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Higher Education: Staff

Question for Department for Education

UIN 99749, tabled on 6 October 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that jobs involving recruiting, retaining and supporting students in their studies are protected in higher education.

Answered on

16 October 2020

During and after the COVID-19 outbreak, our aim is for higher education (HE) providers to continue to deliver HE provision and support the needs of students, both on and off campus.

Since my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced this government’s unprecedented package of support to help keep staff employed and support businesses, the department has provided guidance for HE providers so that they are aware of the support that is available to them. This includes guidance on how they may access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

On 24 September the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced additional government support to provide certainty to businesses and workers impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. This package includes the new Job Support Scheme (JSS). This is designed to protect viable jobs in businesses which are facing lower demand over the winter months due to COVID-19. Like the CJRS, the government expects that the JSS will not be used by many public sector organisations. Where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, we expect employers to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion. This also applies to non-public sector employers that receive public funding for staff costs.

We recognise that many students are facing additional challenges due to the disruption and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Protecting students’ health and wellbeing is a priority and we expect providers to ensure that students are well looked after by staff with the right skills and experience to deliver the support they need. This includes the cleaning and security staff keeping campus safe and the catering staff providing meals, particularly for students self-isolating in halls, as well as staff providing mental health, wellbeing and pastoral support. However, HE providers are independent institutions and are responsible for their own decisions on staffing and employment issues. They should make employment decisions according to their own operational needs and the needs of their wider staff and student community.