The increase in the employer contribution to the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) in September 2019 has seen a sizeable number of independent sector school employers withdraw from the scheme. Since 2020 Covid-19 has exacerbated the situation.

NEU members in over 60 independent schools have successfully defeated their employer’s proposals to deprive them of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

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Defend your TPS | Oppose Fire and rehire | Resources for your campaign

Member success comes from early collective union response backed by the possibility of industrial action. Others have learnt the hard way that action cannot be left until the end of a consultation that can be just a tick-box exercise. Some members have found their loyalty no defense against fire and rehire practices.

If you are in the TPS, with no mention of leaving, it is still useful to be aware of the issues, though no action may yet be required.

5 steps to defend the TPS in the independent sector

  • Meet with members
    • Get together with fellow NEU members. Your strength is in the union.
    • This should be led by the NEU rep. If there is not one in your workplace, talk to other members and volunteer to be a rep! Better still get together a small NEU rep team.
    • Promote the NEU campaign Protecting independent schoolteachers’ pensions
    • Read the NEU rep successes stories. Make sure colleagues are aware that NEU members have successfully defended their TPS in over 50 independent schools
    • Contact the NEU for legal advice on your contractual rights
    • Do not enter any discussion of alternative schemes until the option staying in the TPS has been fully examined and exhausted
    • Check list of independent schools in the TPS for local or comparable schools
    • Discuss strengthening the staff voice through trade union recognition
    • Ask colleagues, not in a union, to join the NEU
  • Make NEU representations
    • Use the NEU model TPS campaign letters to make robust representations
    • If your employer is talking about the possibility of leaving, make sure they know how strongly staff feel by using the NEU Model letter opposing withdrawal from TPS
    • If they are instigating formal consultation on leaving, use the NEU Model letter seeking meaningful consultation on TPS
    • If the NEU is the recognised union, then the employer must negotiate with NEU reps
    • If not, request that the NEU is formally involved
    • If staff representatives are elected, ensure that NEU members are prominent
    • As appropriate, act in liaison with other unions, the common room, or pay group
  • Meet with leadership team
    • If the employer has instigated consultation, meet with the leadership team
    • Demand the full disclosure of all relevant information to enable you to ask informed questions, propose informed suggestions, and make informed decisions
    • Examine the finances and suggest alternative ways to meet the cost
    • Ask your employer what they intend to do if staff do not agree. Draconian tactics such as hire and rehire damage school reputation with staff and parents.
  • Meet with members to discuss leadership meeting
    • NEU members in other independent schools have learnt that the threat of industrial action is often the leverage necessary for a successful outcome
    • In the first instance, members should consider asking the regional office to conduct an indicative ballot. Often this is sufficient for the employer to change their mind.
    • If not, move to a formal strike ballot. This has also proved to be effective.
    • In a few cases, members have been forced to take strike with some notable success
    • Even where it has not been possible to retain the TPS, members have found that the leverage of potential strike action has helped secure improvements to the offer
    • At the end of the consultation, should you decide that the school really cannot afford the TPS, then try to negotiate improvements to alternative offer
  • Contact the NEU for local support

Download this action plan

Campaign updates 2021

Fire and rehire

The NEU is supporting Barry Gardiner’s private members’ bill going to Parliament seeking to outlaw this pernicious practice.

There is a growing trend amongst employers to resort to the draconian practice of sacking staff and then re-employing them on worse terms and conditions. This is known as Fire and Rehire.

NEU members have faced this unacceptable threat in many employment scenarios. For members working in the independent sector, the use of ‘fire and rehire’ tactics has become the default position for employers trying to take away their Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

The NEU believe that ‘Fire and rehire’ practice should have no place in employee relations in the 21st century. It is a draconian practice that British Airways had to drop after it was hauled in front of the Transport Select Committee.

You can play your part by writing to your MP calling on them to support the bill.

Resources to support your campaign

FAQs

Pension scheme loss

You can download an illustrative comparison of likely loss if members are moved to inferior pensions schemes away from TPS.

Schools leaving TPS

You can find lists of independent schools that have left or intend to leave TPS here. These were supplied by DfE on 9 July 2021 in response to an NEU FOI,

Meaningful consultation on the TPS

The NEU believes that meaningful consultation is:

  • A clear proposal and business rationale
  • An agreed process and timetable
  • Adequate time for staff to consider the proposals, not less than 60 days, ideally 90 days
  • A robust and independent staff representative body, ideally collective trade union NEU reps
  • Full disclosure of all relevant financial and other information, including school finances, pupil numbers, market research, strategic planning, etc.
  • Staff having access to the same information as the employer to enable them to ask informed questions, propose informed alternatives and make informed decisions
  • Detail of proposed alternative pension individual
  • Independent financial advice as to how the proposal affects individual staff
  • Genuine consideration of staff proposed alternatives, at the end of the consultation period

Consultation is not meaningful if:

  • Decisions have already been made
  • Options, such as raising fees, have already been ruled out
  • Staff suggestions are summarily dismissed
  • Staff alternatives are not genuinely considered
  • Conducted under duress, such as being threatened with Fire and rehire
  • Employer uses Non-Disclosure Agreements to thwart transparency
  • It is a tick box exercise

 

      TPS myth-buster

      NEU members have heard a wide range of self-serving, and bogus, employer arguments for why they should agree to surrender the TPS. Some are scaremongering, others downright dishonest.

