Since October 2011, under the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR), temporary agency workers — such as supply teachers from agencies — are entitled to the same basic working and employment conditions after working for a period of 12 weeks as if they have been employed directly by the hirer. This includes remuneration, paid holiday, working hours and overtime.
Recently, it has come to our attention that some schools have been caught out by this regulation. When hiring supply teachers from agencies, schools may anticipate this being a short-term arrangement, possibly to cover sickness. If the term extends longer than anticipated and reaches the 12-week point, the school is informed that the individual’s pay will increase and in some cases is more than they have budgeted for.
How is that possible?
The majority of teachers are paid on two scales; the Main Pay Scale (MPS) and the Upper Pay Scale (UPS). The UPS scale is paid at a higher level than the MPS. These scales are set in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions document (STP&C) which sets the pay for teachers in England and Wales. There are other scales for teachers in the document but the majority are either paid on MPS or UPS.
Whilst the STP&C document sets the minimum and maximum range of this scale, traditionally, schools and academies have used a six-point scale for the MPS and a three-point scale for the UPS. Teachers on permanent or temporary contracts can rise up the scale with increased pay at each point if they have achieved their performance objectives. Therefore, when they leave a school, teachers can be on different levels of the two scales depending on how far they have risen.
In addition, most schools and academies have a pay policy in school. This follows the details in the STP&C document and generally states that they will continue with the six-point and three-point scales (although not always the case). Also, it may state that schools or academies will match existing salaries for new appointments.
Potentially, a teacher on MPS point three may fall ill. In order to reduce the disruption to pupils’ learning, the school could bring in supply teachers from agencies. The agency will then provide someone to cover who is capable of doing the role and this could be someone on MPS or UPS. Whether the worker is MPS or UPS doesn’t affect the school at this point because they pay the worker the agency rates as agreed with the agency.
The original MPS point three teacher is unable to return for longer than expected, so again to minimise disruption, the school continues to employ the same supply teacher for over 12 weeks. It is at this point that the school are informed that previously the supply teacher was paid at UPS three. The teacher is now entitled to the same basic working conditions as if they have been employed directly by the hirer. If the school’s pay policy states that they will match existing salaries on appointment, in order to comply with the AWR, the school will now have to pay the supply teacher on UPS three. This costs the school approximately an extra £1000 each month in comparison to the salary of the original teacher off sick.
It is likely that this increase would not have been budgeted for as it was not planned in advance and therefore can create great difficulties for schools.
Avoid being caught out by supply teachers from agencies
When taking on supply staff, schools should first confirm to the agency the level of pay they would advertise the post for if they were recruiting on a permanent basis. Therefore, if a school would only pay on MPS, the agency should be made aware of this and they can ensure they only send MPS teachers. This should then be double checked with the agency and the individual when a placement is confirmed.
By taking extra precaution before hiring supply staff from an agency, schools can avoid unexpected costs and surprises later on.