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Contracts

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Ellakits, Sep 17, 2017.

  1. Ellakits

    Ellakits Established commenter

    I've seen a number of posts about contracts in which people have said that it is considered normal to receive a contract after you start working at a school, sometimes up to two months later.

    I've also seen posts where it appears an employee is deemed to have accepted the conditions (often changes) in their contract by virtue of working for the employer. Effectively acceptance by default.

    I've also seen posts which state that verbal acceptance of a job offer forms a contract etc. etc., no written copy is needed for this to be binding.

    I can't see how these things work together.

    If you don't get a copy of your contract until you've been working there a while, how can you be in a position to dispute anything surprising in the written contract when you receive it? Equally, how can a verbal acceptance be binding given that you're unlikely to have been told verbally of all the conditions of your written contract? Aren't you effectively agreeing to the great unknown?

    I'm looking for a position from January and not having taught for a few years I'm mindful of the huge changes to teachers terms and conditions with regard to (non) pay portability, academies, free schools, blah, blah, blah.

    I don't want to end up in a situation where I find that I've inadvertently agreed to a contract of terms and conditions that I wouldn't normally work under in any circumstances, such as requirements for Saturday catch up sessions etc.

    Can I reasonably ask for a written copy of the contract before I agree to accept the position / before I start / tell them my acceptance is conditional on the details contained in the contract?

    If that isn't reasonable, then surely I can't be held to any of the terms in it which I don't agree with, given that I wouldn't have accepted the position had I known they formed part of the contract, can I?

    Your thoughts appreciated!
     
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  2. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

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    @GLsghost is your expert for this, but a couple of comments in the meantime.

    There's no reason in principle why people cannot ask to see the contract before deciding whether to accept a job offer although in practice many of the details of people's contracts will be in separate documents which are 'included by reference' - eg the staff handbook may be included but it's unlikely you'll be given IT access to the staff area of the school's system to read every word of it prior to accepting the job. For schools working on STPCD and Burgundy Book the offer letter should just refer to them.

    When people post here that they haven't had their contract months after starting work it's often unclear what their offer letter said. Those from my school are quite detailed and include everything the has to ve in the statutory 'written statement of employment particulars. People sign a copy and return it as written confirmation of their acceptance. And all the principal terms of the contract are thus confirmed in writing before he teacher starts work. We're quire efficient at that, I know that not all schools are.

    Often posters here seem to be expecting more from 'getting the contract' than is likely to happen, or be necessary, in practice. The reason two months is often referred is because of this statutory requirement:

    https://www.gov.uk/employment-contracts-and-conditions/written-statement-of-employment-particulars

    GLsghost can explain better than I can the position about whether you have accepted terms of your contract that weren't brought to your attention before you accepted it. But as I understand it it would have to be a pretty fundamental term of the contract before you could say you weren't bound by it - you thought you were being offered a job as a teacher but head thought they were were appointing as a cleaner (a rather extreme example :) ). On the other hand objecting that had not been told you had to call in sick by 8.00am would be unlikely to let you walk away from the job.
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    Last edited: Sep 17, 2017
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  3. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    I think we have a certain amount of chaos as regards teaching contracts, since the move away from STPCD. Back in the good old days, you got the job offer, which referred to the STPCD. There was no need for any more detail, as that was all in the STPCD. The contract could quite happily follow months later, since the pay and conditions were laid down.

    Now that pay and conditions vary between schools, I think it is not unreasonable of us to expect to have access to their pay policy and terms and conditions before accepting a post. That could be by providing it on the website, or by sending relevant documents with invitations to interview or job offers. Perhaps unions could campaign for this; in the meantime, teachers need to be brave enough to ask to see things, or to accept "subject to satisfactory terms and conditions" - however it's rather difficult to stick to that if May 31st is approaching and the new school is dragging their heels.
     
  4. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

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    I don't think that legally that is allowede - @GLsghost ? It isn't an acceptance in contract law as you can't accept a contractual offer conditionally.
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  5. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    I wouldn't really count it as an acceptance - more an indication that they need to get the terms and conditions out pronto so that a decision can be made.
     
    install likes this.
  6. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    Thanks for the tag @Rottweiler and thanks for the really interesting and important questions raised in this thread.

