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what is and what isnt employment law?

Discussion in 'Independent' started by num3bers, Sep 10, 2017.

  1. num3bers

    num3bers Occasional commenter

    Ok I see loads of posts here, many reflect the problems I have. I would really like to know what is and what isnt mine in employment law. maybe some people can help me out here.

    I had cause to ask a few things of the union in the summer and was told my contract was silent but custom and practice prevailed. My employer is changing custom and practice left right and centre and I am confused.

    Take your pick from the following:

    a) Can an employer vary conditions which have been long standing without asking / discussing or informing you first?

    b) I am paid to teach X periods a week which equates to pro rata 0.4 However, my employer thinks that he is allowed to insist I remain in school and teach y periods - the latter being used for cover and since I know I am paid only for X periods, its unpaid . Can this be done in law?

    c) I have a three day timetable ( I agreed) for my two days work but my employer has blanked out from my week only the first part of a morning and half a morning . I do not teach and am not paid for another z periods which are not blanked out in my timetable.... my employer says he is allowed to use these un-blanked unpaid periods as he needs to take for his y periods that he claims he is entitled to ask me to do in addition to my paid hours.

    None of this was the case when I went to the school and despite my contract saying 0.4 - an additional y periods actually would be 0.5 if I were paid. However, given the additiona z hours he wants me available this would in fact amount to an 0.64 fte if it were paid.

    ( let me put this in figures - not my real figures because that might be recognised by the school - but an example. I am paid 0.4 fte which is 9 hours a week ( x) . My employer claims he is entitled to 11 hours a week ( y) the additional two hours being used for cover although I am only paid for 9 hours. . He then says I have remain in school for an additional 6 hours ( z) across which he may select to make me do cover or not according to his needs. ( so in other words he wants me in school for 17 hours but only paid for 9 hours.) I am allowed two mornings when I can come in late amounting to 3 hours).

    Leaving aside making those changes and bullying me into the situation with the comment others are doing it or it is a requirement of my contract that I give this additional time "pro rata" of my actual contracted and paid hours. Is that legal?

    In addition
    d) my employer now wants me to work 3 Saturdays a year on "Open Days" for the school.
    Never had to do it before , just told that I must turn up. This not pro rata btw, full time staff and part time are all told to do it. We all have to put on special lessons and activities for any prospective parents and children. Neither am I allowed to leave even if I have not seen anyone all morning . I have to stay until I am told I can go. The last time this happened. They forgot me and I was there until 3:00 pm - everyone else having been told to go at 1:00 pm and ths school was then closed. It was only some cleaning and care taking staff who came in and seeing me, told me everyone had gone. Previously it was only full time HoD's and SLT. ( At first nothing was said if you missed these but now the Head is taking a register to make sure everyone comes in - is that legal?)

    e) What about coming in to do parents evenings on my day off?

    f) Coming in on a day off for an after school staff meeting?

    g) INSET at terms beginning - If it is on a day off do I come in? Again HT is taking a register of those attending INSET and following up on those who do not. What if I am min half a day, do I have to stay all day for INSET? ( Not paid by the way)

    h) As a part time teacher I have never had to offer clubs because I work less than 50% of a timetable. Now I am being hounded to do a club. As it happens I have lessons to teach on two of my days across clubs time and on the third day I have trapped time and am not actually contracted to be in work. Do I have to run a club in this time?

    i) Duties. I have been put on dut in a time when I am not officially employed. I dont mind doing my share of duties but why should I have to be around two hours after I inish teaching to do my weekly duty? I have asked for a change but am told I have to get someone to swap - why is the onus on me? Should it be? Is that legal?

    j) I have been allocated an assistant tutor role ( didnt ask for it, never had one before, and didnt have the choice of year goup). The full time teacher whose form it is has refused to go on a weeks residential citing her family needs ( a baby). I have been told I have to do it. I work part time .... what about my family? The school say since I have a husband he can look after the children whilst I go away.

