In a recent judgement in the Court of Appeal, it was ruled that an employer was entitled to withhold one 260th of annual salary pay for each day of the strike from teachers who went on strike and not one 365th as argued by the teachers.
The sums at stake for the individual teachers were small, but the appeal was important to the sector overall.
In the case before the court, the teachers in question had gone on strike for one day and argued that their contracts of employment required them to work outside their normal working hours - in their own time – to prepare lessons, mark homework and prepare reports and so on. This “undirected time” was not quantified and could, therefore, effectively require the teachers to work every day of the year. The relevant rule in the contract provided that teachers should work for “such reasonable additional hours as may be needed to discharge their duties effectively”.
The court considered that there are, in fact, many ways of viewing teachers’ pay and therefore their “daily rate”. It could, for example, be deemed to be restricted to the 195 days that the teacher was scheduled to be at the school premises (190 days for teaching and 5 days for in-house training) – with the undirected activities taking place within the evenings of those days. Equally, it was concluded that such a definition would be too harsh. It was therefore concluded that the time the teacher might be available for work should be set at five days of the week, fifty two weeks of the year. That is, 260 days and as such, an employer was entitled to withhold one 260th of annual salary pay for each day of the strike from teachers who went on strike.