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Contracts for next year and the Virus - are they worth the paper they're written on?

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by Luvsskiing, Mar 9, 2020.

  1. Luvsskiing

    Luvsskiing Established commenter

    I think a word of caution is timely at this point of the Corona Virus epidemic, economic collapse and the recruitment season.

    Schools and companies abroad really have no idea in the best of times how many students will be arriving in September and many (especially the Middle East) are not immune from withdrawing contracts at the last second (you'll get an email with a "Sorry" in it), leaving you in serious financial problems and jobless. The Virus has really thrown predictions into turmoil like never before.

    When a school makes you an offer, or gives you a contract, you need to be really sure you understand that it can be withdrawn right at the last moment in July or August, long after you've resigned form your safe if semi-horrible UK job. You could easily find yourself with no UK job and no International job to go to. This is especially true in countries in the Middle East but elsewhere, too. You will have no paddles to go up any creek, you'll be very unlikely to be able to do anything except post your indignation on a forum and you could be hit very hard financially.

    Remember - contracts in the Middle East and other places are worth nothing until you are actually there, teaching, in your apartment and are getting paid. Just accept any offers of contracts from International schools with your eyes very wide open, assume they will withdraw the offer at the very last moment, have a few quid in the bank in case things go pear-shaped and keep in mind that the Virus will play hell with student numbers in international schools in September.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2020
    b7031475 and skvo like this.
  2. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    It's a wise thought..

    Worked for a black gold company. During a certain upheaval, significant admin issues; the company offered their workers an open choice to move their kids to anywhere in the world.... Most went home to UK, The Netherlands and other European countries....most took the boarding school option.

    The school lost 300+ kids... Luckily this happened prior to recruitment.

    I know for a fact this offer is once again been given to families in the "worst" affected countries and regions.

    Keeping in the teaching community.... My thoughts go out to those who will be impacted by this phase we're all currently facing.
  3. february31st

    february31st Established commenter

    The current situation in Shanghai is the expat population has dropped by 90%. Whole families will not be returning soon as children and students have already settled into new schools back home.

    If you have signed a contract with a real international school in Shanghai it can at best only be regarded as a letter of intent at the best of times. Plenty of 100% legal loopholes that can be used to withdraw contracts from newly recruited staff, basically act of god and unforeseen circumstances.

    Even if you arrive in Shanghai and start working many contracts have a 90 day probation period when the employee or employer can end the contract under Chinese Labour Law.

    Even if you are mid contract you can still be given your P45 as the school can make a case it has to make 20% plus of its workforce redundant to prevent the company going bankrupt. In this case the compensation is based on local average pay for Shanghai and not 3 months of an international teachers pay.

    Very nervous times indeed ahead. Many schools in Shanghai depend on revenue flow to keep themselves solvent and few have massive cash reserves to keep themselves going in times of uncertainty.
    Luvsskiing likes this.
  4. b7031475

    b7031475 New commenter

    This absolutely intimidating, especially when you have a permanent contract in the UK! I never thought about this as I am new to the circuit and thinking of accepting my first offer in the Middle East. Tough decision! Makes you overhaul all your plan and doubt your original decision. Especially with kids!
    Thank you for that.
    Luvsskiing likes this.
  5. february31st

    february31st Established commenter

    It is not a very frequent occurrence to have a contract withdrawn but it does happen enough to be concerned about.

    It is a leap of faith on our side we are prepared to resign a stable job and relocate halfway around the world on a vague promise of employment.
    Luvsskiing likes this.
  6. Luvsskiing

    Luvsskiing Established commenter

    The disruption caused by the virus will make schools completely unable to predict their recruitment needs. It could be you who suffers!

    Schools typically over-recruit anyway (very very true in Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait etc), and then let go those teachers that are surplus to requirements in July and August, once they know exactly how many students will actually be joining and paying the fees. The contracts have been perfectly described as 'Letters of Intent' rather than contracts. If you've already resigned your job, rented out your place or given notice to your landlord, sold the car and everything else and only have a few grand in the bank, you could find yourself going from great excitement and potentially a good income to scrabbling around for somewhere to live and trying to get days on supply whilst hunting frantically for a new job somewhere, anywhere, and often bounced into taking a wholly unsuitable job out of desperation. You might get lucky and get mopped up in China, which does seem to be able to soak up the spillages from everywhere else, but it will take time and the delay could be very costly to you personally. The virus has made the situation much worse for schools trying to predict how many teachers they need.