    I also worry about whether I am insured if anything during all of this unpaid time I am required to give to the school. A couple of years ago I was told to join an activity week trip and since they didnt have room on the bus I had to take my own car. I am not a confident driver and the distance and rural location worried me. I refused and cited ( on advice here) insurance. I was made to feel silly and obstructive for mentioning it at school at the time and I eventually managed a swap with another colleague but last year the same thing happened to another teacher and this time the matter of insurance and taking your own car to a place not that of your normal working was raised again by this teacher and the school climbed down!

    If I am not paid and working am I insured? What if I get stabbed doing an unpaid cover, or injured during that duty time - or a kid gets hurt on my watch. Does the school insurance cover that if I am not in working time and not paid?

    Any answers to any of the above would be welcomed.
    install likes this.
  2. install

    install Star commenter

    As a starter - questions in my mind are:

    1 Are you doing all this on a regular basis none the less?

    2 Has your Union advised you otherwise?

    3 Is this causing you undue stress?

    4 Have you / someone raised these issues with your employer?

    5 Have you discussed your job spec/ contract with the relevant people where you actually work?
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2017
  3. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    You probably need to ask for a meeting with the head to discuss the changes to your contract / job description.
    Take union support with you.

    Your head can explain some of the changes s/he wants and you can negotiate extra pay or can refuse as you wish. A new head will change custom and practice, some of which will be popular and some of which will not. However they cannot change contractual obligations without your consent.

    a. Yes, but not any and every
    b. 0.4 is two days, so they are probably entitled to ask you to remain in school for two full days and to teach all by 10% of that time. (Or sometimes all of five afternoons)
    c. If you are in school for three days and being asked to teach for all of that time apart from 10%, then it could just be that the timetabler is unaware your contract is 0.4 and not 0.6. Negotiate with your head switching to a 0.6 timetable and being available for all of the three days, since you are there and they need you it could work well for all concerned.
    d. This is normal in an independent school, but ought to be in your contract somewhere. I would suggest you find a friend who will text you when they are told they can leave and then you can wander up and ask as well. I am astounded you were sitting about for two hours though, surely the times of the open day were published in advance, so you'd have an approximate finishing time?
    e.f.g. No you cannot be required to work on your days off. If you usually work half a day, then stick with working half a day. Unless you have a specific clause in your contract which says you will attend all parent evenings and the like.
    h. Running clubs is usual in independent schools, whatever proportion of a timetable you teach. Again you can negotiate this with your head. Discuss when and where it can fit in your timetable to suit you.
    i. Just swap with someone. There is bound to be someone who would prefer to do duty at your time than theirs. Most staff in my school swap at least one duty whenever a new rota comes out. It's just the way of the world. You have bigger things to be bothered about.
    j. You cannot be required to go on a week long residential for a great many reasons. The easiest one for you to use is that you cannot be required to work on your days off, so cannot go. That's the end of that.

    The insurance and working time doesn't make a lot of sense. None of us have actual hours in our contract. If I choose to do a late evening event, insurance is still valid. If I run a club after school, insurance is still valid. It wouldn't be different for you.

    I honestly think you need to sit down with your head and have a long conversation to sort all of this out. You are clearly looking at things from a different point of view to them and it could probably all be resolved without too much heartache.
  4. num3bers

    num3bers Occasional commenter

    1) If the school had their way I would be doing this on a regular basis. However, I make sure I do as little of it as possible. All last year I argued the case concerning doing cover and duties when I was not contracted and paid - and as soon as I finished I would leave school and go home.

    Only on one occasion did the DH manage to "force" ( and we had an almighty row but I ended up being the one to back down because he threatened to sack me if I didnt do it because " everyone else was doing extra" and I wasnt. Everybody else works more hours than I do anyway and there was only one teacher volunteering to take cover classes in her trapped time and that was because she had to stay in school all day every day because she didnt have a car to drive home and took the school bus home.

    Saturdays, again I managed to miss after I got left in school because I was not told I could go. I am expecting an ongoing fight again. I didnt get caught.

    I have never been in the position of having to go in for meetings on a day off until this year.The rest has always been hazy but HT is starting to crack more a whip as more people do as he tells them.

