union, NASUWT, agency workers who have three months continuous service may be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) subject to earning a minimum of £118 per week if they are self-isolating. However, Supply teachers who are well but unable to work due to school closures could claim Universal Credit or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.
Commenting on the current situation, Tania Bowers, Legal Counsel and Head of Public Affairs at APSCo, said:
“School closures will have a major impact on our members working in the education sector and the supply teachers they partner with. With ministers suggesting that schools could be closed until September, there is no end in sight – and for the supply staff that schools heavily rely on in usual circumstances, if there is no work then there is no pay.
“Education recruiters, meanwhile, will be in the unenviable position of deciding whether to terminate assignments with their clients and will also have to look at their own business continuity planning given this decision. There is also the issue of protecting the income of the flexible workforce given that other sectors are also being impacted. We hope that the package announced by The Chancellor to help businesses survive this crisis will be accessible soon and easily.”