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Supply teachers: Pay, conditions and working time 

Key questions and answers on pay and conditions for supply teachers. 

The basis for the payment of a supply teacher (other than for teachers engaged by an agency) should be the correct point on the relevant national salary scales. This is determined in the same way as for all other teachers, and supply teachers employed in this way have the same access to allowances, such as SEN allowances, threshold progression and the TPS.

Supply teachers employed by an agency (not by the LA or school) are not covered by the provisions of these pay and conditions agreements. The agency will determine the pay rate for these teachers.

Supply teachers and the National Agreement

The national agreement emphasises the important role of supply teachers and the unique value of their contribution. The agreement created two new posts to cover short-term absences (as opposed to more long-term periods such as maternity cover): cover supervisor and higher level teaching assistant.

Only short-term cover is open for the extended roles, which the agreement says 'should not be used as the remedy for the medium or long-term absence of a qualified teacher'.

Agency workers FAQ

Supply teachers employed by or through agencies are generally not employed by the school, academy or local authority so they are not covered by the school teachers’ pay and conditions documents (STPCD) for England and Wales. Their pay is determined by their agency – and agency pay rates are generally far lower than those for supply teachers directly employed by schools. A 2020 NEU supply member survey found that around half were paid less than £125 per day, while only seven per cent were paid over £150 per day. 

To put these figures in context, a daily rate of £100 means that, even if the teacher works every day of the school year, they earn around £4,000 less than a newly qualified teacher in a full-time post. Even a daily rate of £150 pays an experienced supply teacher at best some ten per cent less than a teacher with five years’ experience paid at the main pay range maximum. 

Pay rates can vary according to the length of the assignment, may vary by subject and certainly vary regionally. Some schools contribute to this by seeking to bargain with agencies. Rather than reduce their own margins, the agencies cut the pay of the supply teachers. 

Supply agencies are not permitted to participate in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS). Supply teaching is only pensionable under the TPS when supply teachers are employed directly by a school or local authority. The NEU continues to seek equal access to the TPS for all teachers working in state-funded schools. 

Agencies must offer a workplace pension scheme to the workers on their books. All employees earning over £10,000 and aged between 22 and state pension age must be ‘auto-enrolled’ into the workplace pension scheme (they can then opt out if they choose). Other supply teachers can still choose to join their employer’s workplace pension scheme even if their earnings are lower than this threshold, and, if they earn more than £520 per month, the employer has to pay a contribution. Most agencies must pay a minimum pension contribution of three per cent of ‘qualifying earnings’ (the amount an employee earns before tax between £6,240 and £50,270 a year) while the teacher pays a minimum of five per cent. 

Agency teachers may find their enrolment in a workplace pension is postponed for up to three months on the basis that evidence is needed that their annual income will meet the earnings threshold. Agency teachers may also end up with several workplace pension pots depending on their working patterns and the number of agencies they use.

More information: Agency worker pensions

It is a company that acts as an employer to agency workers, such as supply teachers. The teacher is legally employed by the umbrella company, not the agency. The umbrella company will usually pass on to the teacher various costs such as the employer’s National Insurance contributions and the company’s fee. Revised tax rules applying from April 2016 mean that supply teachers working through an umbrella company can no longer claim tax relief on home-to-work travel and subsistence expenses.

Many supply agencies will try to insist that supply teachers are employed by umbrella companies. You do not have to agree to this and should ask to be paid by the agency on a PAYE basis if you wish. The NEU strongly advises members to be fully informed before entering into any formal contractual relationship with umbrella companies and also strongly advises members against working as a supply teacher under ‘limited company’ arrangements.

The Agency Worker Regulations 2010 apply to teachers who undertake supply work through agencies or umbrella companies. Agency teachers have certain rights from day one of their assignment – including the right to be informed of permanent vacancies with the school. After 12 weeks in the same assignment, they have the right to the same ‘basic’ pay and conditions as if they were employed directly as a supply teacher by the hirer. These basic pay and conditions cover rates of pay, hours of work and annual leave but not other benefits, such as sick pay, pension or maternity pay. 

