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Teaching Music during the Coronavirus Outbreak

The latest guidance for self-employed, employed and zero-hour teachers during the coronavirus outbreak

In light of government advice on social distancing, the MU recommends that all face-to-face teaching should stop and be replaced by online teaching where possible.

No MU members should be providing peripatetic teaching in schools, nurseries and colleges following the announcement that these are now closed until further notice, except to the children of key workers. Members who provide regular classroom teaching may be asked to remain in their roles and should follow school guidance.

The advice that follows covers:

Access to Statutory Sick Pay, Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will depend on your employment status. See the Government website for the latest guidance.

Although financial assistance packages have been announced by the Government, we are very aware that some members are not covered by these measures. We are continuing to lobby to ensure no musician is left behind in this crisis.

Please contact your regional office or email teachers@themu.org if your education work has been affected and your particular circumstances have not been addressed by the announcements so far.

Self-employed teachers

Self-employed teachers who are self-isolating or otherwise affected by COVID-19 can access the following financial support:

This will require you to have current safeguardingGDPR and Data Protection policies and procedures in place. 

A contract may be voided when a ‘frustration’ or ‘force majeure’ clause is triggered. In such cases, please contact your regional MU office.

For self-employed teachers who invoice parents directly, the MU has produced a new ‘Contract for Online Teaching.’

Self-employed teachers who have lost income due to COVID-19 may be eligible for the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, and you can find the full details on our Government Relief page.

Please note, this package does not apply to people who pay themselves through their own limited companies (see Job Retention Scheme below).

For details on other relevant Government schemes see our Financial Support page.

Zero-hour and employed teachers

The latest advice from the government is that zero-hour contract workers (paid through PAYE) and employed teachers may be entitled to the Job Retention Scheme (JRS).

This is temporary for at least three months starting from 1 March 2020 and relates to furloughed employees (employees on a leave of absence) on any of the following contracts:

  • Full-time employees
  • Part-time employees
  • Employees on agency contracts
  • Employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts

The JRS applies to any UK company, charity, recruitment agency and public authority. It also applies to workers paying themselves through their own limited companies.

Furlough removes the option of laying-off staff or making them redundant. The employment contract remains in place.

Employees continuing to work on reduced hours or reduced pay are not eligible for JRS. Employees can take part in volunteer work or training, providing this does not provide services to the company/organisation or generate revenue.

It is the responsibility of the employer to claim back 80% of employees’ salaries from the government, up to a maximum value of £2,500 per month for each employee. Your employer may choose to fund the difference between this payment and your salary but does not have to. If your salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit.

For further details, please refer to Job Retention Scheme. Zero-hour pay will be based on average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year or a pro-rata of earnings to date if the employee started in February 2020. During the furlough period, the employee must not do any work for the employer. Teachers working for multiple employers may find themselves furloughed by each employer.

Should you be approached by your employer to consider redundancy, lay-off or any other change to your contractual terms, please contact your regional MU office.

Home working policies for employed teachers

Employed teachers who are asked to work from home by providing teaching online should request a home working policy. This should include guidance on:

  • Health and safety – assessing the risk of all work activities to identify hazards and assess the degree of risk to home workers
  • Working hours and rest period compliance – establishing the boundaries of working time and office hours. Where an employee has not opted out of the Working Time Regulations (1998), the employer should make it clear that the employee is responsible for managing their own working time, taking breaks as appropriate
  • Time off for dependents and childcare commitments – clarifying whether employees can work part-time around their childcare responsibilities. Employees may also assert their statutory right to take time off to care for a dependent, unpaid in the absence of any agreement to the contrary
  • Business expense reimbursements – working from home may result in increased expenses, e.g. heat and lighting. The employer should make it clear which expenses are acceptable and at what rate
  • Fair implementation of policy – ensuring that home working is implemented fairly and consistently to avoid accusations of unlawful discrimination
  • Cybersecurity – ensuring that networks, firewalls and so on are fit for purpose. Employees should be warned against the use of unauthorised software and websites
  • Equipment – clarifying whether laptops, cameras, microphones and so on can be borrowed, and ensuring that appropriate insurance is in place
  • GDPR – making employees aware of their obligations to protect personal data in compliance with GDPR and the Data Protection Act (2018)
  • Safeguarding – ensuring that policies and procedures are in place which comply with current safeguarding advice

ACAS have published a guide online with further advice on home working. Read the MU’s advice on teaching music online, and our guidance on safeguarding for online teaching.

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