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Seasonal work warning

Does your summer job add up? asks Melanie Butler

Language Travel giant EF is advertising for UK non-residential summer school teachers at “Minimum wage + benefits”. Gazette research has found, though, that the ad on a well-known job site made clear that “Salaries vary across all sites”.

Fixed-term contracts citing a salary which turns out to be minimum wage have begun to appear (see opposite). However, this is the first summer school ad openly offering minimum wage rates seen by the Gazette.

We contacted the EF press office to find out more. The spokesperson who responded said the company followed “all of the relevant UK wage and labour laws” and actual hourly rates vary according to the teacher’s location, qualifications and experience.

“Legally, working time includes all time a worker spends at the work premises”

“Most teacher salaries are well above minimum wage,” he emphasised, adding, “I can confirm that work outside of ‘teaching contact hours’ is paid.”

Paying only for teachers’ contact hours is probably the biggest minimum wage trap that language schools fall into. Legally, working time includes all time a worker spends at the work premises and is working or is expected to be available for work, as and when required.

But non-residential summer schools seem unaware of this. Take the ad for non- residential teachers offering just under £13 an hour for 21 teaching hours in the mornings over a five-day week. The teacher can expect to earn just under £273 a week. Under minimum wage law, for that amount, schools can require staff who are aged 23 or over to be on the premises and available for work for 28 hours and 45 minutes.

However, the ad goes on to state other duties which will “include supervision of afternoon activities and full-day weekend excursions”, plus teachers being required to attend evening activities on a rota. No hours are given, but one full-day excursion alone could take the teachers’ earnings below minimum wage.

Ads for residential workers can be even more misleading. Many schools simply state a fixed salary per week, which sounds OK compared to the competition, but which is not based on the number of hours to be worked at all. For example, one school is offering £431 a week for teaching a 15-hour week with an unspecified number of hours of afternoon activities and full-day excursions thrown in.

How do we know that this salary is not related to hours of work at all? Because 431 is a prime number and so the only numbers it can be divided by are 431 and one.

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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