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SECTOR: Education


In employment terms, we deal with local authorities, advise on trade union consultation, and TUPE transfers. We can provide equal pay audits, and advise in connection with contracts of employment, & pay guidance. We have an employment protection scheme, and an ongoing employment law helpline. We provide a full range of services for all employment issues including specialist training.

We can provide truly specialist advice as regards Educational employment issues. We are a resilient team of lawyers, who can provide you with the right advice at a highly competitive price; we offer truly bespoke fee structures.

We have had a reference request from a very troublesome former employee. Can we refuse to provide a reference?

In general, there is no duty on an employer to provide a reference. The only duty is to take reasonable steps to ensure that any reference is reasonably accurate. However, in areas like education, it is the norm for references to be provided. There are very few grounds on which a former employee can bring a claim against their previous employer for anything which happens after the employment relationship has ended. A former employee would not be able to claim that they have been victimised on the grounds of any discrimination if a reference is not provided. However, they would be entitled to bring a claim that they were a whistleblower

I have heard that CRB checks do not need to include every conviction. Is this right?

Whilst the CRB Scheme will soon become the responsibility of the Disclosure and Barring Service, it was recently challenged in the case of R (on the application of T) -v- The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester. The Court of Appeal held that the scheme was not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights because the requirement to disclose all recorded convictions and cautions was disproportionate. In this case, the Applicant received two warnings from Manchester Police for offences related to stolen bicycles when he was aged 11. Later, he enrolled on a University course which involved teaching, and contact with children, and the CRB check revealed the warnings. As is often the case with the ECHR the Court had a balancing act between the need to protect vulnerable people and the wider public, and the individuals rights.

We converted to Academy status 2 years ago. Is there any time limit before we can change our terms and conditions of employment?

There is no specific time limit. Whether you can change an employees terms and conditions may depend on your reason for making the change. If the reason has anything to do with the transfer of part of an organisation (for example, bringing two schools together, converting to an Academy, or bringing certain services in house) then it may be automatically unfair to make any changes to the employees contracts. If the staff will not agree to the changes, it can be difficult to enforce a change. Ultimately, an employee may seek to dismiss all of their existing workforce but offer to reengage them on the new revised terms. Obviously, this is a very drastic step to take and will usually require very detailed legal advice.

We have a supply teacher who is threatening to sue us for unfair dismissal. Can they do that?

Only an employee has the right to bring a claim for unfair dismissal against their employer. Unlike certain rights (such as rest breaks and annual leave, or maternity and paternity leave), the right does not extend to workers. An agency worker is employed by the agency, not the client. If a supply teacher has a particular issue about their working conditions, then normally their claim is against the agency. However, this could be complicated if they have been with the school for a long time, or the paperwork is not clear. In addition, there are other claims they can bring, such as discrimination claims, even if they are not (or were not) an employee

Demand for a particular course has dropped. Can I make a member of staff redundant?

It is often wrongly assumed that for there to be a redundancy, the amount of work has to fall. This is not necessarily the case. There is a statutory definition of redundancy and what counts is whether or not the employers need for employees to carry out work of a particular kind has fallen. Depending on the particular circumstances, the total number of employees may stay the same, or even increase. What matters is whether an employee who carries out a particular role is needed or not. You would also need to see whether or not that member of staff could be redeployed or retrained.

We are looking to change the company which provides our catering services. What will happen to the staff?

If you are looking to retender the catering services from one provider to another (or even if you are outsourcing your existing catering to an outside provider, or bringing those services back in house), the employees will be protected under the Transfer of Undertaking (Protection of Employment) Regulations. If a business, or part of a business, is transferred from one organisation to another then the employees will expect to transfer as well. Their length of service, and their terms and conditions of employment, will be protected. It would also be automatically unfair to dismiss an employee because of that transfer, although you might have a particular defence for that. You need to be particularly careful about these situations as the employees would be able to rely upon the terms and conditions of employment which they had before the transfer. The situation with pensions is slightly more complicated.

  • Robert Gibson
  • Sally Lomas Fletcher
  • Angela Carver

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