    I will not have time to answer properly until tomorrow afternoon, at the earliest, but look forward to doing so then! In the meantime, if anyone wants to add any further questions that arise from this in discussion about employment contracts, I will tackle them all at the same time! :)
     
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  7. install

    install Star commenter

    Yes you can accept 'subject to contract'

    Do not rely on legal information in on line forums alone - always check details with someone you trust eg Union:cool:
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2017
  8. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    Thank you, @GLsghost, I will take up your offer.

    I'm currently bumbling along in long-term supply but filling a permanent role. At some stage the HT will probably realise that he can cut out the agency and pay me direct, either by a contract until Aug 31st or a permanent contract. I'm not bothered which because I'm not sure if I want the added hassle that goes with permanent and I'm in a shortage subject that will keep me ticking over as supply. Mrs C would definitely prefer the security of income though.

    I'm likely to be offered the contract 'on the nod' around mid-October which implies a starting date of Jan 1st 2018. Until then I'm on supply which I prefer anyway. I would definitely accept the contract rather than face the wrath of my dearest one.

    However I'm still trying out the school and the job (and I believe that ALL teaching jobs are currently unsustainable) and may well decide I want out and back to the uncertainty (and the aggrieved other half) of supply.

    So once accepted is the contract binding on both parties?
    1. What if I get seriously ill in mid-November, sick notes to February? I'm only supply, so disposable this year.
    2. If I decide 'stuff this' then do I have to hand in my notice before Oct 31st to 'leave' on the start date?
    3. Do I, as a supply now, have to go through the garbage that is performance management in October. There's probably an answer to this in the school policies but is there an over-riding precedent to wave around. Would the future contract bind me now?
    Sorry, much longer than I intended (and I've got 16 hours to put in lots of PSs.)
     
  9. Ellakits

    Ellakits Established commenter

    Thanks for the replies and thoughts - esp @GLsghost and @Rott Weiler.

    It's not so much the idea of little things such as times to call in sick, all schools have variations on this so it (for example) wouldn't be unexpected.

    As mentioned it's the lack of STPCD as a common baseline that's the issue.

    Most of the schools near me are academies, some of which have put info regarding working for them on their website in job descriptions etc. Some of these contain something along the lines of "We're part of a large group and you can be directed to work at any one of our schools" and so on. I know I can't assume that the schools without this on their websites don't have it as part of their contracts. Question is how do I find out?

    In that example I wouldn't want to sign the contract as some of the schools in academy covens are many miles apart. In practice I know it's unlikely that anyone would suddenly be instructed to work at a school two hours' drive from the one they applied to, but if it's there in the contract then in principle they can hold you to it I think.

    Also one school I worked in sent out an offer letter which said all terms of employment were contained in the staff handbook. Great, except you could only access this on the intranet with a staff login... As it happens it wasn't really an issue as STPCD was in force there.

    But with an academy? Who knows what you're expected to do!

    In another thread someone stated that by accepting pay for work done you've effectively agreed to the working conditions laid out by the employer. If a contract doesn't materialise until 6 weeks after you start, your first wage has been paid - does that mean that you're deemed to be happy with the conditions laid out in the contract even though you haven't seen it yet?

    Given the ridiculously long notice periods in schools I think
     
  10. Ellakits

    Ellakits Established commenter

    (Cont)

    ...that we ought to have some national guidelines about being given all the terms before we're deemed to have accepted the contract.

    Another thread here had a query regarding INSET and p/t employees. The query was how many should they attend and what happens if they're on days not normally worked. The advice was 'not required to do them unless it's specifically stated in your contract'. But if you don't see your contract until after you've worked there (and received your first pay packet) how would you know? Would it be enforceable?

    Also, schools still have the bothersome habit of phoning successful applicants the same day and expecting them to confirm acceptance verbally immediately. This conversation is unlikely to contain all the t&cs of employment, so is it really enforceable? Candidates are put under pressure to give an immediate answer otherwise the school will contact the runner up.

    I'm beginning to think that if offered a job I should let the phone go to voicemail, and instead of phoning back to accept, I should send an email along the lines of 'I accept the position subject to confirmation that my t&cs of employment follow the STPCD...'

    And breathe...!
     
  11. Ellakits

    Ellakits Established commenter

    Ah, one final query, sorry!

    I've been to interviews where I've been asked if I would accept the job if I was offered it. If I say yes is this binding? Is it a sort of contract-lite?

    Obviously on some occasions I've been asked this yet haven't been offered the job, but on other occasions I have been offered (and accepted) it. Would there be any enforceable expectation if I said yes to a hypothetical question in an interview but later changed my mind?

    Common sense and hope tells me no, but clarification would be good!
     
