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UK Supreme Court sides with zero hours teachers

EFL teachers in the UK are likely to be entitled to higher rales of holiday pay than they have been receiving, lawyers for the trade union Unison have confirmed to the Gazette, following the Supreme Court ruling on July 20th in the case of The Harpur Trust v Brazel & Unison.   

The case was first brought to court by a zero-hours music teacher. She had lost money after the school she worked for changed the way her holiday pay was calculated, going from the average earnings she made in the last 12 weeks worked, as prescribed under statute, to 12.07% of money earned pro rata based on the average for a full-time worker on an annual salary.  

The Harpur Trust, who appealed the case to the Supreme Court, argued that it was unfair on full-time salaried workers that zero-hour workers, or those who were only paid for part of the year, to receive a higher rate of holiday pay pro rata. The Trust also argued that the Government-backed employment advisers ACAS stated on their website at the time that the pro rata figure of 12.07% should be used (ACAS has since removed this statement).

The Supreme Court agreed with previous rulings in the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Appeals Court that, although there is a law giving part-time or fixed-term staff the right to the same terms and conditions as their full-time permanent peers, this does not mean that part-time staff cannot be entitled to more than full-time ones.

The Supreme Court judges, however, made specific reference to “part-year workers on permanent contracts”, leading some employment law websites to claim the change in calculation was restricted to workers on permanent contracts. However, Unison – which was, after all, a named party with Brazel – told the Gazette: “It applies to everyone – all workers including those on zero-hours contracts.”  

Presumably “everyone” should include staff currently working at summer schools, many of whom might also want to know why they are on lower hourly rates than their year-round peers working for the same employer, even though some summer school teachers are required to carry out unpaid additional duties, such as excursions and pastoral care while they are paid only for teaching.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock
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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