As Education Restart progresses, we continue to monitor the situation carefully and take all necessary precautions in line with the latest government advice. The health and wellbeing of staff is our highest priority as we continue to work to deliver essential services to support schools.
Regular updates for Education Authority staff will be posted here to keep you updated on latest news and developments. Each communication issued to staff will be listed below in date order. Please check this page daily to keep up to date with the latest information.
Staff Headlines - 22nd October 2020
- Health and Wellbeing Champion Initiative Reading on Teams
- Book Week Northern Ireland
- EA Supports World Menopause Day
- Reminder: Workforce Status Application
Staff Headlines – 16th October 2020
- Northern Ireland Executive Update
- What the Executive announcement means for Education settings
- What the Executive announcement means for other non-school based staff
- Queen’s Birthday Honours 2020
- Revised Guidance on Absence Relating to COVID-19
- Thank you to everyone
Staff Headlines - 8th October 2020
- StopCOVID NI App is now available to 11-17 year olds
- Covid-19 Information & Guidance for Schools
- Lunch & Learn October Menu
- World Mental Health Day
- Barnardo’s launch a brand new emotional wellbeing service - See, Hear, Respond
Staff Headlines – 2nd October 2020
- Northern Ireland Executive Update
- Update to Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance for Schools & Educational Settings in Northern Ireland
- COVID-19 Testing – Schools Reminder
- Healthy Eating Week
- EA makes final in Digital Innovation Awards
Staff Headlines – 24th September 2020
- Northern Ireland Executive Update
- Linking Youth to New Careers Programme
- Pulse Survey Feedback
- National Fitness Day
- Progress on StopCOVID NI App for Young People
- Reminder – Workforce Status Application
Employee Update – 11th September 2020
- Northern Ireland Executive Update
- Important PHA guidance for staff to follow
- Letter to parent’s and carer’s from the Chief Medical Officer
- Education Restart – Public Health Agency Phone Line for Schools
Messages from EA Chief Executive and Board
Last updated 15th July 2020
The following questions and answers are set out below to advise and guide managers and staff regarding important employment issues during this ongoing period of public health concern.
The situation relating to COVID-19 is continually evolving and therefore these questions and answers will be subject to ongoing review and amendment as appropriate. Please endeavour to keep up to date with developments via links and channels outlined within the answers section.
Guidance on restrictions and social distancing currently remains in place. The majority of staff who are not in work are either working from home or expected to be available and may be directed to support critical and other business continuity work in the weeks ahead.
Prior to the Easter break, Management consulted with TUS on guidance around annual leave. The focus of the guidance was on the health and well-being of employees and given that a significant number of staff continued to work very hard in critical areas, the aim was to ensure that they were able to take annual leave and have sufficient rest. Management committed to review the guidance later in the year and it is more important than ever that as far as possible:
- staff should continue to take their annual leave so that they can rest, invest time in their health and well-being and re-energize;
- normal /established patterns of leave should continue particularly during the summer period when the majority of staff normally take leave, to prevent staff building up leave where they are not required to do so, particularly in non-essential services that could adversely impact critical service delivery; and
- leave arrangements should allow for flexibility at a time when it is needed the most.
It is acknowledged that during these exceptional circumstances schools are likely to require staff to work during the course of the summer to prepare for September. Where this occurs and staff are unable to take their annual leave as normal, the EA will work to ensure that staff can access leave to enable them to rest in support of staff well-being and that untaken annual leave is not lost.
In exceptional circumstances it may be necessary for managers to request staff to postpone annual leave. Additionally it may be necessary for managers to request part-time staff and staff contracted 10/11 months to increase their working hours during this period. All such requests must be by based on the need to support schools, critical services and preparation for phased reopening of schools, taking account of an employee’s personal circumstances, balanced with the need for staff to be provided with rest from work during prolonged periods.
It is recognised that during these exceptional circumstances arrangements should allow for flexibility for staff wishing to change leave dates and avail of annual leave to facilitate childcare responsibilities during the summer period and during phased reopening of schools.
