Employment Law Applicable to Independent Schools
Independent schools are not regulated to the same extent as maintained schools, and so it is helpful for existing and potential clients of MBM Commercial to understand the rules surrounding employment of staff at these schools.
Independent schools are free to fill non-teaching roles as required, can set their own pay and conditions for staff members, and can evaluate and manage performance as required. As well, Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) is not required of teachers.
The legal minimum
Due to the fact that independent schools do not have to follow either the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document or the ‘Burgundy Book’ National Agreement on Pay and Conditions of Service, they are subject only to the statutory minimum when it comes to things like pay of maternity leave and sick leave.
Although employers in independent schools are likely to offer above the statutory minimum when it comes to employment benefits and obligations, it is nevertheless helpful to provide an overview of statutory employment rules as they stand. These will give you a better idea of your position when it comes to contract negotiation with employees.
Equality Act 2010
Under the Equality Act 2010, an employer cannot discriminate when deciding who to hire. Specifically, you cannot base your choice on:
- a candidate’s age;
- a candidate’s disability;
- whether they have had gender reassignment surgery;
- whether they are married or in a civil partnership;
- whether they are pregnant or on maternity leave;
- a candidate’s race;
- a candidate’s religion or beliefs;
- a candidate’s gender; or
- a candidate’s sexual orientation.
Employment Rights Act 1996
Under section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, you must provide a new employee with a written statement of the particulars of the employment within two months of their start date. This will contain, among other things, the following:
- employer and employee’s names;
- date that employment commenced;
- date on which the employee’s period of continuous employment began;
- pay scale and on what basis the employee will be paid;
- terms and conditions related to hours of work; and
- terms and conditions related to sick and maternity leave, holiday pay, pension schemes.
The contract of employment comprises the written statement, together with an appointment letter and any other particulars provided later.
Where an employee has worked with the school for a continuous period of less than two years, the employee and the employer are entitled to one week’s notice. After two years, both parties are entitled to a further week for each year thereafter. If the period of continuous employment is 12 years or more, you must give 12 weeks’ notice as a minimum.
Working Time Regulations 1998
Under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR 1998), working time shall not exceed 48 hours per seven days and an employer must take reasonable steps to ensure this is the case. Employees are entitled to opt out of this if they want but this must not be because of pressure from the employer.
Employees are entitled to 20 minutes uninterrupted break time in a six-hour day, 11 consecutive hours in a 24-hour period and 24 hours in a 7-day period. However, you can opt for 14-day averaging.
Under regulation 13 of the WTR 1998, employees are entitled to a certain proportion of holiday per year and it is standard practice for teachers to take all school holidays as paid annual leave. It is also true that holidays in independent schools tend to be longer; though this can be offset by longer working hours or weekend commitments.
This is at the discretion of the head teacher. You may wish to introduce a policy that special leave be granted for significant events such as a graduation or bereavement.