Agency supply teachers 

What should I expect to be paid as an agency supply teacher?

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. Read our separate guidance on getting the best deal from your agency for advice on pay.

Can I access the Teachers’ Pension Scheme as an agency supply teacher?

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, however, 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 £50,000 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.

What is an ‘umbrella company’?

An umbrella company 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 umbrella 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.

What are the Agency Worker Regulations (AWR)?

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, eg 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).

What about ‘zero-hours’ contracts?

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.

How can I obtain more information on working via supply teacher agencies?

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; ‘Guaranteed Work’ Contracts; Umbrella Companies and Limited Companies; and Agency Supply Teachers and Workplace Pensions.

What happens if a school wants to offer me a permanent job?

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, however, are that:

  • 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 then 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

Examples:

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 therefore be charged after 9 June.

Remember that if there has been a break of more than six weeks between an agency supply teacher’s assignments for a school, this 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.

Directly employed supply teachers

What should I be paid as a supply teacher employed by a school or local authority?

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 which 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. That 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, however, a legal requirement.

Appendix 1 sets out daily pay rates based on the STPCD classroom teacher pay scales under the rules set out above. (NB 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’.)

What should I be paid for supply work of less than a day in duration?

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).

Can supply teachers employed by a school or local authority receive pay progression?

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.

What are my working time arrangements as a supply teacher employed by a school or local authority?

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 rate 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.

What are my pension rights if working directly for a school or local authority?

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.

Do I have any entitlements to sick pay or maternity pay as a supply teacher?

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.

What about supply teaching in academies?

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.

What are the differences between long- and short-term assignments?

Typically, supply teachers engaged on a short-term basis – for a single day or only a few days – might expect to carry out supervision and teaching of classes using materials set by the absent teacher or his or her line manager. These might be marked in class, or alternatively collated for marking by the absent teacher once they have resumed teaching duties. Most supply teachers engaged on a short-term basis are unlikely to be expected to carry out duties beyond this basic level of supervision and teaching, with little or no planning or assessment required or expectations to attend meetings – but the result may be that they will be paid less than a supply teacher whose work at the school is of a longer duration.

Long-term supply teachers will usually expect to fulfil most if not all of the duties of the substantive post holder. As a result, they will typically plan, deliver and mark lessons according to the appropriate scheme(s) of work, be responsible for registration and participate in non-teaching duties such as following up disciplinary issues, writing reports and attendance at staff meetings and parents’ evenings. Consequently, such teachers should legitimately expect to be paid at a higher rate than for short-term engagements. Long-term supply teachers covering for a particular absent teacher should also enjoy comparable working conditions to the person they are covering for – for example, they should have the protection of `rarely cover provisions’, rather than being expected also to provide general cover, and have the right to planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time.

Where should I go for further advice and support?

NEU supply members with concerns or problems relating to their employment conditions should in the first instance contact the NEU AdviceLine, or the NEU Wales office.

Further information

We want supply members to work together to take forward our work for supply teachers. Contact the NEU locally to find out about participating in your local association and join with other members in your area to tackle common problems. 

Appendix 1 

Daily pay rates for supply teachers from 1 September 2020

The table below sets out the daily rates for supply teachers employed by local authorities or schools at each STPCD pay scale point, calculated on the basis of 1/195 of the appropriate full-time pay rate. They are provided for guidance for those employed directly in schools (while academies are not subject to the STPCD, the NEU recommends the same pay rates should be paid by academies). They also serve as an indication of the gap between agency pay rates and those which would apply if teachers did not have to work via agencies.                                             

Annual pay                  Daily rate

ENGLAND (excluding the London area)                                  

Main pay range

M1 min                         £ 25,714                       £ 131.87          

M2                               £ 27,600                       £ 141.53          

M3                               £ 29,664                       £ 152.12          

M4                               £ 31,778                       £ 162.96          

M5                               £ 34,100                       £ 174.87          

M6 max                         £ 36,961                       £ 189.54           

Upper pay range

U1 min                          £ 38,690                       £ 198.41          

U2                                £ 40,124                       £ 205.76          

U3 max                         £ 41,604                       £ 213.35           

Inner London

Main pay range

M1 min                         £ 32,157                       £ 164.91

M2                               £ 33,658                       £ 172.61

M3                               £ 35,226                       £ 180.65

M4                               £ 36,866                       £ 189.06

M5                               £ 39,492                       £ 202.52

M6 max                        £ 42,624                       £ 218.58

Upper pay range

U1 min                          £ 46,971                       £ 240.88

U2                                £ 49,279                       £ 252.71

U3 max                         £ 50,935                       £ 261.21

Outer London                                                         

Main pay range

M1 min                         £ 29,915                       £153.41                       

M2                               £ 31,604                       £ 162.08                      

M3                               £ 33,383                       £ 171.19                      

M4                               £ 35,264                       £ 180.84                      

M5                               £ 38,052                       £ 195.14                      

M6 max                        £ 41,136                       £ 210.95                       

Upper pay range

U1 min                          £ 42,559                       £ 218.25                      

U2                                £ 44,133                       £ 226.32                      

U3 max                         £ 45,766                       £ 234.70                       

Fringe Area 

Main pay range

M1 min                         £ 26,948                       £ 138.19

M2                               £ 28,828                       £ 147.84

M3                               £ 30,883                       £ 158.37

M4                               £ 32,999                       £ 169.23

M5                               £ 35,307                       £ 181.06

M6 max                         £ 38,174                       £ 195.76

Upper pay range

U1 min                          £ 39,864                       £ 204.43

U2                                £ 41,295                       £ 211.77

U3 max                         £ 42,780                       £ 219.38

Wales                                                         

Main pay range

M1 min                         £ 27,018                       £ 138.55

M2                               £ 27,491                       £ 140.98

M3                               £29.699                        £ 152.30

M4                               £ 31,986                       £ 164.03

M5                               £ 34,505                       £ 176.95

M6 max                       £ 37,973                       £ 194.73

Upper pay range

U1 min                          £ 39,367                       £ 201.88

U2                                £ 40,826                       £ 209.36

U3 max                         £ 42,332                      £ 217.09         

Supply
Supply teachers - pay conditions and working time

What should I expect to be paid as an agency supply teacher? What should I be paid for supply work of less than a day in duration?