Lengthening the school day and week has been raised again as an option. So it is an opportune time to remind ourselves of the current legislative, contractual and other requirements governing the hours of work of teachers. At the same time it is wise to remind ourselves of the duties of the Governing Body and Head Teacher with regard to the working hours of teaching staff.
The working hours of teachers are derived from several sources:
- The Working Time Regulations.
- The contract between the teacher and his employer. In state schools the contract will refer principally to the current School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document.
- The school’s policy on Work/Life Balance
- A teacher’s personal working practices.
I have focused on classroom teachers below as the leadership team and other grades are slightly different and those differences will be covered in a subsequent article.
The Working Time Regulations
The Teachers’ terms (STPCD) state clearly that the Working Time Regulations must be implemented by Head Teachers and the Governing Body for classroom teachers. The Regulations specify minimum terms that must be applied but, as we shall note later, the Teachers’ terms may provide for more than the minimum in some instances. The key aspects of the Regulations are summarised below.
Most teachers are not exempt and are therefore subject to a a limit of an average of 48 hours per week, averaged over a 17 week period.
It is an average so in some weeks a teacher may be required to work more or less hours provided those balance out over the period. It is also recognised that the number of working hours may increase in high season periods e.g. where the pattern of work increases because it is a traditional busy period in the organisation or the profession. However the hours should still be averaged out over a longer period.
A teacher may agree to work more than the maximum above by signing an opt out agreement. Even then, the Head Teacher would be required to ensure that rest breaks etc. are allowed.
What Counts Towards Those Working Hours?
The following do not usually count as working hours:
- breaks when no work is done, e.g. lunch breaks.
- normal travel to and from work.
- time on call away from the workplace.
- evening and day-release classes not related to work.
- travelling outside of normal working hours.
- unpaid overtime a worker has volunteered to do – such as staying late to finish off a task.
- paid or unpaid holiday or time off for personal reasons.
The following count towards the average of 48 hours per week.
- normal duties required under a teacher’s contract.
- job-related training.
- time spent travelling if a teacher has to travel as part of carrying out his contractual duties (but not if travelling to and from his normal place of work to home).
- working lunches (which you are expected to attend).
- paid overtime; unpaid overtime will also count if the individual has no choice but to perform it.
- time spent on call at the workplace
- time spent actually working abroad in some cases e.g. school trips abroad – some of that time would count
- any other time that is treated as ‘working time’ under a teacher’s contract.
The last point is significant for teachers and is explained in section 2 below.
Statutory Rest Periods
The regulations require that teachers (as workers) are provided with the following rest periods.
Daily Breaks – a minimum break of 20 minutes must be given if a teacher is working 6 or more hours in a day. Payment does not have to made for the break. The Teachers’ terms specify when classroom teachers should have a break – see section 2.
Under the Working Time Regulations, the break can be allocated at a time to suit the operation but should be during the shift and preferably not given at the end or the beginning of the work period. Part time staff and shift workers may prefer to take the break at the end of the shift so that they can leave earlier. The Teachers’ terms specify how this affects teachers as noted in section 2.
Daily Rest Period – a rest of 11 consecutive hours in each 24-hour period should be given. The rest period may cross two calendar days depending on when the working day finishes and starts. There is some flexibility to this requirement but Governors should check that teachers are able to take this rest break each day and are free from working on their professional duties. This provision does not apply to split shift workers but such an exception is unlikely to apply to teachers.
Weekly Rest Day – a day off each week but it can be allocated as a rest period of 48 hours over a 14 day period if that fits the operation better.
Annual Holidays – a minimum of 28 days holiday (5.6 weeks) which may include public/bank holidays. Teachers are deemed to have taken their statutory holiday entitlement in the school holiday periods. Governors will need to ensure that any changes to the pattern of school term times should allow teachers still to take off their entitlement to statutory minimum holidays.
Obligations of the Head and the Governing Body
The Regulations place a duty on managers to monitor the working time of staff – the hours worked, overtime, work patterns, breaks, rest days and annual leave to ensure the minimum standards are applied. The Teachers’ Terms place that responsibility on the Governing Body and Head Teacher. It should not be viewed lightly as the Regulations were passed originally under the ambit of the health and safety directive and can be enforced by the Health and Safety Executive or local environmental health officers.
There are various provisions as to how rest periods may be allocated and exceptions in some industry sectors but generally the above apply to classroom teachers with the following caveat – the Teachers’ terms (STPCD) spell out specific tasks that count and do not count towards contractual hours and, in turn, the average working hours. Those points are discussed in the next section.
Contractual Working Time of Teachers
The contractual terms of a teacher may be found in several sources:
- the current edition of the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD);
- the individual’s written particulars of employment (often referred to as the contract);
- the employer’s (i.e. the school’s or local authority’s) policies which have contractual force.
