You may have heard that thousands of supply teachers across the country have been struggling to receive financial support during the coronavirus pandemic.

Many agencies and the umbrella companies which agency teachers work through have either not yet furloughed their teachers or have only been able to offer them furlough at 80% of the National Minimum Wage (NMW). This is due to the complex contractual arrangements agencies and umbrella companies have with these teachers and the way they facilitate their pay.

Some umbrella companies structure supply teachers’ pay as NMW plus ‘Discretionary Bonus’ or even ‘Profit Share’. Current guidelines mean that such umbrellas can only claim 80% of what is considered a teacher’s basic pay — i.e. NMW — from HMRC as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

This practice has been commonplace for years — but you may question now why supply teachers’ pay would be structured in this way. Perhaps it’s to save tax for the umbrella companies? Perhaps it’s so they can pass on certain tax costs to the teachers?

You may also question why the practice has been allowed to continue. We hope the current situation precipitates reforms to end these practices. However right now, we need to act to help our valued supply teachers access the support they deserve.

If you had an agency teacher at your school before the lockdown, would like to help them, and would like to retain them in your network for future work, we have a practical solution to ensure they are supported financially. Act now to ensure your good professional relationships — and the relationships between those agency staff and your pupils — are maintained.

Ask your agency teacher contacts whether they have been furloughed, and if so, whether they are being supported adequately. If there are discrepancies, or your agency teacher contacts are not receiving adequate support, contact us and we will be able to offer confidential advice and instant, practical solutions.

Lastly, if any supply teachers are still being paid via an agency through this period, note that they must be engaged on an open book basis — that is, the agency must provide schools with details of the cost of (i.e. the gross pay of) the teacher, so schools get full visibility of costs and agency margins.

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