Parents and Key Workers

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.

Are You A Key Worker?

The UK Government has confirmed the following with regard to key workers:

Utilities, communication and financial services

This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.

You can read the Government’s full publication here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

The publication clearly categorises ‘workers in banks’ as key workers, but it seems obvious that not all bank staff will be deemed to be critical to business continuity.

The Government publication goes on to say:

“If workers think they fall within the critical categories above they should confirm with their employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service.” 

Devolved Government Policies

The Welsh Government has classified ‘workers in banks’ as key workers (the same as England), but the Scottish Government has applied a different classification which doesn’t specifically refer to bank staff.

As at 21st March 2020, the Scottish Government has said:

“Local authorities have been asked to take this definition as a guide and prioritise critical childcare and learning for key workers accordingly. They should consider any circumstances that mean that specific classes of worker are critical in their local contexts.”

Members in Scotland should speak to their line managers in the first instance to ascertain whether or not they are considered to be key workers. In that context, it’s hard to see many things more essential than maintaining the country’s money transmission system but clearly policy is evolving.

In Northern Ireland, guidance does not specifically refer to bank workers as key worker, but it does refer to: “Other workers essential to delivering key public services”.

Examples Of Critical Bank Roles

Examples of critical banking roles are below. This is not an exhaustive list and it’s essential that you obtain confirmation in writing from your manager that you’re a key worker.

  • Customer contact / call centre staff
  • Bank branch staff
  • Operational staff, including those supporting BACS, CHAPS, FPS and other payment schemes, cards payment schemes, business lending, trade finance, debt forbearance/restructuring
  • Vulnerable customer teams
  • Financial difficulties teams
  • Fraud and economic crime
  • Complaints teams
  • Credit risk and restructuring teams
  • Cash-in-transit staff (i.e. armoured truck drivers)
  • Cash depot staff
  • Senior managers, as designated under the senior managers and certification regime
  • Primary dealer and broker functions
  • Equity, fixed income, currency trading, swaps and other market facing dealing functions
  • Key risk and compliance control
  • Settlement, clearing and margin payment functions
  • Liquidity and treasury funding functions
  • Risk, compliance and market abuse monitoring functions
  • IT, buildings management and other support staff required to keep the above services running, as well as the relevant senior managers and supervisors.

It is clear that staff in SME and Corporate areas should also be added to the list, since they will be critical to supporting business over the next few months.

How do I find out if I am classified as a key worker?

1. If the Bank has not already confirmed that you are a key worker, in the first instance, you should speak to your line manager.

2. 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.

My child is being sent to another school which is much further away from home and it will make it impossible for me to start at my usual time, what should I do?

The Government publication says “If your school is closed, then please contact your local authority, who will seek to redirect you to a local school in your area that your child, or children, can attend.”

If it’s going to take you longer than normal to take your child to school, it’s important that you raise this with your line manager as soon as you know what the position is so that he/she can plan accordingly. If any problems arise, please contact the Advice Team straight away so that we can advise you.

My school says that I’m not a key worker or that I don’t qualify in their opinion, what should I do?

We’ve received numerous calls from members who have been told by schools that, in their opinion, the members are not key workers, or they don’t qualify for school childcare because only one parent is a key worker. It seems that cases are largely being decided by individual schools making arbitrary decisions.

Some members are clearly going to be stuck between their employers and schools; here’s our advice if you have been identified as a key worker and your school is refusing to provide care:

1. Members’ primary concern should be providing care for their children.

2. Members need to contact line managers straight away if they’re in this position and explain the circumstances, following up with confirmation in writing of what’s been said. The Advice Team can assist you with this if necessary; please call us on 01234 716029 (choose Option 1).

3. In England, children with at least one parent or carer who is identified as a key worker by the Government can send their children to school if required. Single parents who are key workers will be entitled to a school place. In Wales and Scotland, the position is less clear and to an extent people seem to be being left to make up policy as they go along.

4. It’s important that members also write to the person they’ve spoken to at the school to confirm what they’ve been told. Members should make the point that they do not accept that what they’ve been told is a correct interpretation of Government policy and ask schools to confirm, in writing, the basis for their stance. Again, the Advice Team can assist you with this if necessary; please call us on 01234 716029 (choose Option 1). Where necessary, the Union will involve itself in helping members enforce their rights with schools.

 

Updated Government Guidance For Critical/Key Workers – Published 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.

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