October 2017

The know zone

  • Diversity in focus
    Anna Cole highlights the latest initiatives on equality and diversity at ASCL and in the wider sector. More
  • Where's the money?
    New 16-19 money is apparently on its way but will schools see any of it? Kevin Gilmartin examines government post-16 funding pledges. More
  • To pay or not to pay?
    Sara Ford explains the real implications of the STRB's recommendations on teacher pay. More
  • Let's talk about SATs
    Last year's Key Stage 2 SATs results generated more questions than they answered. One year on, has the dust settled? Julie McCulloch takes a look. More
  • We need to talk...
    How do you teach personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) at your school? What approaches do you take? What topics do you focus on? Is your school teaching PSHE in an innovative way? Here ASCL members have their say... More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Take back control
    Former school leader Ross Morrison McGill said that during his time as a leader, he experienced eight Ofsted inspections under various frameworks and goalposts. Yet, he says, one factor has always remained consistent in each of them: anxiety. More
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Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting.

Leaders' surgery

Flexibility for new parents

Q: I am a deputy headteacher and I have just had my first child. When I return from maternity leave I would like to reduce the number of days on which I work. Is this possible and what do I need to do to set this in motion?

A: All employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers. Employees must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) website (www.acas.org.uk) makes it very clear what an employee must do if s/ he wishes to request for flexible working to be considered:

“To make a request for flexible working employees must:

  1. make their request in writing, state the date the request is made, the change to working conditions they are seeking, and the date they would like the change to take effect
  2. state whether they have made a previous application for flexible work and the date of that application
  3. state what change to working conditions they are seeking and how they think this may affect the business eg cost saving to the business
  4. state if they are making their request in relation to the Equality Act 2010, for example, as a reasonable adjustment for disabled employees”

Employers must consider requests in a reasonable manner, responding within three months, and can only refuse them if there is a business reason for doing so. Examples of reasons that may cause a request to be turned down within a school context, are an inability to reorganise work among existing staff, a detrimental impact on quality or a detrimental impact on performance.

Guidance from Acas can be found in the two following publications and on the Acas website:

  1. The Right to Request Flexible Working: An Acas guide https://tinyurl.com/ybnte9va
  2. Acas: Flexible working and work–life balance https://tinyurl.com/yd6d4o9q

Redundancy concern

Q: I am an assistant headteacher and I am on maternity leave. My school is currently undergoing a restructuring and redundancy process. Is it true that I cannot be made redundant if I am on maternity leave? A: If you are on maternity leave you can be made redundant, but you cannot be made redundant because you are on maternity leave or indeed because you are pregnant. The law says:

  1. During the protected period (the beginning to the end of the maternity leave), unfavourable treatment of a woman because she is pregnant or on maternity leave is unlawful.
  2. A woman on maternity leave has the right to return to the same job before she left or, if not possible at the end of the 52 weeks’ maternity leave, then a suitable alternative must be found.
  3. Selecting a woman for redundancy because of her pregnancy, maternity leave or a related reason is automatically seen as unfair dismissal, as well as being unlawful discrimination.
  4. Failure to consult a woman on maternity leave about possible redundancy is likely to be unlawful discrimination.
  5. A woman made redundant while on maternity leave must be offered any suitable alternative vacancy and, if there is one available, she doesn’t need to apply for it. Acas has produced clear guidance for employers on this matter, but it is equally useful for employees (see https://tinyurl.com/6m2ko3k).

The Equality and Human Rights Commission also has an excellent section on employment rights when pregnant or on maternity leave – see https://tinyurl.com/yaftpng9

Did you know...?

ASCL offers a contract checking service, so if you are about to accept a new post and would like one of our solicitors to check and comment on your contract before you sign it, please contact the ASCL Hotline on 0116 299 1122 and the duty officer will arrange this.

Contact the Hotline

ASCL members concerned about leadership issues should call the Hotline on 0116 299 1122 or email hotline@ascl.org.uk

Rachel Bertenshaw is ASCL Hotline Leader