Tuesday 19 January 2021

All staff and PGR email

Updated guidance: Critical workers' eligibility for school places

Dear colleagues,

We wrote to all staff, PGRs and GTAs on 6 January about confirmation of ‘critical worker’ status and eligibility for school places during the current lockdown.

We have since received updated guidance from the Department of Education and have been seeking clarification on a number of issues. Please find below further details about roles that may be prioritised for accessing school places.

Please be assured that the Executive Board has very regular discussions about the pressures that staff, PGRS and GTAs are under in trying to balance their work commitments and caring responsibilities, especially with schools/colleges being closed.

We do realise this is a really difficult time. Over the past few days, we have also issued guidance to managers on supporting you during lockdown in balancing work and home life, including a new, temporary carers leave policy. This can be used in conjunction with other flexibilities to help strike the right balance.

DfE guidance: critical workers

DfE guidance confirms that higher education staff and postgraduate researchers who are required to deliver or to support delivery of teaching or research and the provision of appropriate university facilities are considered critical workers for the purposes of access to education. This revised guidance - a letter - has been shared on the WonkHE website.

However, it is also essential that we collectively make every effort to protect the NHS and reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.

Therefore, children with at least one parent or carer who is a critical worker can go to school or college if required, but parents and carers should keep their children at home if they can.

The Government's position remains that everyone who can work from home should do so.

The new DfE guidance indicates that roles which may be prioritised for accessing school places would usually fall in four broad categories:

  1. Staff or research students responsible for research and other activities to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and for other essential research and supporting activity necessary to meet regulatory, legal, health and safety or other on-going requirements. This would include long-running research which cannot tolerate a break, staff or others looking after living resources (e.g. animals, plants or bacterial cultures) or hazardous materials; or those that are essential for the maintenance of equipment and facilities.

  2. Academic and teaching staff, to deliver face to face teaching to those students that are permitted to receive teaching on campus, or to support those students who are continuing their placements in person and cannot be supported remotely, as well as those developing or delivering resources for remote learning including where these need to be created or updated using facilities only available on the provider’s premises.

  3. Staff responsible for providing services for students who need to remain in student accommodation or in facilities which remain open for students or essential research, including catering staff, cleaners, wardens, mental health support, IT and security staff.

  4. Staff critical to the safety and security of the university estate and other business critical operations.

PGRs, including GTAs, requiring a letter, along with students who are studying courses which are considered as “critical worker status” such as nursing, will be contacted separately by colleagues in Student and Academic Services this week regarding the process for requesting a letter.

University of York employees requiring a letter

Should it be required, a revised letter, to be used in conjunction with your University photo ID card, can be provided to confirm a member of staff has a critical role to support the necessary continuation of essential public services and are therefore considered a critical worker, even if you work from home.

If staff require a new letter to present to school/college, please complete this form. Once your department has approved the request for a letter, it will be emailed to you. For colleagues in DECS who are not online or who don't have email, please speak to your line manager who will make the appropriate arrangements.

Please contact hr-enquiries@york.ac.uk if you need any further assistance.

Best wishes

Rachael Millhouse

Interim HR Director