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HomeJuly 2023Issue 485Are IH London summer centres paying below minimum wage?

Are IH London summer centres paying below minimum wage?

International House (IH) London has been advertising roles at its Young Learners summer centres with pay rates below National Minimum Wage (NMW), the Gazette can reveal.

While IH London is the first school found by the Gazette to be openly publicizing pay rates below NMW, It is unlikely to be the only UK accredited provider to be paying below the legal limit, judging by complaints. The following statements, all reporting on other accredited providers, were published on Glassdoor in the last 12 months:

“Long hours – 16+ hours a day on excursion days.”
“Worked more than 60 hours per week, though I was paid for 40.”
“Told I would be … given time off in lieu. This never happened.”

This year IH London job advertisements appeared on Tefl.com offering residential teaching roles at summer schools of between £420 and £450 for 48 normal (contracted) hours, a week. Information on their website clearly stated that all 2023 wages are calculated inclusive of the government’s Accommodation Offset of £63.70 a week, which, perfectly legally, would be deducted from gross pay.

For National Minimum Wage purposes, the effective rate of pay is the total of the weekly wage (420) added to current accommodation offset (63.7). In this case, though, the effective weekly wage (487.7) is below the 2023 minimum wage for a 48-hour week for any worker over the age of 20. IH London summer teachers must be graduates with one year’s experience and thus are likely to be at least 21.

The £463.70 effective rate of pay advertised to graduate or undergraduate Activity Leaders for 48 hours is below minimum wage for anyone over the age of 20. However, 18- to 20-year-olds can be asked to work 58 hours and 45 minutes before paid overtime is due.

The age group of the workers is key. Positions as Student Helpers, advertised at an effective rate of £183.67 a week, are easily enough for 16- and 17-year-olds for the 30 hours a week they have to work. 18-year-olds are required to work “two out of three daily sessions” for 6 days a week for the same money. The maximum weekly time legally allowable for this age

group at that rate is 24.5 hours. Most summer centres do not deduct the accommodation offset, so an extra amount of unpaid overtime can be perfectly legally added to the working hours allowable under their weekly wage (see box below). If a teacher is paid the top effective IH London rate of £513.70, fairly close to the average UK rate for teachers this summer and the offset is not deducted, they have an effective pay rate of £577.40 and can be asked to work for a total 56 hours and 45 minutes if they are aged 21 to 22, falling to 55.5 hours if they are 23+ before overtime must be paid.

Teachers at summer schools like IH London Young learners, where the accommodation offset has been deducted, have an effective pay rate of only £513.70 reducing allowable unpaid overtime to just 2.5 hours a week; more than 48 hours for 21–22-year-olds or 1 hour and 15 minutes a week if you are 23 or over.

All the IH job descriptions we read included the caveat “You are required to work such hours as are reasonably required to carry out your role effectively.”

Asked for comment, Tom Leibowicz of the TEFL worker’s Union said: “Whether through malice or through ignorance we can’t rely on EFL schools to do right by us.”

All UK summer school workers can contact the Union at teflworkersunion.org or make an anonymous call to ACAS on 0300 123 1100.

Statement from IH London

“An internal review has revealed that there were some errors in the job descriptions and the job adverts. This meant that the lowest end of the YL salary scale had been advertised against the maximum number of hours. This gave the misleading

impression that our organisation was not adhering to national minimum wage legislation. Our job descriptions and adverts have now been updated.

“We can confirm that all employees holding the positions that have been identified are paid above the national minimum wage for the hours that they work, and this is reflected in their contracts with IH London and the payments that they receive.

“Regarding overtime, employees are compensated for authorised overtime worked with time off in lieu. If it is not possible to provide time off in lieu, overtime payment is granted for the additional hours worked. This is reflected in their employee contracts.

“IH London takes its legal obligations very seriously and endeavours to ensure that their working practices remain in line with current legislation and best practice standards at all times.”

Official view of HMRC

HMRC agrees that the following is in line with their policies:

1. Status of workers

Staff cannot be salaried hours workers unless they have an annual contract and are entitled to an annual salary paid in equal instalments throughout the year:

“If you employ someone to work only during some parts of the year but you pay them an annual salary in instalments

throughout the year then they are a salaried hours worker.”

They are likely to be deemed time workers and must be paid for all the hours they have worked at the end of the pay period (weekly, biweekly, monthly etc.).

2. Time off in lieu

Time off in Lieu is not applicable in National Minimum Wage calculations. Workers should receive payment for all the time in that pay period. If they then take off that time later that can be deducted from their wage.

3. Authorised overtime

Such contractual obligations do not override workers’ rights to be paid for all working time, including overtime at National Minimum wage:

“Contracts for payments below the minimum wage are not legally binding. The worker is still entitled to the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage.”

Response

Following the letter from the Gazette outlining its investigation, IH London have made the following changes to job descriptions:

Teachers: The Normal hours have been changed to “up to 48.” The lowest effective rate of pay remains £483.70. The maximum working hours legally allowed at this rate before overtime must be paid remains 47.5 for 21 to 22- year-olds and 46.5 for those aged 23 and above.

Activity leaders: Hours of work have been changed to 42-48. The effective rate of pay remains at £463.5 a week. Maximum hours allowable remain 45.5 a week for those aged 20-21 and 44.5 for those aged 23 or over.

Student helpers: Effective Rates of pay have been increased to £375.12 or £311 (sic) after £63.70 net for offset is deducted. Hours for 18-year-olds are given as “equivalent to 36 a week.”

References to working “such hours as are reasonably required,” have been removed.

Image courtesy of Library
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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