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Contract contradictions...

Discussion in 'Pay and conditions' started by ICT_Resources, Jan 23, 2017.

  1. ICT_Resources

    ICT_Resources New commenter

    Dear forum members,

    I am confused about the wording in my current contract, and I was hoping that someone might be able to shed some light.

    Under the section ‘Duration of Contract’ the exact wording is; Your post is a temporary post which will expire on the happening of to be reviewed at Easter 2017. (This in itself is ambiguous but I hadn’t thought to question it before). Last week the Head called me in and informed me that my services would not be required from September onwards. Officially it’s because we’ll be over-staffed in my subject area, although unofficially we all know NQTs are cheaper!

    At the weekend I received a letter in the post confirming that my temporary contract will finish on the 31st August 2017. During last week’s meeting the Head asked me to sign a new contract up to this date, which I have not yet done. Afterwards I emailed him and requested that any subsequent contract I sign includes a notice period of 28 days, allowing me to pursue non-teaching positions if I so wish. The Head has replied stating that he cannot commit to that because he himself is leaving at Easter to start new position, and that would be at the discretion of his successor - the current Deputy Head.

    My questions are; can my existing contract be legally extended by the letter I've received confirming that it will finish on the 31st August 2017? And if I continue working for the school after Easter without signing a new contract, does this mean I will automatically be working under the terms and conditions of my existing one? I would ask the Head for further clarification but I feel there is some obfuscation going on to benefit the needs of the school.

    Many thanks in advance for any constructive feedback,
  2. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    How long have you been working there?
  3. ICT_Resources

    ICT_Resources New commenter

    I started last January (2016). I've already completed one contract, which finished 31st August last year.
  4. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Your union should be able to give you a definite answer.
  5. ICT_Resources

    ICT_Resources New commenter

    I'm not in any union which is why I've posted here :)
  6. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    So you've not been there for two years, so your legal employment protection is rather limited.
    Best to check your household insurance to see if you have legal cover.
  7. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    The head's reply is a cop out. Firstly, he can do what he wants while he is still head, and secondly, if the new head is already appointed and working there, there's no problem consulting them if he wants. Maybe you should talk to the head-designate...
    tidsa likes this.
  8. ICT_Resources

    ICT_Resources New commenter

    Exactly. He has already offered to extend my contract to the end of the school year, which is beyond his own employment at the school, yet he will not amend it to allow a shorter notice period. It seems odd to me. The head and the head-elect are as thick as thieves, so I think going to the latter would be a non-starter.
  9. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Under the contract that you have been given what notice period is required?

    What is it you want to achieve? Leave at Easter? Leave 31st August but have a 28 day notice period?
  10. ICT_Resources

    ICT_Resources New commenter

    Thank you Rott Weiler - I'm guessing you are a fellow Computing teacher?! :)

    I'd prefer to leave on the 31st August and have the option of a 28 day notice period, but I'll leave at Easter if I get messed about - there isn't much love lost at the moment!

    The period of notice I have to give is not stated specifically in the contract, but there's a clause that states; Your employment is terminated by the Governing Body by giving to you not less than the statutory minimum period of notice required by the Burgundy Book expiring at the end of a school term as defined by the Burgundy Book. I would assume that this is reciprocated and I am required to do the same, meaning I would need to give a minimum of two months’ notice – or longer if this run into the following term.
  11. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    I think (and I not. a lawyer - or a computing teacher :) ) that your contract has been badly drafted in the first place @tidsa (tagging @GLsghost who may be able to comment further). It's a fixed term contract but the sentence "Your post is a temporary post which will expire on the happening of to be reviewed at Easter 2017" doesn't make grammatical sense, let alone legal clarity. I suspect it was originally written to be a temporary contract covering maternity leave and the 'happening' would have been the teacher on ML returning to work but it's been adapted by someone who doesn't know much about contract drafting.

    As it stands it's unclear when it is supposed to terminate, or whether "to be reviewed at Easter 2017" means that it requires both sides to agree if it is to continue beyond Easter.

    It's also unclear whether the notice period for the employer to terminate applies both ways - as written it seems to give employer a right to terminate but not you. If no notice period by you is mentioned in the contract then arguably you can terminate by giving the statutory minimum notice period of one week! If Burgundy Book does apply then to leave at Easter you have to give notice by 28th February.

    However, no-one really wants to go to law over this. Looking at it more practically you could use the legal uncertainty and poor drafting as negotiating leverage with the school. "Either you agree to 28 days notice for the summer term or I'll leave at Easter". But don't say that unless you really are happy to go at Easter if you don't get 28 days notice. The head might call your bluff as say 'go then'.

    I can understand why the head wouldn't agree to the reduced notice period. If you are teaching a GCSE class for example I wouldn't want to be in a position as head that you could walk out a key time before the exams. I'd rather have the certainty that the teacher would be there all term even if it meant a new teacher Easter.

    The head's explanation that he can't make a decision because he is leaving is nonsense. Head's make employment contract decisions that bind their successors all the time - all the staff's contracts aren't terminated when there's a change of head! And anyway he could easily consult his successor. The head will have to make a decision one way or another by 28th February otherwise you'll be handing in your notice then presumably.

