'Rarely cover' and 'foreseeable absence': rules and guidance

Understand the rules around 'rarely cover' and 'foreseeable' absence, and find answers to common questions on who can provide cover.

Last reviewed on 1 November 2023
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  1. What is 'rarely cover'?
  2. What does 'rarely' and 'foreseeable' mean in practice? 
  3. Who can we ask to provide cover?

What is 'rarely cover'?

'Rarely cover' is the rule that teachers can only be asked to provide cover for other teachers "rarely" and "in circumstances that are not foreseeable". 

It does not apply to teachers who are employed wholly or mainly to undertake cover. 

This is set out in paragraph 52.7 of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD).

The STPCD applies to teachers in maintained schools and teachers in academies whose employment transferred to an academy at the point of conversion. For other teachers in academies, you may wish to refer to:

  • The teacher's individual contract of employment
  • The guidelines set out by unions represented in your school

What does 'rarely' and 'foreseeable' mean in practice? 

The STPCD does not specify a time limit for ‘rarely’ or set out what's considered a 'foreseeable circumstance'. 

For example, the National