The following guidance for corporate and school based staff has therefore been developed, in line with NJC guidance:
- All corporate and school based staff, as far as possible, should take a minimum one third of their annual leave entitlement between 1 April and 30 September 2020.
Staff who plan to travel abroad should adhere to the relevant government guidance in place at the time of travel and must be cognisant of any requirements preventing immediate return to work e.g. quarantine requirements. Where quarantine measures are in place, school leaders and managers should in the first instance talk openly with the individual and consider whether working from home during the quarantine period is practical and feasible. For example, where an employee cannot do their normal work at home, the employer should consider whether it would be reasonable to redeploy them to alternative duties that they could carry out at home. Further, the employer could explore the option of the employee making up the 14 days’ leave over a period of time, so they do not incur a drop in pay.
Accepting that some options are likely to be very challenging within schools and services, in practice, an employer could require employees who are quarantining and unable to work at home to:
- take additional paid annual leave (from their usual leave allowance).
- take unpaid annual leave.
- take special leave (paid/unpaid).
- make up the 14 days’ leave over a period of time, so they do not incur a drop in pay.
These arrangements should be clear, understood and agreed by both parties before the employee embarks on leave that will require quarantine.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this issue so for those employees who cannot work from home during quarantine, managers and school leaders should consider using a combination of some or all of the different types of leave options shown above and give sympathetic consideration to certain circumstances which could include:
- an employee who has extenuating circumstances such as a family funeral abroad.
- pre-booked holidays that cannot be cancelled without incurring financial cost (ie. insurers will not reimburse cost) that were arranged before quarantine could have been envisaged.
- pre-booked holidays that the tour operator has not cancelled but has instead rescheduled on fixed dates which, if cancelled by the customer, would be at financial cost to them.
Please note, anyone who has had to travel for the purpose of their job and has to quarantine on their return, must continue to receive normal full pay.
Staff should continue to reference government guidance and be aware that some guidance may change over the course of the summer period.
- Managers should, as far as possible, allow staff flexibility to revise planned/booked leave dates and to avail of leave for childcare responsibilities particularly during the summer period and during phased reopening of schools.
- Manager requests for:
- staff to postpone annual leave;
- part time staff and staff contracted 10/11 months to increase their working hours during the COVID-19 business contingency period;
must be based on the need to support schools, critical services and preparation for phased reopening of schools, and should take into account an employee’s personal circumstances, balanced with the need for staff to be provided with rest from work during prolonged periods.
As a result of the introduction of the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 there may be exceptional circumstances when a worker may be able to carry over up to 4 weeks annual leave into the next 2 leave years.
When this amendment was brought forward it was clarified to MLAs that this would apply to staff who were prohibited from taking annual leave due to their involvement in delivering critical services as a result of COVID-19. This will therefore only apply to those staff who are able to demonstrate they have been prevented from taking their annual leave by the EA due to the criticalities of the service which they are delivering.
It should be noted that any exemption will apply only to circumstances where workers are unable to take their leave as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, and carry-over of annual leave will be limited to the next 2 leave years. It is not intended to be a general relaxation of rules on holiday leave and entitlement.
- the annual leave position should be kept under review and further measures introduced on a timely basis as appropriate.
Staffing Issues / Staff Concerns
What are the arrangements for the redeployment of school based staff on 52 week contracts who are employed under the term time agreement?
- All staff employed under the term-time agreement on a 52 week or 52 week with unpaid leave contract will be required to take a minimum of one third of their annual leave entitlement for 2020/2021 by the end of September 2020, in line with the recommendation above.
The term-time agreement makes no difference between staff who make themselves available for work or do not work and whether they are informed of redeployment arrangements by April or not, all are still required to take annual leave, unpaid leave or a mixture of both during periods over the summer where they are not available to work.
EA will not routinely seek redeployments as an ‘exception’ this year knowing it is unlikely there will be sufficient work to accommodate requests. Employees will not be financially disadvantaged and will continue to be paid on the understanding they can be called upon at any time to provide work at an agreed school/service. The EA is currently aware there may be a need to redeploy a small number of staff during the summer period to support summer schemes, as part of an offer for summer support.
