Staff T&Cs under the workforce agreement
The national workforce agreement has made it all the more important for school leaders to understand the terms and conditions by which their staff are bound - and not bound.
The secretary of state lays down terms and conditions for schools in the annual School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD). Being statutory, this overrides any other agreement, but local agreements that improve on the statutory provisions are permissible.
The STPCD 2004 contains the national workforce agreement which limits the extent and nature of a teacher's workload and the tasks that a head can routinely impose.
LEA employers have a national agreement that covers a variety of additional areas, the rather confusingly named Conditions of Service for School Teachers in England and Wales, as distinct from the STPCD. This is popularly known as the 'burgundy book'.
Collective agreements may have a 'no detriment' clause. For example, the National Agreement on Workforce Reform had no detriment clauses in three areas - cover, PPA, and leadership and management time - as well as a general no detriment clause.
This means that if a school had previously given teachers less cover than the national agreement allowed, it could not raise the amount of cover to the nationally agreed amount, so worsening conditions.
No detriment is an aggregate measure and means that over the course of the year staff should not be worse off than they were previously. It does not mean, for instance, that staff can only be asked to attend one meeting per week.
Those are the only no detriment clauses in that agreement. Other changes can be made freely by management, subject to the stipulations of the STPCD. Refusal to comply can be the subject of disciplinary action.
If a change is very significant or amounts to a change in contract, full information should be given to the union and there must be consultation.
Consultation means that the employer explains what is intended, seriously considers representations by the employee and then explains the final decision and why it was made.
Custom and practice
Heads are sometimes challenged on the grounds of 'custom and practice'. This is not the same as, "We've always done it this way."
Custom and practice has to be an implied term of the employment contract. All staff members must know it applies; it must apply to all; it must always apply; and it must be reasonable.
Outside education this has arisen over enhanced redundancy terms, where it has been claimed that although one compensation level was stated in policy, in fact people always got more.
In a school it might apply in a case where staff relied on the fact that there never were after-school meetings, or that teacher days were always disaggregated.
From the employer's point of view, work-life balance is intended to ensure that employees are fit for work and not debilitated by stress and that the profession is not so unattractive that it is impossible to recruit teachers.
It does not preclude new tasks, as long as these are professional; nor does a one-off event, however inconvenient, constitute a breach of work-life balance.
What it does require is reasonable attention to what is being added and what has been, or might be, taken away to bring workload into balance.
Subject only to these constraints, a head may direct staff in any reasonable way. A teacher's refusal to follow a direction would be cause to initiate disciplinary procedures.
Changing the way that an organisation is structured or staff are deployed is a matter for management. The same applies to alterations to the school day or timetable or classes a teacher is expected to teach.
Instructions should never be unreasonable or designed to drive a teacher to resignation - if they are, action for constructive dismissal is possible.
The workforce reform agreement is meant to improve pupils' achievement by freeing teachers to concentrate on teaching and learning and by giving more professionalism to schools.
In the short term, implementing workforce reform will be a challenge. However, we are still convinced that in the long run everyone will benefit, most of all the students.
SHA's information paper on teaching and learning responsibility payments is available at www.sha.org.uk in the members section, under information papers.
© 2013 Association of School and College Leaders