Councils can't avoid employer duties

21st March 2003 at 00:00
A LANDMARK legal ruling has clarified the responsibilities of local education authorities and school governors as employers of teachers.

The National Union of Teachers has welcomed the decision by an employment appeals tribunal in London this week that it says will prevent education authorities passing off their responsibilities on to school governors.

The tribunal ruled that a school governing body should only be treated as the sole employer if it were exercising the specific employment powers that were laid down in the 1988 Education Reform Act - appointment, discipline, suspension or dismissal.

In any other instance the education authority should take responsibility as an employer.

Graham Clayton, the NUT's senior solicitor, said the union dealt with between 200 to 300 cases a year where councils had failed to enforce local agreements because they claimed school governors were employers.

"The position that the NUT has been arguing for 15 years has been upheld," he said.

Graham Lane, chair of education at the Local Government Association, welcomed the tribunal's clarification. He said some authorities had been a "bit daft" in thinking that they had been absolved of all responsibility as employers.

The test case involved Diane Green, a deputy headteacher from Victoria Road primary school, Ashford, Kent, who was claiming constructive dismissal against both the school governors and Kent council.

The original tribunal had ruled that the only the governors should have to answer the case. The NUT's appeal means the education authority is now involved in the case again.

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