Both employees on a 52 week contract and 52 week with unpaid leave contract will be eligible to apply for periods of unpaid leave during the summer period 2020 if they do not want to be available for work.
A significant number of office (headquarters) based support staff avail of flexi scheme arrangements operated by the EA.
This is a challenging time for most employees and the health, safety and well-being of all staff is of the upmost importance. It is imperative that staff are able to avail of sufficient rest and breaks from work. Currently only a number of business critical services are operating and overtime payment arrangements are in place where staff in these services are required to work beyond their normal working hours during evenings and weekends.
Most Business as Usual (BAU) activity has been paused or significantly scaled back. Given the circumstances, employees should not routinely be accruing flexi time by working additional hours over and above their contracted hours. During this period flexi time accrual should be by exception only, when this is dictated by business critical activity or essential work required in non-critical services and should be subject to prior agreement with the relevant service manager.
A flexible approach to staff working patterns should be adopted to ensure employees can balance their work and caring / family responsibilities.
Managers should monitor workloads and hours worked to ensure that employees can achieve a work life balance while meeting business need.
It has therefore been agreed that:
- Normal core working times and patterns should be relaxed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Where possible and appropriate, a flexible approach to fulfilling contracted hours should be adopted and hours can be worked at various times throughout the day / week to facilitate other caring/family responsibilities.
- Working over and above contracted hours in non-priority services should be avoided and flexi time must not be routinely accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic. Managers should monitor flexi time and workloads to ensure employees can avail of a suitable work life balance.
- Accrual of flexi time must be agreed by the line manager in advance and be in line with priority business activity or essential work required in non-critical services.
- Staff with previously accrued large flexi balances should endeavour to reduce balances to 1 day (7.14 hours or pro-rata equivalent) by 01 September 2020.
I am currently carrying out an essential service and I am feeling unwell and my symptoms match those of COVID-19. What should I do?
Staff in these circumstances must not attend school/the work place and should stay at home as advised and follow the latest Government stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.
Staff in this category and their families should have a test undertaken to establish if they have COVID-19.
Principals/line managers will inform staff on the arrangements for testing (see link below). Staff who are displaying sympthoms have a duty of care to themselves and others so therefore must self-check to be tested.
It is important that Principals/line managers are fully aware of staff within their school/team who are self-isolating at any time. Testing is available for them or a member of their household (whoever is displaying the symptoms). To self-refer the follow this click
My staff member now wishes to return from long term sickness absence. How do I go about managing this?
The normal managing attendance procedure will be upheld.
Where Principal/ Line Managers are concerned about the support arrangements in place for those returning they should contact HR on 028 9041 8023.
In most cases some or all of these supportive measures will be required prior to safeguard a return.
- Appropriate notice and supportive dialogue with management to ensure a smooth transition back to work.
- Statement of Fitness for Work completed to sign them off as now fully fit to be at work
- An OH referral if concerns around support are still present (telephone/ virtual).
Can Classroom Assistants provide support to pupils they ordinarily work with in school in their homes?
Taking a range of factors into account, during this time, it is not appropriate for Classroom Assistants to provide support to pupils in their own homes during EA contracted hours.
If you are not in the workplace you are reminded that as an EA employee you are expected to be available for work and you may be reasonably directed to support the work of your, or another, team.
- Share a mobile/contact number with your line manager and be contactable during normal working hours
- Check emails daily if practically possible - you can access your email from home via https://webmail.eani.org.uk
- Undertake such work tasks/functions from home as you reasonably can
- Divert your desktop phone to your mobile if you can
- Notify your line manager if you have a confirmed case of COVID-19 or are required to self-isolate
If an employee requests to change an arrangement agreed under the family friendly flexible working scheme for a 10 month or 11 month contract from 1 April 2020- 31 March 2021 and to take one or two months unpaid leave over the July/August period, each request should be considered individually in the context of business requirements. Requests to change or cancel flexible working arrangements should only be agreed where there is a requirement for the employee to support business critical work during that period.
