The issue: Agency workers

29th April 2011 at 01:00
New regulations are intended to improve pay and conditions for supply teachers, but how will schools afford the extra expense?

From 1 October 2011, the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 will come into force throughout Great Britain, and although the regulations remain in draft form, they are unlikely to be significantly amended.

Supply teachers employed via an agency who have worked for 12 consecutive weeks at a school, without an interruption of more than six weeks, will be entitled to the same pay, annual leave and breaks as permanent or directly hired staff doing the same job. Pregnant supply staff will also be better protected, with paid time off to attend antenatal appointments.

Supply teachers who stay at the same school for more than the qualifying period, regardless of whether they change year group or subject, will then be placed on the pay scale applicable to their length of service. That supply placement will count towards incremental progression, so if you spend a year or more as a supply teacher, working in 12-week placements or longer (without a six-week break), you will be able to move up a salary point should you later return to the permanent job pool. Supply teachers in this category would also be eligible to receive the pay increment that other permanent staff would receive.

This could make hiring staff via an agency far more expensive. At the moment, whether a school takes on a former deputy head or an NQT makes a fairly small difference to that teacher's pay: pound;100-130 in London, closer to pound;100 elsewhere.

Under the rules, once the supply teacher has been at the school for the qualifying period, they will have to be paid at the rate applicable to their length of service, so anyone earning above MPS6 should see their rate increase if they are employed by an agency. Teaching unions and the TUC are concerned, however, that where schools are struggling to control salaries, they will try to avoid what could amount to a doubling in salary for experienced supply teachers on a long-term placement.

Chris Keates, general secretary of teachers' union the NASUWT, says regulations will need to be monitored. "If a supply teacher is working for the same local authority for several terms but in different maintained schools, we would argue this is the same employer, but schools might say that their governors are the employers."

The six-week break clause may also provide schools with room for manoeuvre, although unions are calling for a ban on agencies switching teachers from school to school at the end of a 12-week run to sidestep the regulations.

According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the onus is on supply agencies to implement the regulations and there should be no extra administration for the school - only greater salary demands which, if not paid, may result in litigation.


  • From day one, a supply teacher has the right to be told of any relevant vacancies arising during their assignment.
  • Supply staff have the right to be treated no less favourably than other teachers in relation to collective facilities and amenities (such as school canteen and childcare).
  • Teachers supplied via an agency will be entitled to the same basic pay and working conditions after the 12-week period. This does not extend to sick pay, redundancy, maternity or paternity pay and other such benefits.


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