Teachers' employment rights summary: sixth form colleges

The following provides a summary of the employment rights of teachers in sixth form colleges in England and Wales.

The employment of teachers in the sixth form college sector is governed by Teaching staff: Conditions of service handbook, which is often referred to as the Red Book. The following covers your rights under the Red Book as well as the minimum rights you are entitled to under general employment law. In addition, your contractual rights may be affected by locally negotiated agreements.

Your right to a statement of particulars of employment

  • Your employer has a legal duty to give you a written statement of the particulars of your employment within two months of you starting your job. The statement should contain, for example, your hours of work, holiday entitlement, place of work, etc.

  • Your employer should also state the title of your job and a brief description of the work for which you are employed.

  • ATL recommends that you should be given a proper job description that outlines your particular role and duties, as this helps to clarify your role and define your workload.

Working hours and workload

  • Teachers must be available for work for 195 days (of which 190 of these are teaching days and up to 5 days are in-service or INSET training days), and for 1265 hours in any college year. This is known as 'directed time'.

  • In addition, you can be required to work such additional hours as may be needed to enable you to discharge effectively your professional duties.

  • As part of the 1265 hours you may be required to teach for up to 6 hours over two evenings per week. Volunteers should be used whenever possible for evening work.

  • Part-time teachers should calculate their hours by reference to the actual time that the part-time teacher is required to be in college during normal college hours, as compared to a full-time teacher in the same college.

  • You are required to work under the 'reasonable direction' of the principal; this also applies to part-time teachers.

  • There has been an increasing impetus over recent years for colleges to respect the work-life balance of their teaching staff. Appendix 6 of the Red Book sets out joint guidance on work-life balance, which recognises that it is in the interests of colleges to adopt policies that allow employers to balance their working lives with their personal needs and responsibilities.

  • Appendix 9 of the Red Book sets out joint advice on reducing the bureaucratic burden of teachers in sixth form colleges.

Breaks

  • You have an entitlement to a break of reasonable length either between college sessions or between the hours of 12 noon and 2pm.

  • ATL recommends that a reasonable break is at least 40 minutes long.

Holiday

You cannot normally be required to undertake duties on any of the 170 calendar days that are not specified as working days by the college. Where colleges find it necessary to ask teachers to undertake reasonable additional working days in excess of 195 days, additional compensation will be paid.

Special leave

  • Time off (whether paid or unpaid) to attend one-off events such as graduations or overseas holidays is at the discretion of the college.

  • Leave for compassionate reasons, such as bereavement, is also at the discretion of the college but ATL would expect most colleges to look favourably on such requests.

  • ATL recommends that each college has its own special leave policy and that it is applied in a fair, consistent and transparent manner.

Right to time off in case of family emergency

  • You have the right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off in the case of a family emergency.

  • In some cases, you may have the right to a number of days of paid leave. Individual colleges have their own policies in place and you should check these.

Notice periods

Teachers (and the college) must give notice by:

  • 31 October to leave on 31 December

  • 28 February to leave on 30 April

  • 31 May to leave on 31 August.

However, if a teacher has been continuously employed for more than eight years, you are entitled to receive longer notice as specified in the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Please note: If you wish to leave on a date which is not one of the three dates listed above, it is entirely at the discretion of your college as to whether to allow you to do this. If the college does not allow you to leave on your chosen date, and you do so anyway, you will be in breach of your contract of employment.

Teachers on two or more fixed-term contracts

If you have been employed on two or more fixed-term contracts for four years since July 2002 you have the right to a permanent contract of employment, unless the college can provide objective justification for not to making you a permanent employee. Contact ATL as outlined below for more information.

Retirement age

The default retirement age, which was 65, has now been phased out and you can work beyond this age if you wish to - you do not need to seek your employer's consent to do so.

Occasionally, some employers may choose to have a default retirement age. However, in order to be able to rely on this, an employer must be able to provide objective justification for its chosen age. We anticipate that for most jobs in schools, such objective justification will be difficult for employers to provide.

If your school is asking questions about your retirement plans and / or putting pressure on you to retire please contact ATL for further advice.

Need further advice?

Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.

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