All our advice on the key issues can be found on the COVID-19 Advice Hub section of our website, which can be viewed here.

Last night (on 22.03.2020), the UK Government published the answers to some important questions on key workers, which we have reproduced below (they are in italics). If you have any questions on the guidance published by the Government, please do contact us. The Advice Team are available 24 hours a day on 01234 716029 (choose Option 1).

Please bear in mind that the Welsh and Scottish governments may offer different advice.

How are critical workers defined?

Children with a parent or carer who is listed on the government’s critical worker list should be considered for a school place, so long as their job cannot be done from home.

Many parents working in these sectors will be able to ensure their child is kept at home. And every child who can be safely cared for at home should be, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.

TBU Advice: There is a list of critical/key workers defined as people whose specific roles are necessary for the continuation of an essential public service, based on an employer’s business continuity arrangements. I’ve taken this from an earlier UK Government announcement.

Please note that the Government, employers and other organisations are using the terms “critical workers” and “key workers” interchangeably to describe the same group of people.

TSB has said it defines Key Workers as including: “all customer facing and back office processing teams in Customer Operations and our Branches and some other roles which are important to business continuity”. Other than that, it seems TSB has left it up to staff and managers to work it out themselves. TSB needs to urgently give individual staff a clear indication of whether or not it considers them to be key workers.

Is it compulsory for critical workers to accept their place offer?

No. Many parents working in these critical sectors will be able to ensure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.

When making alternative arrangements, parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, or friends or family members with underlying conditions.

TBU Advice: If you have been confirmed by the Bank as a key worker and you do not have alternative childcare, your children should be eligible for a school place. If schools are still refusing children in these circumstance, the Union will involve itself in helping members enforce their rights with schools. If you need our help, please call us on 01234 716029 (choose Option 1).

How do we identify pupils who are the children of critical workers?

We know many schools will have already spoken with parents/carers to identify who requires a school place.

If it proves necessary, schools can ask for simple evidence that the parent in question is a critical worker, such as their work ID badge or pay slip.

TBU Advice: You should speak to your line manager to ascertain whether or not your role makes you a key worker and ask for confirmation in writing. TSB has confirmed that it is producing letters for key workers to take to school if necessary; you should speak to your manager if you need a letter. If any problems arise, please contact the Advice Team on 01234 716029 (choose Option 1).

Should schools only offer places to children of single-parent critical workers and children where both their parents are critical workers?

Children with at least one parent/carer who is critical to the COVID-19 response can go to school if required.

However, many families with parents working in critical sectors will be able to ensure their child is kept at home. And every child who can be safely cared for at home should be, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.

TBU Advice: The advice from the Government is clear. Where necessary, the Union will involve itself in helping members enforce their rights with schools. If you need our help, please call us on 01234 716029 (choose Option 1).

Will critical workers or parents of vulnerable children be penalised if they do not send their child to school?

No. Children with a parent or carer who is listed on the government’s critical worker list are eligible for a school place. However, many parents working in these sectors will be able to ensure their child is kept at home. And every child who can be safely cared for at home should be, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.

How should schools identify which pupils are the children of critical workers?

We know many schools will have already spoken with parents/carers to identify who requires a school place.

If required, we recommend asking for simple evidence that the parent in question is a critical worker, such as confirmation from their employer on what their job is and how it is critical to the COVID-19 response.

TBU Advice: We’ve seen already attempts by schools to avoid taking children of critical/key workers, inventing their own rules. This is not acceptable and members experiencing problems should call us on 01234 716029 (choose Option 1).

What happens if you need to take time off to care for your children?

TSB has said: “If you need to take time off to care for a child because a school or nursery is closed the emergency compassionate leave policy will usually apply. You should have a conversation with your manager to explore options; alternative childcare, flexible working, remote working or you may need to take a period of unpaid leave. If you need to take time off to make alternative arrangements then you will be paid during that period.”

Members are not going to be able to afford to take unpaid time-off to care for children. The compassionate leave policy gives line managers discretion over whether to grant paid or unpaid leave.

Lloyds has told staff that for a period of 3 months: “For all of our full-time and part-time permanent colleagues we will continue to pay you your contracted hours as normal – no matter what your role is, how the outbreak affects what you do, or what your circumstances are”

In the circumstances, TSB should adopt the same approach and communicate it clearly to staff.

Further Advice For Vulnerable People

We’ve had some reports of members who are vulnerable to increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus, feeling under pressure to come into work even though the government’s clear advice and (TSB’s incidentally) is that they should not. Now, of course TSB management are not responsible for the views of staff who, for their own reasons don’t want to stay at home, but it would be irresponsible if subtle pressure was being exerted locally to persuade vulnerable people to work. The best way for TSB to avoid any possible doubt as to what is going on is for the Chief Executive to make it clear that vulnerable staff must stay at home. If she doesn’t do that, there will be a suspicion that TSB is leaving it open for local managers to exert pressure on people to come into work, even though the government says they should not.

 

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