In some instances it may also be necessary for a manager to request and seek agreement with an employee to change a family friendly flexible working arrangement where the employee is required to support business critical work. Managers must take into consideration an employee’s individual circumstances.
Requests from employees making a statutory flexible working request should be considered in line with normal arrangements.
What support is in place for staff to support their health and wellbeing during self-isolation and social distancing?
We recognise that long periods of reduced social contact and a less active lifestyle can have an adverse impact on an individual’s mental health and physical health. Below represents some of the key support mechanisms EA has in place.
Our main Employee Assistance Provider (EAP) is Inspire Wellbeing. EA staff have free 24/7 access to confidential and independent counselling support service.
Inspire is the leading provider of workplace wellbeing solutions, delivering mental health and wellbeing support to some of the UK and Ireland’s leading private, public and third sector organisations.
The number for staff to call for support is 0808 800 0002.
EA Health Well
To support you and best ensure your accessibility to important information and advice during this challenging time, EA has made the decision to fast-track the launch of its all staff Health and Wellbeing digital Hub – Branded EA Health Well.
What is EA Health Well
- a digital solution developed to support the themes of EA’s first Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2019-22. The solution will improve accessibility for staff to key health and wellbeing information and initiatives.
- an interactive website which provides EA employees with support, education and information on a wide range of topics as a way of improving their overall health and wellbeing.
- a solution which in time will complimented by a programme of activities and events organised through Workplace Champions.
A network of Health and Wellbeing Champions has being created and will be developed and supported so that individuals can get involved in driving wellbeing forward for themselves and their colleagues.
You can access the EA Health Well via the below link
If viewing on a PC we recommend using Google Chrome.
Supporting “Healthy Minds and Bodies” of all staff during these unpresented changes in lifestyles and need for reduced social contact will be the initial focus. However this internet based solution will provide a greater breath of support as we move forward linked to the themes of the EA Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2019-22 and the changing needs of our people.
Will staff in the education sector continue to be paid if they are unable to attend work as a result of coronavirus?
Yes. In an open letter to the Education Sector dated 19 March 2020 the Education Minister, Peter Weir confirmed the following:
"All employees will receive normal pay across the range of circumstances that we are facing whether they remain in the workplace, are working from home or are unable to carry on working due to circumstances beyond their control. Substitute teachers and non-teaching staff (including temporary and fixed term employees) will also receive their normal pay for the period of time that they have been engaged to work. Contingency arrangements are being put in place to ensure that the payrolls can be processed and payments made.”
Full letter available at: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/news/letter-minister-education-education-sector
Will Non-Teaching Staff including Temporary and Fixed Term employees continue to be paid if they are absent from work as a result of coronavirus?
Yes. Non-teaching staff (including temporary and fixed term employees) will receive their normal pay for the period of time that they have been engaged to work. Contingency arrangements are being put in place to ensure that the payrolls can be processed and payments made.
Will Extended School Staff continue to be paid if they are absent from work as a result of coronavirus?
Yes. All Extended School Staff will be paid for the time that they have been booked to work.
Agency workers will also receive their normal pay for the period of time that they have been engaged to work and early termination of agency workers is not anticipated, although it will be necessary to keep this under review. We will need agency workers to be flexible at this time and this may include the need to divert them to other roles as we continue to work to maintain business critical services.
If an employee normally works overtime each pay period then they will be paid for their contracted hours plus the overtime for the period they are not at work as a result of coronavirus. It is the responsibility of the line manager to ensure these hours are recorded on the timesheet accordingly.
I am managing a member of staff who is within their probationary period; is there any action I need to take during these exceptional circumstances relating to COIVD-19?
Staff currently within their probationary period are likely to fall within one of two categories:
1. A member of staff is able to demonstrate the required standards during their probationary period aligned to the normal expectations of their substantive role, whether working at home or within the workplace, or has already done so to a large extent that satisfies the Line Manager. These staff should continue to progress as normal through their probationary period and be notified of the outcome. No exceptional action is required by the Manager.