    2. My union has not advised. I have not asked them. I dont like to keep pestering them. They have been good over my timetable working with me on letters to school vis my altered timetable all through the holidays. They looked at my contract, said I should not work when not paid and that " by custom and practice" I was entitled to the same timetable ( three days and no trapped time where possible) . They also told me that if I was forced into having trapped time, it should be paid. I wrote a letter accordingly and had it changed around ..... but not without a few petulant mushes being pulled by SLT.

    3 . Yes, it does cause me stress because I am sick of the unnecessary fights I have to have just to work my hours and nothing else. I am sick of having to justify why I cant do a club or why duty is not convenient for me and why I cannot stay all afternoon for them after I finish at 10:30 am or something similar. I took my part time job so that I would have some time at home and to look after my family. . Its getting lost in all the extras I am now being asked for. I know a lot of this is because the school is running on skeleton staff and dropped full timers to part time when money got tight. There is hardly a full time teacher left in the school now. BUT the school wont admit its strapped for cash. It claims we are OK. Clearly we are not OK. Why duties were changed so we all had to do one a week I really dont know. Doing one whole day duty every six weeks worked well for us all.

    4. Raising the issues with my employer is done at peril of losing a job, being hounded more and having the matters deflected. HT hates unions, so dare to bring them in openly and you are for the high jump. Do it through the staff forum and it gets deflected and the issues raised come back unanswered. Further, until last year anything raised in the staff forum was taken to the governors anonymously so we could raise difficult issues, now HT is demanding to know who is raising issues. He seems to have moles and snouts everywhere, because even though the reps dont tell him, he finds out. Often now he puts his partner into the forum meeting so we cant raise anything without being noted.

    5. As I said the contract is silent. I raised the issue of what I was paid for with the office and they told me categorically I was paid for X hours only and X hours = 0.4 fte. I had this in writing.

    When I went to the school, that was precisely what I did and was paid. Cover was done voluntarily and you got paid if you offered ( it was £14 an hour). Now the school claim they actually pay me to do an extra two hours cover but it is flim flam, they pay me for X hours to teach X periods and that is 0.4. Duties, we had a list and we signed ourselves. Until last year we I did two duties a term. Now I am being put down for one a week. Full time staff do 2 duties a week. - mostly they dont though, they ignore them. I do my duties.

    Once when I had to go home last year ( my duty was two hours after I finished work for the day and I was foolishly staying until then - I finished on the morning and duty was after lunch - I asked someone to cover for me and they did..... and then SLT sent me a nasty letter telling me about not doing my own duty! I wrote back and told them where to get off ( politely) . The matter dropped. But its back again this year.

    As time goes on there is more take. Most staff are ignoring it but saying nothing. I guess thats why registers of staff attendance are now being taken. However, SLT ( ie HT and his partner) seem to have a radar for the likes of me but miss all the others. I guess I am down as the stroppy one who will stop them getting their full time workers for part time pay!

    I have never done clubs. This weekend I got a letter telling me to sign up for one - this after I had already explained once that I could not because I was timetabled to teach. ( clubs are supposed to be free of teaching commitments but they are not, they are being used as normal timetable in KS4 and 5 because we dont have staff and we dont have enough room run without subject clashes otherwise.) . I have so far declined on the grounds of teaching commitments.

    I just want to know what is mine. I am not exactly being paid a fortune for an 0.4. I really dont want the money and I doubt the school could pay anyway.

    Without having to keep asking, surely there must be something in employment law that clarifies what people are expected to work or not?.
  5. num3bers

    num3bers Occasional commenter

    d. This is normal in an independent school, but ought to be in your contract somewhere. I would suggest you find a friend who will text you when they are told they can leave and then you can wander up and ask as well. I am astounded you were sitting about for two hours though, surely the times of the open day were published in advance, so you'd have an approximate finishing time?

    Well, actually no.
    By practice only full time staff and SLT were in on open days. Op[en days were never a staff thing, and certainly not part time staff.

    Some staff are now sticking to their fractional contracts and saying they will only do either part of the hours of the morning, or only come in for one or two of the three mornings according to their fractions ( eg, someone works an 0.6 will do two of the three mornings etc. ). As an 0.4 I should be doing less than 1.5 open mornings on that principle.

