Concerns raised over lack of income for supply teachers in North Wales during coronavirus pandemic
A union has raised concern that many supply teachers in parts of north Wales are struggling without any income at all during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru (UCAC), the prolonged closure of schools to most pupils is causing severe hardship due to some authorities not paying supply teachers who previously had no settled working pattern and worked on an ad-hoc basis.
While the union says that some authorities have provided income support for supply teachers already, it has sent letters to other councils, including Anglesey and Gwynedd, to try and lobby for a change in stance.
While teachers employed by agencies have been eligible for 80% of their average wage as part of the UK government’s furlough payments scheme, UCAC claims that those employed by some councils have been left facing financial hardship.
“I urge you to do everything possible to ensure that supply teachers are treated equally and consistently with supply teachers throughout the country and that the authority treats them equitably,” notes the letter from UCAC’s Ioan Rhys Jones, who believe that hundreds of workers are currently affected.
“Securing financial support is very important given the years of service many have given to the county’s schools, and the positive relationships that have existed to date between the authority, schools and supply teachers.
“Many supply teachers face financial hardship as the sole household income has now disappeared.”
A letter from Anglesey Council to one affected supply teacher, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, confirmed that the authority has been advising schools to honour any pay already promised to supply workers, such as long term supply arrangements and days booked in advance.
It went on to note, however: “It was agreed that any individuals who are not in these categories would be advised in accordance with WLGA Advice (Note dated 16 April 2020) to check if they are eligible to claim the New Style Employment and Support Allowance and / or Universal Credit.
“This decision was made on the basis that no employment agreement exists for individuals who truly supply and who have no obligation to accept the offer of occasional work.
“Occasional supply workers have no employment agreement with the authority.
“Those that apply to undertake relief work do so on the understanding that they are registering to provide short notice back up cover at times where permanent staff may be absent.
“Neither schools or the Authority are bound to offer work at any time under these arrangements, and there is no entitlement to minimum hours of work per day, week or year.”
A spokesman for Gwynedd Council, meanwhile, said: “Supply teachers who have a pattern of working in Gwynedd schools on a regular basis are paid the salaries to which they are entitled from individual school budgets.
“However, if it is clear that a supply teacher working in Gwynedd has no set pattern of work – that is the individual has worked on an ‘as and when required’ basis – then unfortunately it is unlikely that they are eligible to qualify for such payments.
“As a council we are fully aware of the concerns that have been raised regarding the situation of some supply teachers who fall into this second category, and this matter is currently the subject of discussions with other councils in north Wales.”
Arfon MS Sian Gwenllian said: “I have been working with some of my electors who are supply teachers but who are currently not receiving any financial support through the various economic support packages that are available during the Covid-19 crisis.
“I have been corresponding with Gwynedd Council on their behalf and am working with the Cabinet Education Leader to try to find a suitable solution.”
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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