The 12 weeks must be continuous, although a break of no more than six weeks for any reason can pause the clock. Some other breaks are also allowed, such as annual leave, school closures, sickness and maternity/parental leave. Where an agency supply teacher is placed in a series of schools in which the local authority is the employer, this may create continuity for the purposes of the AWR. 

The teacher’s pay rate should be assessed according to the school’s pay policy in the same way as for a directly employed supply teacher (although this does not now necessarily guarantee a particular pay rate).

Zero-hours contracts are the most extreme example of precarious employment for teachers. There is no legal definition of a zero-hours contract. Their terms vary but what they have in common is that there is no guarantee of work or pay from one week to the next. They are encountered in the school and college sector, particularly in ancillary education services.

The NEU has published separate, more detailed guidance on a number of areas relevant to working as an agency supply teacher, including: the Agency Worker Regulations; Umbrella companies and limited companies; and Agency supply teachers and workplace pensions.

Where a teacher on a longer term supply engagement makes a positive impression, the school may want to offer them a permanent job. Supply agencies are permitted to charge transfer or ‘finder’s’ fees to schools in such circumstances. Two important conditions are: 

  • The school must be given the option in the contract with the agency to decide, at the point when it decides to offer the teacher a permanent job, either to pay the fee or to continue employing the teacher through the agency for a set period after which it will not have to pay the fee.
  • Transfer fees can only be charged if the transfer takes place within the later of 14 weeks from the start of the first assignment and eight weeks from the end of any assignment (see examples below). If there has been more than one assignment with a break of more than six weeks between assignments, the later assignment is taken as the first assignment.

Although transfer fees are often cited as a major obstacle to supply teachers gaining permanent employment, the conditions mean that transfer fees are slightly less likely to be enforceable in the schools sector than other areas of employment.

Calculating when an agency can no longer charge a transfer fee


Placement 1: Teacher A accepts an agency assignment from Monday 2 January to Friday 27 January (four weeks). Fourteen weeks from the start of the assignment is 10 April. Eight weeks from the end is 24 March. In this case, the later of the two dates is 10 April. The agency can charge a transfer fee at any point up to 10 April. After that date, no charge can be made.

Placement 2: Teacher B fulfils an assignment from Monday 6 February to Friday 14 April (ten weeks). Fourteen weeks from the start of the assignment is 15 May. Eight weeks from the end is 9 June – the later of the two dates in this example. No transfer fee can be charged after 9 June.

A break of more than six weeks between an agency supply teacher’s assignments for a school will have the effect of breaking continuity for the purpose of determining the 14-week period. In such cases, the first day after the gap ends becomes the starting point of the 14 weeks.

All workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ annual leave per year.

Your contract with your agency and your Key Information Document should set out your holiday entitlement and how this is paid. Your agency and/or umbrella company should be transparent about how you accrue your holiday and how it is paid to you. If you are unsure about how your holiday is accrued and paid, you can use our sample email to ask for more information about how your holiday entitlement has been calculated and paid since you signed up with the agency/umbrella company.

The Supreme Court confirmed in 2022 in the case of Harpur Trust v Brazel that workers don’t have to have worked every working week of the year to qualify for 5.6 weeks’ annual leave. The case involved a music teacher on a term time only contract who worked varying hours, didn’t work a full year and who was held to be entitled to 5.6 weeks of holiday.

As the law stands, most agency workers have the same entitlement. How this is calculated and paid, however, is complicated. Many employers and agencies base holiday pay on 12.07% of the worker’s hours worked. Holiday in the first and final years of employment can be pro-rated in line with the number of hours worked in the year. Where a contract lasts less than a year, some agencies base holiday pay on 12.07% of the worker’s hours worked over the course of the part-year. The Supreme Court decision means that using the calculation 12.07% of hours is not always correct.

Where the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) applies to directly employed supply teachers, and agency teachers who have worked on one assignment or more in the same role with the same school or college for 12 weeks or more, holiday pay will be rolled up into the daily rate. Such agency and supply teachers must be paid on a daily basis calculated on the assumption that a full working year consists of 195 days; the daily rate, based on STPCD pay rates for teachers, includes an element of holiday pay.