  12. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

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    You can say it but it isn't legally acceptance and doesn't form a contract! [Paragraph 9 here and and on dozens of other legal websites]. It's saying "I'm likely to accept the offer but need more information about it before I decide." The potential consequence is that as no contract would yet exist the school could offer the job to someone else in the meantime.
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    Last edited: Sep 18, 2017
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  13. Ellakits

    Ellakits Established commenter

    This is what bothers me about the whole set up. Effectively we're over a barrel and have little choice.

    If I accept a job offer immediately over the phone the job's mine - but I have no idea what I'm agreeing to.

    But if I ask to see the particulars of the job t&cs before I accept I risk the school refusing and offering the job to someone who is happy to agree to unknown conditions.

    Something doesn't sit right about that, even if it's perfectly legal.
     
  14. Ellakits

    Ellakits Established commenter

    Another way of looking at it is why do schools fail to inform candidates of the full particulars of a job before they form a contract?

    What is the point of making the employment details something that is known by only one side, when a contract is meant to be something mutually agreed?

    Even setting these out in the offer letter is largely meaningless given that this usually follows a verbal offer of a job via phone call, acceptance of which apparently constitutes the contract itself. So already too late to back out when you get the offer letter.
     
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  15. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter


    Good schools (& I worked in more than 10, many of them good by any measure) will issue a letter offering the job with details (often 2 or 3 pages), they give/send you 2 copies, you sign one and return it, and keep the other. So you have a pretty good idea as to what you've accepted (I'd expect the salary, the hours, the % of the time-table if not full time, the notice required to resign etc.)

    If asked over the phone, you say: 'Yes, I'm really happy to accept your offer of a post to teach.... and I'll let you have my acceptance in writing once I get your formal written offer". If they aren't happy with that basic professional approach, don't work for them. They'll mess you up later.

    PS By saying something like this I'd say no tricky HT can claim you've accepted a job until you send him/her a formal written acceptance. It's like buying a home - you say' Yes, I'll offer £xxx for this property", but nothing is finalised until written contracts are exchanged.
     
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  16. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    The fact that is doesn't make a contract is the point. Usually the school are saying (once we've looked at the references and discussed it) if we offer you the job would you accept it? If you just say yes, then all they need to do is offer the job and you've formed a verbally binding contract. You're basically agreeing without having seen all the terms and conditions you're agreeing to, which now schools don't have to follow the burgundy book would be rather silly. A dishonest school could add in something to the contract and it would be your fault for not having checked it out.

    If however you say yes, subject to seeing the contract/terms of employment. Then you are showing that you are interested in taking the job, but you are sensible enough to want to check that they are not going to try and pull as fast one. This shouldn't bother an honest employer from offering you the job, but it may make one with something to hide think twice. Outside of schools, this is completely normal. In fact most places of employment don't expect you to make up your mind straight away when offered a job.
     
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  17. Ellakits

    Ellakits Established commenter

    @Rott Weiler What you've described in relation to job offer letters and t&cs seems a sensible approach. Does this mean that you don't phone the successful candidate, so the first they know of a job offer is receiving your letter?I've read so many times that verbal acceptance is forming a verbal contract which is legally enforceable.

    I haven't worked in teaching for a few years and it was a number of years before that when I last accepted a job offer, I understand that processes may have changed since.

    In fact, the last time I accepted a job the head telephoned after the interview and offered me a different one from the one I'd applied for. I had to decide on the spot whether I wanted a job I knew very little about and wasn't expecting to be offered. As it was the school was great and STPCD was in force so there could be very few surprises when I finally received my contract. Now though, I'd be really wary of accepting a job under those circumstances.

    I've come across this question during interviews in the past. I'm now wondering if that would form a binding contract if I said yes to it. And how I'd respond if I was asked it again.
     
  18. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    I haven't forgotten...I'm working on it, in between trips to the hospital! :)
     
  19. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter


    In my career, more often I found they asked 'are you still a candidate' at the end of the formal interview. Had it been necessary I would have said 'yes' then and changed my mind later, equally if they said something like 'if we offer you the job, will you accept it' because they haven't offered you the job.

    So if you change your mind later that day, or whenever actually offered the job, I don't think any contract exists... And if you say 'no, changed my mind' what damage could they claim you had cased them? They'll just offer it to the next person on their list!
     
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  20. Ellakits

    Ellakits Established commenter

    Thank you! And hope hospital things are going well!
     

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