    Yes, the times of the open morning were published but as a member of staff I was told ( we were all told) categorically that we were not allowed to leave, no matter what time it was, until we were dismissed by a SLT coming and telling us we could go. This was in case there were late visitors and HT said, he didnt want them seeing staff hot footing it home whilst they were still walking round. He also told the kids they had to come in. A number of them refused. But they are kids, they can refuse.

    I was placed in a classroom some distance away from the main school and no one came. I was afraid to leave until I was sighed out by SLT. ( yes they do scare me into doing things for them - its intimidation, mafia style).
  6. num3bers

    num3bers Occasional commenter

    When I went to the school, although it was verbal, I was told categorically what as a part time teacher I had to do. My contract is silent. Even the union say that is the case. Conditions have been established by custom and practice.

    a) I agreed to work my 0.4 days over three days for flexibility.

    b) Trapped time would be minimized but I would not be required to work in it. If I chose to I would be paid to take cover classes. This was voluntary. I would need to see DH who would put me on the list to be a cover person and see to my pay when I was needed.

    c) I would always wear a skirt suit / dress with cardigan or jacket and not trousers, jeans or anything considered unprofessional.

    d) If I was not in school on a day when additional meetings took place, I didnt have to come in. same for INSET. I was only to come in on my working days ( and for the duration of my contract time).

    e) Open mornings were not necessary as I was not SLT and I was less than a 50% contract.

    f) clubs were run on the basis of (a) full time staff offered two clubs a week (b) part time staff with an 0.5fte or more would run one club and anyone on less than a 50% paid hours did not run a club.

    g) Duties were pro rata and day duties. As a part timer I did five duties over three terms. There was a list. I put my name down to suit my working hours. There were always two on duty and you split it up as you wanted between you, especially if a part timer was only working a morning or similar.

    No one spoke about changing any of this. Its been imposed by stealth and intimidation - as for having a meeting about it. HT - well, I doubt it.
  7. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I don't quite understand about a 'silent' contract, do you mean it isn't in writing?
    As in you, effectively, don't have one?

    You aren't pestering your union, you need to go back to them. We pay hundreds of pounds to unions over a career, use them when you need to. They are the only ones who can pick apart exactly what is going on and support you in talking to the head.

    I'd also suggest you start to look for a post elsewhere. If things are are you say they are, then chances are yours will be one of the many schools which closes in the next couple of years.
  8. num3bers

    num3bers Occasional commenter

    I am sorry for the misunderstanding. The union rep used the term silent contract meaning that the contract was very basic and did not spell out any terms and conditions at all beyond stating how much time I was expected to work and what payment that would be ( each year verified by a letter of

    The conditions were stated verbally when I went to work there and have not varied in the last decade, therefore those conditions have been adhered to and are now established. Thats what they said.
    Any changes should be by discussion and negotiation - something the management are not doing.

    As I said, if the union come in, my job will be gone. The Head hates unions. I suspect at least two teachers were in contact with the union before they left and that the school has paid for that in terms of compensation even though they got rid of the teachers concerned. I do not really want to be one of those pushed out before I am ready to go to another job, if you see what I mean.

    We do seem to be losing staff. Those that can have retired ( some early) so it doesn't always look as if staff are leaving because they dont like it but the main reason staff are going when they can is because most do not like the way they are being treated. I am not the only one in that circumstance. But SLT are not listening.

    I dont think my school will close but I do think we are bumping along the bottom. Other schools have already gone and at least two are in a worse position than us now. We have survived before and the school has a good reputation based on an excellent rating by ISI ( although many of the staff who got that rating are leaving or have left). We have started to increase roll again but that isnt translating into extra staff or extra pay for the additional needs in school - just overworked staff being asked to do more for no pay.

    Well, I know we are barely breaking even to be honest. I have looked up the accounts at the Charity Commission - and we have gone through a number of bursars in the last five years.

    I am already looking for another job. Its about surviving and making sure I have a life work balance until I can get out. Thanks.

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