The main conditions relating to working time are set in the STPCD and are summarised below for classroom teachers. Leadership roles and Leading Practitioners have some different terms which will be covered in a subsequent article as will the particular terms that apply to part time teachers.
- There is a contractual limit of 1,265 hours of directed time per annum for full-time classroom teachers in England and Wales. Those hours may be spread over a maximum of 195 days. 190 of those days are for pupil contact and the other 5 for non contact time such as professional development.
- The hours may be allocated reasonably across the 195 days per school year on which the teacher is required to be available for work. Saturdays or Sundays or Bank/Public Holidays are not included unless working on such days is a specific contractual requirement.
- Often the hours of teachers are explained as being for 32.5 hours per week for 39 weeks which traditionally is split into 38 weeks of term time and 5 other non-contact days. That may be convenient for calculating pay but as the directed hours can be spread reasonably across the 195 days – such an average is not immutable.
- The Head Teacher may decide how the directed hours are used and all the hours do not need to be timetabled. Directed time includes: work directed by the Head Teacher such as teaching time, PPA allocated time, additional non-contact (or leadership/ management time), duties at break times or before/after school, staff meetings, parents’ evenings, training days and performance management meetings.
- The professional duties expected of a classroom teacher are quite extensive as may be seen in section 51 of the STPCD 2013.
Non Directed Hours
On the surface, it appears that the working hours of a teacher fall well short of the average maximum of 48 hours per week set in the Working Time Regulations. However, the sting lies in section 51.22 of the 2013 STPCD which states, ” a teacher must work such reasonable additional hours as may be necessary to enable the effective discharge of the teacher’s professional duties, including in particular planning and preparing courses and lessons; and assessing, monitoring, recording and reporting on the learning needs, progress and achievements of assigned pupils”. This section is known as undirected time as the Head does not have the statutory authority to direct how many or when or how those hours should be used.
Undirected time is a contentious part of a teacher’s role as those activities can consume many hours which may tip a teacher across the average limit of 48 hours. Heads should check that when staff are working intensely, in term time, that they are able to take their daily rest breaks as late night finishes and early morning starts may be putting daily rest periods at risk.
Classroom teachers who are required to be available for work for more than one school session on a school day, must be given one break of a reasonable length between those sessions or between 12 noon and 2 pm. The break does not have to be paid and is not subject to direction by the Head Teacher. A classroom teacher is not obliged to supervise pupils/students at lunch times which is why many schools hire teachers for that period on a separate contract or on a casual worker arrangement. However the requirement to allow a reasonable break still remains.
Other terms covering working hours may also be contained in a teacher’s written particulars of employment or other documents referred to in those terms. Such terms are likely to become more common in the written particulars of teachers at academy and free schools.
The written particulars may also refer to policies on working hours. Clauses in policies will often not be binding in law unless those are expressed in such a way that it is clear that they are to be regarded as contractual.
Policy on Work/Life Balance
Governing Bodies and Head Teachers are required to have a policy for teachers. However, the requirement is not just to have a policy but to implement the legal requirements that are often referred to as a work/life balance. Section 52.4 of the STPCD 2013 emphasizes that this is a ‘must’ and that the Governors and the Head Teacher, “should ensure that they adhere to the working limits set out in the Working Time Regulations.” This also applies to the additional hours of undirected time.
Although the Guidance notes in section 4 of the STPCD refer to an older 2003 national agreement, that guidance still applies and contains some interesting reminders of the duties of the Governors and Head Teacher. For example, in section 26 there is a clear reminder of the wider legal duties to monitor and to take action to ensure there is a reasonable work life balance , “Employers have a duty to employees at common law and a legal duty under health and safety legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and related legislation and the Working Time Regulations 1998”.
Governing Bodies should ensure that a risk assessment is carried out to assess whether or not the work demands on their teachers are reasonable and the pattern or working time does not breach the legislative requirements regarding rest breaks etc. The guidance spells out that the reasonableness of the requirement for staff to work additional hours (undirected time) must be kept under review and that duty applies to both classroom teachers and those on the leadership team who are not limited to 1265 hours per annum. The Guidance notes that it is not in the pupils’ interest for teachers to be working excessively long hours.
Personal Working Practices
We approach work in different ways. Some have the gift of being very focused and seem to be able to complete work very quickly and effectively. Many of us are not so gifted in that particular way and have to work longer. From time to time, we should review our own practices to identify:
- opportunities to save time or to be more effective at what we do and how we do it.
- whether we have fallen into a working pattern/method that requires too much time.
As noted earlier, the terms and regulations affecting leadership roles and especially a Head Teacher are slightly different and those will be the subject of a subsequent article.
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