    Last edited: Jan 24, 2017
    tidsa and wanet like this.
  12. ICT_Resources

    ICT_Resources New commenter

    Thanks for the fantastic feedback @Rott Weiler – you’ve pretty much confirmed everything I already thought. I just read through my existing contract again, and nowhere does it state that I need to give my employer any notice at all. Legally, I could probably give them a week’s notice (which is rather tempting right now) but I can’t imagine my ongoing reference would be up to much! Actually, I really enjoy teaching at this school and most of my classes are great, so I’m gutted to have had my contract cancelled. When I got called in for the meeting I genuinely thought it was to discuss the possibility of a permanent position! Unfortunately I had an altercation with another staff member a couple of weeks ago (who just happens to be very close of the head), and I’m sure this has had some bearing on the decision.

    I still think the softly-softly approach is best for now, and to see how it pans out when they realize I’m not going to sign a new contract without the reduced notice period. All my classes are KS3 so exams wouldn’t be affected if I did leave early. Let’s face it, if I was still there in June then it would definitely be in my interest to work the last few weeks and get paid for the summer holidays.

    Sometimes it’s hard to fathom out when people are being arrogant, thoughtless or naive!
  13. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    Really good answer from @Rott Weiler.


    The letter itself cannot legally extend your contract without your consent. I agree with @Rott Weiler that the existing contract is appalling drafted but the implication (in the absence of anything more concrete) it that the fixed period was intended to finish at Easter 2017. You could ask for clarification of that, but it might give anyone with half a brain the heads-up and they may look more carefully a the contract!

    If you continue to work after that, until 31 August 2017, you may be deemed to have accepted the proposed extension to your contract by your conduct. I would argue that it is a mutually agreed variation to your existing contract and not a new one if, as you say they have helpfully worded it, the letter states that your temporary contract will end 31/08. That suggests to me that they see it as an extension and not a new contract.

    All good news for you, of course because, in that case, the existing terms continue - which means no express notice period specified...which means that the default position is the statutory one and you can leave when you like with one week's notice! The Head won't like it if you do, but that's tough! He should be more careful about the way he drafts contracts.

    This is just information, on the basis of what you have said here and not legal advice! Your local CAB will do it for nothing if you are not in a union. The precise wording of both the original contract and the subsequent letter(s) are going to be important and need to be scrutinised, if you want proper advice on it. As it is, I think, from what you have said, that you would be able to say nothing, continue to work if you wish and then leave with a week's notice, should you choose to.
    wanet, tidsa and Rott Weiler like this.
  14. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    To add: if the Citizens Adviser to whom you speak is uncertain, having see the wording, then they have access to specialist supervision from the Expert Advice Team in London, who are qualified lawyers employed by CA.
    tidsa likes this.
  15. ICT_Resources

    ICT_Resources New commenter

    Many thanks for your valuable input @GLsghost - I understand it’s not intended to be legal advice, but it’s very helpful to get someone else’s perspective. Thanks also for @Rott Weiler for tagging you.

    As luck should have it I’ve found a specimen copy of my exact contract on the Internet (please see attached file). If you’d like to check page 9 you will see Section 15 (Periods of notice and termination of contract) has three clauses at 15.1. In both my previous contracts the first two of these have been deleted, so it starts with the paragraph; In the case of a temporary contract for an indefinite period... etc. This would explain why that part of my contract doesn’t seem to make sense, because the part which binds either party to giving two months written notice (three in the summer term) is in the first paragraph. I anticipate they are likely to make the same mistake in the contract from Easter to 31st August, so I guess I could sign it with impunity! It would be good to avoid a situation where I had to deliver an ultimatum regarding notice period in my contract, which could possibly backfire.

    Hopefully it will not come to this and our parting of ways will be amicable, but it’s nice to know one has a ‘Plan B’ if one needs one! :)


    P.S. I'll still check it out with the CAB and have a look at my Home Insurance too.

    Attached Files:

  16. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    I would be careful of this @tidsa . Reproducing something exactly risks identifying yourself, with all the potential associated difficulties that may ensue.

    Sorry but it's not a good idea for me or anyone else to look at this online example and comment. I have given you general information and suggested where you can obtain a free source of advice from those able to scrutinise your exact contract and correspondence in detail. Anything else can only ever be best assumption.

    But I wish you well with it!
    tidsa likes this.
  17. ICT_Resources

    ICT_Resources New commenter

  18. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    There may be a downside to your desired contract, in that the school would then be able to give you 28 days notice to finish at the end of the summer term and avoid paying you for the holiday. The notice period for the summer does have advantages for both sides. You might be able to get round this by the school making a mistake with your contract - I have no way of knowing whether your interpretation would stand up in law - but I would not rely on this, and it does strike me as a little underhand. If it did end with unpleasentness, it could affect future references; employers outside teaching may still be interested what the school has to say. In practice, most employers would not expect you to be available at 28 days notice, and if you can time things well, you can end up being paid twice over the summer. under Burgundy Book type conditions.
    tidsa likes this.

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