2. A member of staff is, in the Line Manager's opinion, prevented from demonstrating the required standards aligned to the normal expectations of their substantive role due to special factors relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Line Manager should pause the probationary period
Line managers should follow these guidelines:
- The probation period is "paused" from a date that is reasonable in the circumstances;
- The remaining period of probation should resume as soon as reasonably practicable and the duration of the "pause" should not be any longer than is necessary;
- In some cases it may be practicable that the remaining period of probation is resumed whilst the staff member is working from home, although in other cases, it will not be feasible until there is a resumption of normal working arrangements;
- Staff should be advised that the "pause" is due to the impact that the factors pertaining to the Covid-19 pandemic has had on their individual work circumstances; and
- Such arrangements are to be confirmed in writing with the member of staff, ideally following an informal discussion with their Line Manager. See below for a letter template, to be edited as appropriate.
Recruitment (Part 1)
On-going management of the recruitment processes
Job advertisements were initially paused in late March at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. Job advertising recommenced in mid-May in preparation for Education Restart.
Recruitment is progressing on a prioritised basis with a focus on teaching, school and corporate leadership posts, posts linked to Special Educational Needs and other critical services.
All other non-critical posts will be progressed as and when business continuity arrangements permit.
If you have not already done so, we recommend that you create a profile on the on-line recruitment system and register for job alerts so that you are notified as soon as jobs which meet your requirements are advertised.
The vast majority of all job applications are made online. If you have submitted an on-line application we will be in touch via email as soon as an update is available.
If you have made a manual application with no email address we will contact you by post or telephone.
The majority of recruitment activity is being completed remotely at this time and it is possible that recruitment exercises may take longer than normal to complete.
Your patience and understanding is appreciated. We will be in touch as soon as any update is available.
As many of the posts to which we recruit are key worker roles for critical services across the education sector, you may be asked to physically attend for interview.
Government advice on social distancing, as current at the time, will be adhered to.
Should COVID-19 prevent you from physically attending a scheduled interview please contact us so that your specific requirements can be considered in more detail.
It is possible that in the short to medium term some interviews may happen remotely, either by telephone or video-conference.
When we are in touch to schedule your interview we will provide you with full details and guidance on how the remote interview process will work.
I am due to attend for an interview but I am in the ‘vulnerable’ category, self-isolating or unwell. How should I proceed?
If you are fit for interview but are self-isolating or in a vulnerable group , we will work with you to discuss your requirements and how these might be met within the PHA guidance as current at the time.
If you are not fit to attend for interview, as far as reasonably practicable we will arrange for you to be provided with an alternative interview date.
As long as you are fit, you should report for interview on the revised date.
Should COVID-19 prevent you from attending a scheduled face to face interview please contact us so that your specific requirements can be considered in more detail.
If advice around the importance of social distancing is still applicable at that time of my interview, how will this be incorporated into my interview process?
Please be assured that we will adhere to Government advice, as current at the time, regarding social distancing.
Social distancing arrangements will be observed from how you will be greeted when you report for interview, in the size and layout of the interview room itself and in the cleaning of the interview facility.
If you have any specific concerns, please advise us in advance of your interview date.
Recruitment (Part 2)
You are already in receipt of an offer of employment
We are currently working with schools and line managers to progress offers of employment.
Where start dates had already been agreed between the line manager and the candidate, we are working to honour these commitments by progressing pre-employment checks and the issue of contracts.
Where a start date had not yet been agreed in relation to a conditional offer of employment, it is possible that some of these may need to be deferred.
Please be assured that we will keep you up to date in relation to your appointment.
I have received a confirmed offer and contract. Should I report on the start date given on the letter?
Given the evolving situation and the rate at which staff and managers are now home-working, you are advised to contact us in advance to check on reporting arrangements.
You should only report for work on your first day if you are symptom-free and fit for work.
If there is any change in your health or circumstances prior to your given start date which means you are not able to report as agreed, then you should contact us as soon as possible to update us.
