Support staff employment rights summary: maintained and academy sectors

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Rights and conditions
16 January 2017
The following is a summary of the employment rights of support staff in the maintained and academy sectors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

You can also download this information as a factsheet, using the link at the bottom of this page.

The employment of most support staff in the maintained and academy sectors is governed by the National Joint Council National Agreement on Pay and Conditions of Service Handbook (the Green Book). ATL does not have formal collective bargaining rights on the NJC.

In addition each support staff member should have a contract of employment with his or her school or local authority (LA). This contract should reflect the contents of the Green Book, as well as containing provisions specific to the individual staff member and the school, Local Authority (LA), academy or Multi-Academy Trust (MAT).

However, you also have certain minimum statutory rights, which are relevant to you as outlined below.

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.
  • Your 'contract of employment' is comprised of the written statement of the particulars of employment together with (depending on individual circumstances) the letter of appointment, and other particulars of your employment that are provided to you in instalments or contained in separate collective agreements. All of these might be contained or referred to in a contract of employment that you and your employer sign.
  • 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

  • The standard working week for most full-time employees is 37 hours (36 in London) and occasionally 32.5 hours for some roles. This must be specified in your contract.

  • There is no requirement to work above these hours.
  • If you are asked to work over your contractual hours, then you should be paid for it. If you are asked to work over the full-time equivalent hours set out in your contract (eg over 37 hours), then the rate of overtime will depend on whether you are working on weekdays, Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays or overnight. See the Green Book, part 3, Paragraph 2.6, for further information.

Term-time only pay

  • Employees on term-time-only contracts are entitled by law to paid leave, and this entitlement is usually added on (but reduced on a pro rata basis) to the weeks worked to establish the overall salary. For example, if a school is open for 39 weeks and there is a leave entitlement of five weeks, then the employee must be paid for 39 weeks, plus their leave entitlement (reduced on a pro rata basis). The salary is usually divided by 12 and paid in equal monthly instalments throughout the year to ensure that the employee receives regular payments.
  • If term time workers are required to undertake work outside of their contracted hours they must be appropriately remunerated. Any such additional hours should be incorporated into contractual arrangements if they are an ongoing feature of the post.
  • Schools particularly should take steps to identify the hours required of support staff and to pay for all such hours. For example, staff should be paid if required to attend INSET training days or parent’s evenings.  


  • Unlike teachers, most support staff members are employed on a term-time only basis. This means being paid only for the weeks that the school is open, eg 39 weeks, plus paid leave entitlement.

  • If full-time, you are entitled to a minimum of 30 days paid leave per year, inclusive of bank and extra statutory holidays, with a further 5 days after 5 years of continuous service.

Special leave

ATL recommends that each school has its own special leave policy and that it is applied in a fair, consistent and transparent manner. You should check with your employer to establish whether there is such a policy. In the absence of a policy, the following points apply.

  • Time off (whether paid or unpaid) to attend one-off events, such as graduations, is at the discretion of the headteacher.
  • Leave for compassionate reasons (whether paid or unpaid), such as bereavement, is also at the discretion of the headteacher, but ATL would expect most schools to look favourably on such requests.
  • LA or MAT policies on special leave might also apply to schools.

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.

  • LA policies on such leave might also apply to schools. In some cases, you may have the right to a number of days of paid leave. Individual schools/LAs/MATs have their own policies in place and you should check these.

Notice periods - how much notice you should give

  • Usually, you will have to give one month's notice to terminate your employment, and this should be detailed in your contract of employment.

  • If there is nothing in your contract, your notice should be the same as the ordinary period from one pay period to the next. Usually, you will be paid monthly, so the notice will also be a month. If you are paid weekly then your notice would be a week, unless otherwise specified.

Notice periods - how much notice your school should give you

  • Usually, the school/LA will be required to give you a minimum of one month's notice to terminate your employment and this will be stated in your contract of employment.

  • If there is nothing in your contract, you will at least be entitled to the minimum periods of notice (which are dependent on your length of service) from the school/LA. These are: not less than one week's notice if your period of service is between one month and two years; not less than one week of notice for each full year of service, if you have two years or more but less than 12 years of service; not less than 12 weeks of notice, if you have 12 years or more of service.
  • If your statutory entitlement is greater than your contractual notice period, you are entitled to the longer notice period, ie if your length of service is five years then you are entitled to five weeks' notice, not the four-week period specified in your contract.

Employees on two or more fixed-term contracts

If you have been employed on two or more fixed-term contracts for four years you have the right to a permanent contract of employment, unless the school can provide objective justification not to make you a permanent employee. Contact ATL 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 or putting pressure on you to retire please contact ATL for further advice.

See also