A contract of employment sets out your terms and conditions of employment. It does not have to be in writing but if it is not, you should receive a written ‘statement of particulars’ that provides specific information such as your rate of pay and working hours, entitlements to sick pay and so on.
NEU red lines
- All employees must receive a statement of particulars within two months of starting their job. Let the union know if you do not receive one within the time specified.
- The statement of particulars should state the title of your post and include a brief description of the work for which you are employed.
- You should receive a job description which outlines your role and duties as this will help clarify the tasks you should undertake and define your pay entitlement and workload.
What is the difference between the terms and conditions in local authority (LA)-maintained schools and others?
Until the introduction of academies, all teachers in state-funded schools had their terms and conditions governed by the school teachers’ pay and conditions document (STPCD), which applies nationally and has statutory effect.
In addition to the STPCD, the teaching unions have negotiated a collective agreement for LA-maintained schools, known as the Burgundy Book. This contains provisions for enhanced maternity leave and sick pay, among other things, and applies in community, voluntary controlled, voluntary aided and trust schools.
Academies, free schools and independent schools are not legally required to employ teachers on these terms.
However, the NEU campaigns strongly in those schools for the adoption of the same provisions and many schools have voluntarily opted into the terms. In any event, any teacher who has been transferred from a community school into an academy will have their STPCD terms and conditions legally protected.
What about teachers in sixth form colleges?
As with schools in the independent sector, sixth form colleges are not legally required to employ teachers on STPCD and Burgundy Book terms and conditions, although some do.
Most teachers in the sixth form college sector are subject to the Teaching staff: conditions of service handbook, commonly known as the Red Book, which has similar terms to those in the Burgundy Book.
Where can I get a copy of my contract?
Most teachers will receive a letter of appointment when they are appointed to a new post. Usually this will refer to terms and conditions contained in a separate document (eg the STPCD or staff handbook), but in some cases the letter itself will constitute your contract in full if it covers all the terms outlined below.
On request, your school or college should allow you access to copies of documents referred to, eg STPCD and Burgundy Book. You can also find some links to online copies of these at the end of this document.
While contracts are not required to be in writing, all employees have the right to receive a written statement of the particulars of their employment within two months of starting work. If you have not received this, you should request it from your line manager or head teacher.
Before I accept a job, should I ask for details of the terms and conditions of employment?
Your employer is legally obliged to provide you with a document setting out your terms and conditions of employment within two months of the start of your job, but not before then, ie not before you have accepted an offer of employment. However, you are clearly at a disadvantage if you are offered a job without knowing whether your prospective employer will offer the same or similar terms (eg sick pay or maternity pay entitlements) as your existing employer.
Use this model letter to request more information before you accept an offer of employment:
Who is my employer?
If you work in a community or voluntary controlled school, the local authority will be your employer although the school’s governing body will have some delegated powers relating to appointment, suspension, discipline and dismissal. If you work in any other type of school, or a sixth form college, the proprietor, trust or governing body is likely to be your employer. Your contract should clearly state who your employer is, along with the start date of your employment with this employer (including any previous employment that counts towards your continuity of service). The contract should also state your job title and a brief description of your duties.
Finding out your terms and conditions
What about pay?
The statement of particulars must specify your rate of pay and how often you will be paid (eg daily/weekly/monthly etc). Teachers in maintained schools should be paid according to the relevant provisions in the STPCD, but your contract should clearly state on what point you have been appointed for any applicable pay scale and what additional pay comes with your position, eg special educational needs (SEN) points or teaching and learning responsibilities (TLRs).
It is also important that you understand your employer’s pay arrangements. More information on where to find help with pay rates is provided at the end of this document.
What detail should I have regarding my working hours?
You are entitled to know any terms relating to your hours of work. Staff on STPCD contracts have very particular terms specifying the number of days and hours they must be available to teach in school, and any additional work expected in their own time to support teaching. Most teachers have similar requirements regardless of whether or not they are on STPCD contracts.
What is my annual leave entitlement?
The statutory minimum annual leave (5.6 weeks) will apply unless the contract states otherwise. The minimum can include public holidays unless these are expressly stated to be additional. Teachers are normally expected to take their annual leave during school/college holidays.
What if I am sick?
Teachers in maintained schools will have access to the sick pay scheme in the Burgundy Book, which provides for full pay on 25 working days of sickness and half pay for a further 50 days of sickness. This rises incrementally each year to 100 days full pay and 100 days half pay during the fourth and subsequent years’ service.
In addition, there may be local agreements negotiated with the unions about sick pay and conditions.
Teachers in other schools and sixth form colleges should refer to their contracts for provisions of any occupational sick pay scheme. If your contract does not contain terms about occupational sick pay, you will only be entitled to statutory sick pay. For further NEU guidance on sick pay, see the further information section below.
Can I join a pension scheme?
Most teachers should be able to join the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. If you are not eligible to join the scheme due to the nature of your work (eg agency supply teacher), but you work for a local authority, you may be able to join the Local Government Pension Scheme instead. Even if there are no details in your contract, you may still be entitled to join a scheme – your employer’s personnel department should be able to assist you.
The government is phasing in a requirement for all employers to offer access to a pension scheme. Your contract must tell you if you are entitled to join a scheme and, if so, which one. You may be automatically enrolled unless you opt out.
How much notice do I have to give?
Your contract must tell you how much notice you are obliged to give your employer before you leave your job and how much notice you are entitled to receive should your contract be terminated.
Once you have completed one month in employment, there is a statutory minimum entitlement for your employer to give one week’s notice, with an additional week for each completed year of service up to a maximum of 12 weeks. Most teachers are subject to Burgundy Book terms and conditions, which set out the notice periods required.
I am on a fixed-term contract
If your employment is not expected to be permanent, this should be clearly stated, along with the reason for it being temporary, and either a specified end date or the expected duration. Fixed-term employees have the same statutory rights as any other employee once they have acquired the relevant qualifying status.
What about other policies/staff handbook I have been given?
Many schools and colleges will have their own staff handbook and most local authorities have a range of policies, some specifically for school staff and some applicable to all employees. Whether or not these provisions will constitute contractual terms will depend on what it says in your contract.
Some contracts will refer to terms contained in other documents, eg sickness policies, grievance and disciplinary procedures. As always you will need to look at the specific wording in your contract of employment or written particulars.
What do I do if I have issues with my contract?
If you have asked for a written statement of your particulars of employment and have not received one after two months of starting your job, your employer will be in breach of employment law. Furthermore, if you have a contract but it does not cover all the items listed above, that may also be in breach of the law.
In the first instance you should contact your NEU school rep for further advice and assistance, or you can contact the NEU head office or the Wales office where appropriate.