      Here is a list of some common disinformation.

      • “Everyone else has left”: simply untrue. It is dishonest and disreputable for an employer to say this to deprive someone of their TPS pension
      • “The scheme will collapse within two years”: scurrilous scaremongering
      • “They are introducing exit fees”: there are no such plans. Ask to see the evidence: there isn’t any.
      • “Employer contribution is increasing further”: Scaremongering, this is unknown. The review of scheme funding is not until 2023. Employer contributions will not change, if at all, until 2024.
      • “Coronavirus means that it is no longer affordable”: for a few, this is true; for most, it is not. It is a choice. Ask for full disclosure of relevant information. See the suggestions in the NEU briefing on collective bargaining. Even if the NEU does not have collective representation rights, use the ACAS guidance disclosure of relevant information as a model. Check the public accounts at Charities Commission and Companies House.
      • “The McCloud age discrimination case means higher costs for employers”: Misinformation. It could even be the opposite. It is very unlikely that McCloud would lead to an increase in employer contributions.  If anything, there is a chance that the impact of McCloud may lower employer contributions if the promised employee benefit improvements from 2016 are not implemented.
      • “TPS is vulnerable as it is an entirely an unfunded scheme”: the TPS is a notionally funded scheme, as although there is no designated pot of money, it is state-backed and subject to all the necessary regulatory processes, including periodic valuation. Private schemes are written under either contract or trust. The TPS and other public sector schemes are written under statutory regulations and statute. This makes the claims stronger as the covenant (stemming from the state) is stronger.
      • “The proposed alternative scheme offers similar benefits”: this is unlikely in the extreme. By common consent, the types of schemes being proposed will not offer anything like the benefits provided by the TPS.
      • “This is not a cost cutting exercise”: a disingenuous argument. If not, for what benefit is it being done? If staff oppose, will the employer withdraw the proposals?
      • “TPS is inflexible, and employees will benefit from being able to pay less into an alternative scheme”: a disingenuous argument. It is true that the employee contribution is set. It is true that lower employee contributions might appeal. But the significant reduction in pension is borne by only one person – the teacher. There are some illustrative calculations of the potential loss on the NEU TPS Campaign webpage.

      Advice, guidance, and support

      Local on-going support: contact your local NEU regional office.

      Pension advice: contact the pension team pensions@neu.org.uk

      Financial advice: for personal financial advice, NEU members can receive a free, no-obligation initial consultation from Lighthouse, either on a one-to-one basis or at a school NEU members’ meeting. More information: Lighthouse.

      Consultation outcome: Teachers' pension scheme on phased withdrawal proposal

      The NEU is very disappointed that the Government has agreed to the proposal to allow a so-called “phased withdrawal” from the TPS was announced.

      The Government has announced, following consultation, that from Spring 2021, independent sector employers will be able to deny TPS membership to new teachers, while continuing to offer it to existing staff. The current rules require an independent sector employer who elects to join the scheme to offer TPS membership to all eligible teaching staff

      This new option will impact on employers’ decisions to leave or remain in the scheme. Some members may think this is a way in which their own pension might be saved.  However, the NEU does not believe that this decision is in the general interest of our members in the independent sector, given that moving school may now lead to loss of TPS membership.  Nor do we believe that it is for the good of the profession.

      The NEU strongly believes that all teachers, regardless of phase, or sector, should enjoy a good pension. The TPS is an integral part of a teacher’s remuneration.

      We are concerned that the decision will further undermine the TPS in the independent sector. Some employers will be emboldened to withdraw in the belief that staff opposition will be less in that their own pensions will be protected.

      Segregating teachers on such a key term of employment will build walls. It will damage the attractiveness and unity of the teaching profession as a whole; hinder movement between sectors and schools; hamper a school’s ability to recruit and retain quality teachers; and hit younger teachers hard.

      In making the decision on how to respond to an proposal from your employer to leave the TPS, we call on members to consider the bigger picture and, wherever possible, robustly resist proposals to leave the scheme, either in one fell swoop or by phased withdrawal.

      You can read the full decision here:  Teachers' Pension Scheme: independent schools phased withdrawal, consultation response