Your new contract of employment will commence from the start date agreed with your new line manager and that included within your new contract.
We continue to value your interest in the Education Authority and your co-operation and patience at this time is much appreciated.
Internal Corporate Recruitment
Acting-up Appointments during the COVID-19 Pandemic
A member of staff is absent. As a line manager what are my options for covering the duties and responsibilities for the period of absence?
EA’s Acting-up Policy for Support Staff has been adapted to provide guidance on acting-up arrangements for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Acting-up should not be the first solution considered by Line Managers where temporary cover is required, as job descriptions provide reasonable flexibility to assign additional duties and responsibilities. Line Managers may first wish to give consideration to ways in which work may be re-organised on a temporary basis. If the requirement for cover is reasonably expected to last 4 weeks or more an acting-up appointment should be considered.
The Acting-up Framework developed for use throughout the COVID-19 pandemic sets out the available options for acting-up and the principles for selecting staff for the acting-up opportunity. These are set in the context of ensuring effective business continuity at a time when normal recruitment and trawl activities are restricted.
The higher salary associated with the acting-up will be paid with effect from the first day on which a member of staff was required to undertake acting-up duties. The normal 4 week qualifying period will not apply in respect of COVID-19 related acting appointments.
HR Business Partnering and Employee Relations
What do I do if there is an employee relations or business partnering matter that needs to be addressed during the current situation?
As COVID -19 continues to affect us all, the EA is taking all possible actions to protect staff, whilst continuing to deliver critical services for our children and young people. A priority has been placed on critical services outlined in EA communications on www.eani.org.uk/staff and implementing important measures, in line with government guidance in relation to social distancing.
As a consequence of this, the progression of employee relations and business partnering work will be scaled back but kept under review in line with the above. However, in order to avoid a significant back log of work when restrictions are lifted, where resource is available and it is possible to progress cases in accordance with agreed procedures this work can continue.
If there is a pressing employee relations or business partnering matter, advice can be obtained from:
Area of work
(Operations & Estates) (Education) and (HR)
Disciplinary, Grievance, Dignity at Work/Bullying & Harassment, Performance Management & Probation
Tel: 028 9041 8012
Early Conciliation by the Labour Relations Agency (LRA)
Tel: 028 9056 6554
Tel: 028 9056 4390
Redundancy, termination of fixed term contracts, variation of contracts, restructuring
Tel: 028 3751 2416
Tel: 028 8225 3383
Tel: 028 9056 6255
Tel: 028 9056 4388
Tel: 074034 3193
Guidance on Supporting EA Staff to Return to the Work Place
Responsive Working During COVID-19 – Principal/ Manager Toolkit
Guidance on Data Protection for Non School Based Staff
Guidance on ICT Services for Non School Based Staff
EA Offices COVID-19 Office Protocol
Clear Desk and Screen Policy
Staff Health and Wellbeing
Facemasks / Face covering
Is a face covering required if I need to visit a school site in the normal course of my corporate role?
Yes. The Re-opening School Guidance - New School Day - Revised advises that face coverings must be worn in staff rooms and during adult to adult meetings lasting more than 15 minutes and by adults visiting the school site.
There is advice about how to make your own face covering available on the UK Government website.
It is important when choosing what face covering to wear that you exercise care so as not to embarrass or intimidate co-workers or disrupt an harmonious working environment.
Please be mindful that the wearing of a face covering may inhibit communication with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound. Some useful information is available here.
Further information on the use of face coverings, including guidance on how to wear a face covering and how to maintain and dispose of face coverings, is available here.
Because face coverings are mainly intended to protect others, not the wearer, from coronavirus (COVID-19) they’re not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing.
There is a clear distinction between PPE and face coverings. PHA guidance makes clear that staff should continue to use PPE in line with current health and safety policies and risk assessments. Depending on the working environment, an individual or organisational risk assessment may identify a need for PPE, including facemasks. For any contact that has been risk assessed as requiring PPE, this will be provided.