Heads are having to rely on their school's Nasuwt union representatives to get a copy of the latest teachers' pay and conditions document.
The Department for Education and Skills has not distributed the 190-page booklet because it has agreed not to burden schools with hard copies of large documents as part of its drive to cut paperwork.
But this year's document is particularly important as all schools must draw up new staffing structures by the end of the year.
The Nasuwt, Britain's second-largest teaching union, has paid the distribution costs, estimated at more than pound;30,000, to send copies to its representatives in schools.
But the pound;492,000 cost of the pound;20 booklets - for all the 24,600 schools in England and Wales - is being met by the Government.
The deal has caused unhappiness among some members of the Rewards and Incentives Group (RIG) - the union, employers and Government partnership on teachers' pay.
The National Association of Head Teachers and the National Union of Teachers, which do not belong to the group, have also complained.
The DfES said the posted books were "school copies" and that Nasuwt representatives should check with heads where they should be placed.
However, the NAHT said straw polls of its members at recent conferences suggested that fewer than a third of heads had seen copies.
Mick Brookes, NAHT general secretary, is writing to Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, to protest about the arrangement. "It is outrageous to have the Nasuwt acting as the DfES's postal service," he said. "It is undermining if heads are expected to go cap in hand to Nasuwt representatives for a copy of a document that is essential to running a school."
Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said he planned to raise the issue in the Commons after receiving complaints from heads in his Kingston and Surbiton constituency.
"This is a bizarre and extremely unhelpful way to deal with matters of importance to headteachers and schools," he said.
Jerry Bartlett, NASUWT deputy general secretary, said the union had no reason to apologise for sending the document to its reps rather than heads.
"We are not an altruistic organisation, so if we are going to distribute this at considerable cost we want to get the maximum benefit," he said.
"Can you imagine what our members' response would be if we were to use their subscriptions to distribute documents to heads? Our members have to have first priority," he added.
The DfES said heads could order a second free copy from its website or by calling 0845 60 222 60. Schools without a NASUWT representative, who had not received a copy at all, would be allowed to order two.