Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Advice from the hotline...

The ASCL hotline is a completely confidential service available to answer members' questions on issues that arise in school/ college. The questions and answers below are based on real calls to the hotline. To protect confidentiality, all scenarios have been anonymised. If you need advice on a personal or professional issue, call 0116 299 1122 and ask for the hotline officer.

Residential course causes conundrum

Q
I would like a deputy to go on a four-day residential training course. The course is within travelling distance but I feel she would gain more if she stayed overnight. The deputy does not want to go because she looks after her disabled father in the evenings. Can I insist that she attend?

A
A recent ruling by the European Court of Justice extended the scope of disability discrimination law by saying that carers for disabled people are themselves protected against disability discrimination by reason of association with that disabled person. This opens up the possibility that if you insist that the deputy attend this course, you may be discriminating against her because it prevents her caring for her disabled father. Our advice would be to look at making a reasonable adjustment and asking the deputy to attend on a daily basis. It would be helpful to find out more about the deputy's circumstances and the extent of the caring role she provides for her father.

Reneging on verbal contract

Q
I offered a post to a teacher who accepted it. I now find out that he has been to another interview subsequently. Can I withdraw the offer? I also discovered that the other school knew that he had been appointed here before they interviewed him. Have I any redress?

A
A verbal offer and acceptance are sufficient to create a contract, so if the candidate accepted your offer a contract existed between you. However, it might be argued that in going for another interview the candidate has showed that he had no intention of honouring the contract. In that case it could be argued that he has effectively ended the contract himself. It is hard to see that he would have any basis for action against you if you withdrew the offer. The other school appears (on the facts as you have them) to have been inducing him to breach a contract with you. This is deplorable but redress is another matter. In theory there might be a case against them if you could prove that it was done knowingly and with the intention of causing damage to your school, and, in fact, did cause damage. But it might not be financially worthwhile to pursue it to court.

A payment holiday for casual worker?

Q
An exam invigilator who is a casual worker, paid hourly and called in when needed, is claiming that, according to the Working Time Regulations 1998, she has a right to 24 days of paid holiday leave. Is this correct? If so, it seems that she effectively gets paid for 24 days for doing nothing.

A
She is certainly not entitled to 24 days of paid leave. She may have an argument under the Working Time Regulations that she is entitled to some pro rata paid holiday based on the number of hours she works. For example, she would have to work a month to accrue two days of paid leave. How much time does she actually work in a year? If it is only a few hours a week she will only get a minimal amount of paid leave, possibly a few hours at most. If she is self-employed, that is, not paid through the payroll but upon submission of invoices, she is unlikely to be eligible for anything. We would suggest the school consults its payroll administrators for further advice.

Breached?

Q
I am the headteacher of a local authority school. I have been informed by the governing body, following some acrimonious exchanges, that my conduct contravenes the National Standards for Headteachers 2004 and the local authority's own guidance document for behaviour in the workplace. They go on to say that this also breaches the implied term in my contract. I understand, although disagree with, the first part but what do they mean by "breaches the implied term in my contract"?

A
In every contract of employment there is an implied term/duty of "trust and confidence". Essentially it means that both employee and employer must behave reasonably to each other. Breach of this implied term/duty by either party can lead to termination of the contract. If it is breached by the employee, it will usually be for gross misconduct; if by the employer it may enable the employee to bring a claim for constructive dismissal. This is an extremely serious matter and ASCL will allocate a field officer to provide you with assistance and support.

© 2017 Association of School and College Leaders