Covid-19 – Latest Guidance for Schools – 1.00pm 15th January 2021

John Cook


  • On 12th January The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists updated their Q&A guidance for pregnant women. No change to the current guidance in that pregnant employees remain in the ‘clinically vulnerable’ category.  Work from home if possible but if not possible an employee can come to work depending on the individual risk assessment.
  • It appears possible for schools to use the Flexible Furlough Scheme in certain circumstances – more details below.

Pregnant Employees

Government Guidance

The Restricting attendance during the national lockdown: schools states:-

Staff who are pregnant (change of emphasis – new wording in italics)

As per national restrictions, staff should work at home where possible. If home working is not possible, pregnant staff and their employers should follow the advice in the Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for pregnant employees.

Pregnant women are in the ‘clinically vulnerable’ category and are generally advised to follow the above advice, which applies to all staff in schools. All pregnant women should take particular care to practise frequent thorough hand washing, and cleaning of frequently touched areas in their home or workspace, and follow the measures set out in the system of controls section of this guidance to minimise the risks of transmission. Pregnant women are not advised to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

An employer’s workplace risk assessment should already consider any risks to female employees of childbearing age and, in particular, risks to new and expectant mothers (for example, from working conditions, or the use of physical, chemical or biological agents). Any risks identified must be included and managed as part of the general workplace risk assessment. As part of their risk assessment, employers should consider whether adapting duties and/or facilitating home working may be appropriate to mitigate risks.

If a school is notified that an employee is pregnant, breastfeeding, or has given birth within the last 6 months, the employer should check the workplace risk assessment to see if any new risks have arisen. If risks are identified during the pregnancy, in the first 6 months after birth, or while the employee is still breastfeeding, the employer must take appropriate sensible action to reduce, remove or control them.

While it is a legal obligation for employers to regularly review general workplace risks, there is not necessarily a requirement to conduct a specific, separate risk assessment for new and expectant mothers. However, an assessment may help identify any additional action that needs to be taken to mitigate risks.

Employers should be aware that pregnant women from 28 weeks’ gestation, or with underlying health conditions at any gestation, may be at greater risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19). This is because, although pregnant women of any gestation are at no more risk of contracting the virus than any other non-pregnant person who is in similar health, for those women who are 28 weeks pregnant and beyond there is an increased risk of becoming severely ill, and of pre-term birth, should they contract coronavirus (COVID-19).

This is also the case for pregnant women with underlying health conditions that place them at greater risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19).

We recommend that schools follow the same principles for pregnant pupils, in line with their wider health and safety obligations.

Read more guidance and advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) and pregnancy from the Royal College of Gynaecologists.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

The Royal College updated their guidance on 12th January.  The changes related to the vaccine.  There was no change to the guidance about attending work.  Therefore, the position is as contained in the Government guidance above.

Coronavirus infection and pregnancy – Q&A

Q.What is the main advice for pregnant women?

Studies from the UK show that pregnant women are no more likely to get seriously unwell from coronavirus but pregnant women have been included in the list of people at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) as a precaution. The government guidance for the clinically vulnerable remains in place and you should ensure you continue to follow the latest government guidance.

Pregnant women should follow the latest government guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing) and avoid anyone who has symptoms suggestive of coronavirus. If you are in your third trimester (more than 28 weeks’ pregnant) you should be particularly attentive to social distancing.

Flexible Furlough Scheme

It appears that schools can furlough staff who are in dual roles, where one role is funded through public funds and the other is funded privately.  This was previously unclear, and the previous guidance even suggested that it was not allowed.

However, with the introduction of the Flexible Furlough Scheme it should be possible to flexibly furlough staff from their privately funded roles, subject to compliance with the guidance set out below.

We have contacted the DfE but they have been unable to confirm (despite the fact that the guidance states that publicly funded organisations ‘should contact their sponsor department or respective administration for further guidance’.)

Check if you can claim for your employees’ wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

If you receive public funding

If you have staff costs that are publicly funded (even if you’re not in the public sector), you should use that money to continue paying your staff, and not furlough your staff.

Organisations can use the scheme if they are not fully funded by public grants and they should contact their sponsor department or respective administration for further guidance.

This is the more detailed guidance which has a section on ‘State-funded schools’ which includes academy trusts. Coronavirus (COVID-19): financial support for education, early years and children’s social care.

The following conditions need to be met:

  • the employee works in an area of business where services are temporarily not required and whose salary is not covered by public funding
  • the employee would otherwise be made redundant or laid off
  • the employee is not involved in delivering provision that has already been funded
  • the employee is not required to deliver provision for an attending child
  • the grant from the CJRS would not be duplicative to other public grants received and would not lead to financial reserves being created

Where these conditions are met, schools should receive a grant from the CJRS which is in line with the proportion of its salary bill which could be considered to have been funded by a school’s private income.

General Guidance

The general coronavirus guidance starts here:-

John Cook – Solicitor

John Cook

I am a qualified Solicitor with over 30 years’ experience running a business, managing a team, appearing in the Employment Tribunal and advising on almost every conceivable employment law and HR issue. Clients appreciate my down to earth and straight forward approach that allows them to achieve results and manage their organisation more effectively. I take the worry out of employment law and HR issues with a proactive and robust approach.