Know your rights

7th February 2003 at 00:00
All teachers - whether full-time or supply - should be able to join the pension scheme

Decent pension provision is one of the many benefits that supply teachers are often denied. Some agencies offer no pensions at all, while others offer only a stakeholder scheme and may not make any employers'

contributions.

The teaching unions have been lobbying hard for the right of all supply staff to join the Teachers' Pensions Scheme, even if they work for an agency. There are only two agencies whose teachers are eligible to be members of the TPS; these were both set up in partnership with local education authorities, which act as the employers and contribute to the scheme.

"It's dreadful that supply teachers should be deprived of the chance to build up a reasonable pension," says Marion Bird, deputy head of pensions at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

"It's particularly bad for younger people, who get into the habit of not making any pension provision. Schools may find it easier to contact an agency when they're looking for cover, but they ought to remember that these teachers are being denied a pension."

But if you do supply work for an lea or a school, without a private agency as a go-between, you are eligible for a pension, provided you remember to join the scheme. Full-time teachers automatically become members of the TPS, but part-time and supply staff must fill in Form 261, which is available from your employer or the TPS.

The best news for supply teachers is that 195 days' work, even if it is only part-time or is spread out over many years, is equivalent to 365 days'

pension. Your "service credit" will be calculated by comparing your pay to that of a full-timer over the same period, which will add more days to your pension record than you have actually worked.

A supply who worked 25 days from April 1 to August 31, 2001, for instance, would be credited with 47 days' service if he or she was paid on point 9 of the main pay scale at pound;127.40 per day. The calculation goes like this: (pound;3,185 V pound;24,843) x 365 = 47 days.

Once you have joined the TPS, it's vital to keep track of your contributions. Leas are notorious for mislaying the service records of teachers who work part-time or on supply. Keep all your pay slips and a diary showing the days you have worked, so that you have some evidence if mistakes are made. You should also ask for a benefit statement every year from the TPS so that you can check that your service record is correct.

When you retire, your pension benefits will be based on the total number of years and days in your service record, together with your average salary.

If you are still working as a supply teacher, your pension will be calculated using the full-time equivalent of your salary, rather than the pay you are actually receiving. It doesn't matter if there are gaps in your service; TP will go back several years to work out your average salary over 365 days of pensionable service.

However, if there are large salary increases for teachers during your last year or so in teaching, you could boost your "average salary" by working on as many days as possible in your final year.

For further information: www.teacherspensions.co.uk

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