Whilst every school is different in their characteristics there are some common school HR issues they face. Here Natalie Spink, Employment Solicitor for Education Services for Your HR Lawyer, explains how schools can handle three of the most common problems.
1. The school needs to change the staffing structure for its Senior Leadership Team, how do we do this?
It is highly likely that you will have a restructuring policy, so the first thing for you to do is have a read through this.
The policy will set out the procedure to be followed when going through a restructure and will help ensure that employees are treated fairly and help reduce the risk of an employment tribunal claim, which may arise as a result of the process.
One of the key things when going through a restructuring process is to plan: What is your current structure and what do you need it to look like moving forward? You should draft the proposed new staffing structure in conjunction with the Governing Body and whilst this is in draft form, consult on these proposals with any recognised Trade Union for the affected staff.
As you are in budget deficit it is important that you cost out any possible redundancies before starting the process. An employee who has two years’ service or more is entitled to a redundancy payment, so this could have big implications for what you can and can’t do.
You must ensure that any dismissal as a result of this process is fair, so before you go ahead please seek advice from your HR/legal advisors.
2. We have a Teacher who is underperforming, and he has been placed on an informal support plan, however, he has just been signed off as unfit to work by his doctor due to stress. We don’t know what to do?
This is a common issue. As the teacher is now absent from work due to ill health, the informal procedure cannot continue until the employee returns to work and therefore this must be put on hold.
As the employee is now off sick, this will need to be managed under your absence management process. The process will depend on how long the employee is absent for. In these types of situations, it is recommended that action is taken quickly, as this is sometimes (not always!) used as a way of avoiding going through the support process. By acting quickly, you are sending the message that this will not go away. Depending on the circumstances you may benefit from an occupational health report for the employee as that will give you all the information you need to decide how best to deal with this.
Communication is key in these types of situations to help facilitate the employee back to work. Communication will demonstrate that the informal support plan is a supportive measure and you are trying to help the teacher succeed in their role. Where an employee is off with stress, it may be best to have any communication via the employees Trade Union representative (if they have one). Once the report is obtained (or where a report isn’t required) a meeting with the employee should be arranged to discuss its contents, how the employee is feeling and the concerns that they have. Hopefully, this will help alleviate their worries and they will feel well enough to come back to work.
Our advice is don’t just leave them off sick and not take any action. A delay in addressing this will add to the employee’s stress, and will make it much harder for you to address later on.
3. We have a teacher who was awarded a TLR (Teaching and Learning Responsibility) by the previous Head Teacher but they don’t actually do anything for the TLR – we are not even sure why it was awarded! What can we do?
A Teaching and Learning Responsibility is a payment given to a classroom teacher for undertaking a sustained additional responsibility for the purpose of ensuring the continued delivery of high-quality teaching and learning for which that teacher is made accountable.
The School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) provides a mechanism for removing a TLR and this can be easily done provided the change is consulted on. This is a fairly straightforward process. The value of the TLR may need to be safeguarded for a period of three years in accordance with the STPCD, however, if the value of the safeguarded sum exceeds £500, you can allocate the teacher additional duties as is reasonable in the circumstances, proportionate to the safeguarded sum.
These examples show that the answer to most HR problems is to act quickly and decisively and seek the right support. Investing resources into HR and employment issues when they first arise can save schools a significant amount of time money down the line.