    Working abroad is a great experience. But for newbies especially, just be aware that a contract in most countries is not the same as a UK contract. It can be withdrawn at the last second, with no comeback for you and after you have given up everything in good faith. With the virus, schools are far more likely to have no idea how many students they will get, but still have to recruit and offer contracts, even if it means many of those will be discarded at the last moment. Schools do not care. They are not interested in your best interests. You will get no compensation. You will get an email and 'sorry'. Don't expect the recruitment agency to help either.

    Apply with your eyes wide open. Treat contracts as simply as a Letter of Intent !!
  7. Jason_Bourne_

    Jason_Bourne_ Established commenter

    It's happened to me previously, all signed up to join a school in Dubai and then a few months before the start of the academic year, the offer was withdrawn - no explanation given, just an apologises for any inconvenience caused... A fellow teacher was due to join the oil school in Qatar and was told a few days before she was due to arrive in Qatar that the offer had been withdrawn!
  8. b7031475

    b7031475 New commenter

    So, is there anything we can do to secure our financial rights in this case? I mean in the contract!
  9. Luvsskiing

    Luvsskiing Established commenter

    Which financial rights are those?

    Your contract can and will be withdrawn at the last moment if the school enrolment estimates are wrong. The virus panic has made accurate predictions impossible. You won’t know until August, long after you’ve resigned, given up where you live and sold up everything.

    Remember! Contract = Not a contract = Letter of Intent at best.
  10. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    A contract means nothing in the middle east. Literally nothing.
    BlueHues likes this.
  11. Jason_Bourne_

    Jason_Bourne_ Established commenter

    No, not at all, not a single thing, the contract isn't worth the paper that it's written on.
  12. will_osweighton

    will_osweighton Occasional commenter

    No. It's called 'frustration of contract' where something happens that's beyond anyone's control to stop the contract being fulfilled. It's no-one's fault. No-one has acted in bad faith. Both sides just have to take the hit.
    gulfgolf likes this.
  13. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    Just like everyone.... It's a big "NO!"

    Because you literally and officially do not exist in the country you are yet to arrive in.
  14. Jason_Bourne_

    Jason_Bourne_ Established commenter

    What about the schools that over recruit and then tell those teachers that the initial offer has been rescinded. Top many schools, particularly in the Middle East use this tactic to ensure they have enough teachers at the start of the academic year.
  15. IndigoViolence

    IndigoViolence New commenter

    I have seen it happen to two friends so it definitely does happen and it’s a perfect storm this year. Will schools have to close? Probably. Will anyone know before 2020/21... nope.
  16. will_osweighton

    will_osweighton Occasional commenter

    Well I'm no expert but it seems to me that is a very different situation to being unable to fulfil a contract because of coronavirus. The first is sharp practice; the second, an act of God.

    Even so, teachers who work abroad are at the mercy of the protections and legislation of the countries they work in. Unless the contract is made in UK law (perhaps ultimately owned by a British company, say) it may be very difficult to take action for a breach of contract. It's a case of buyer beware, I guess - or as many seasoned overseas teachers emphasise again and again, research the school, its reputation and its conditions of service very carefully.
  17. Luvsskiing

    Luvsskiing Established commenter

    Is anyone at the shoe school in Shanghai? They've just laid off a fifth of the international staff yesterday with more likely. At least they are the first to get the 'boot', so have first dibs at trying to get a replacement job, before the rush happens. Student numbers are falling like a stone apparently, as international companies recall staff and their families back to the EU and USA.
  18. welsh-warrior91

    welsh-warrior91 New commenter

    That's crazy. So if a teacher decided to not work abroad for whatever reason after they have signed a contract, the school could sue them or take legal action against them? Why does it not work both ways?
  19. TeacherMan19

    TeacherMan19 Occasional commenter

    Is that true? How did you find out?
  20. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    It does work both ways. Except it almost never happens on either side. A school may threaten (though they rarely do in my experience), a teacher may threaten (also quite rare), but it usually ends at that stage. One or two threatening letters in hopes the other party will capitulate, but it doesn’t proceed because both sides realize that the expense and difficulty of proceeding with actual legal cases is just not worth it, as the potential gain is small and the chance of winning is also small. In many cases, there isn’t actually an actionable case that a court will even accept.
    I have seen only a couple cases brought to court, and they were brought by teachers, not schools. And the teachers won. So the deck is not completely stacked. But in most cases, the only reasonable thing is to walk away.

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