Role of the law in teacher redundancies

19th November 2010 at 00:00

Your Chatroom contributors are right to be concerned by the possibility of teacher redundancies (TESS, November 12). It may be helpful to set out a number of points to clarify the legal context.

First, while compulsory redundancies of teachers have to date been avoided, it is a fact that many teachers - including young ones - have suffered when fixed-term contracts have not been renewed. The loss of over 3,000 teaching jobs in the past few years is a hidden redundancy.

Any decision to contemplate making a teacher redundant puts an employing council under certain statutory obligations. This is not a national matter, but one for each council. The council will have to establish a basis for redundancy and consult with individuals at risk and, if more than 20 redundancies are contemplated, with trade unions. Timescales are defined in law.

If a number of teachers are at risk, councils will have to consider establishing clear criteria for selection. These should be objective and may include reference to absence and disciplinary hearings. While length of service may be one factor in selection, employers cannot rely on "last in, first out". This is used for compulsory transfer, since teachers are employed across a council but placed in a particular school. Any compulsory transfer does not terminate employment. Reliance on "last in, first out" for redundancy would leave councils open to age discrimination claims.

Employers are also under an obligation to mitigate possible redundancies. This will include methods traditionally used to manage staffing, such as early retirement through premature retirement compensation or voluntary severance and retraining opportunities.

Any threat to make teachers compulsorily redundant is a challenge to the EIS and other teaching unions. This will be met by a trade union response.

Dougie Mackie, convener, EIS salaries committee.

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