Where an agency worker is engaged on an overarching or permanent contract - between the employment agency and the worker that links a series of separate engagements into a single ongoing employment –  applying the 12.07% calculation is unlikely to be correct.

Check your contract with your agency or umbrella company – if your contract states that you have an employment contract with your agency, (and for example that the agency guarantees a minimum of 336 hours work in a 12-month period) and that your holiday entitlement is 12.07% of your hours, it is likely that you are not receiving your full entitlement.

If you ask your agency to explain how your holiday pay is calculated and you are still not clear or if you believe that you are being underpaid holiday pay, please contact us at AdviceLine. You will be asked to collate copies of your contract with your agency, your umbrella company if you have one, your Key Information Document if you have one, your pay slips illustrating how you are paid holiday pay, details of what hours and days you have worked with the agency, and copies of your email exchange with the agency about your holiday entitlement. You might be advised to make use of the AWR pay assessor to help produce a chart showing your working days. On the basis of your documents and working pattern and holiday pay arrangements, we will assess whether we believe that your agency has paid you correctly for your statutory holiday leave and we will support you in securing what you are owed.

Use this model letter to clarify how holiday pay has been calculated by your agency.

Directly employed supply teachers FAQ

Supply teachers employed directly by a local authority (LA) maintained school or by a local authority (eg by or via an LA supply pool) must be employed and paid according to the provisions of the school teachers’ pay and conditions document (STPCD). 

The STPCD says that the daily pay rate should be 1/195 of the appropriate STPCD pay rate that they would receive if directly employed. It states: “Teachers employed on a day-to-day or other short notice basis [ie supply teachers] must be paid… on a daily basis calculated on the assumption that a full working year consists of 195 days, periods of employment for less than a day being calculated pro rata.” 

Each school should have a pay policy setting out how teachers’ pay is determined. This should be used to determine the pay point on which supply teachers are paid. If the policy provides for pay portability from teachers’ previous posts, this should also apply to supply teachers (ensuring they are paid at least on their previous pay point) unless the policy provides otherwise. Pay portability is not a legal requirement. 

See the daily pay rates based on the STPCD classroom teacher pay scales under the rules set out above. (Supply teachers do not receive any pay during holiday periods. As full-time teachers work for 195 days a year, this daily pay rate of 1/195 includes an element for ‘holiday pay’.)

The NEU recommends an hourly rate of 1/975th of annual pay for each hour of teaching or other work, while the Department for Education (DfE) has recommended that any hourly rate of pay should be on the basis of a day of 6.48 hours (1265/195) or the total length of the school’s pupil day (see section on working time arrangements below).

The STPCD provides that all teachers are entitled to be considered for pay progression when eligible. Working on casual supply assignments without appraisal arrangements will make it almost impossible to secure pay progression. Supply teachers employed via an LA supply pool or employed regularly in the same school may be in a position to seek pay progression each year, as the employer could include the teacher in some form of appraisal appropriate to the circumstances and (as the STPCD notes) can take such pay decisions based on the evidence available to inform the decision.

The STPCD does not specify the length of the supply teacher’s working day. In some cases, employers seek to offer supply teachers an hourly rather than a daily rate, even where the supply teacher has taught for the full pupil day. Do not accept an hourly rate when you should be entitled to the daily rate – it will lead to lower pay.

Supply teaching engagements for teachers directly employed by an authority or school are automatically pensionable under the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, with the contributions made by the teacher and the employer, unless the teacher decides to opt out of the scheme.

Supply teachers (whether agency or otherwise) are not covered by the contractual sick pay or maternity pay provisions but may be entitled to statutory sick pay or maternity pay rights in certain circumstances. See the advice on statutory sick pay and rights of pregnant workers in the Agency Worker Regulations guidance.

Supply teachers employed directly by non-maintained schools – such as academies, free schools and independent schools – are employed on the terms determined by that employer. The pay and conditions may be in line with national pay and conditions in many such schools, but the employer can make alternative provisions. The teacher will be entitled to join the TPS.

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Agency worker regulations

What are the Agency Worker Regulations 2010 and what protection do they offer supply teachers and support staff?

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