Tackling unfair term-time contracts

UNISON calls for review of school support staff contracts that can cut pay by 20%

UNISON is calling for a joint national review of the term-time working arrangements used by schools for the employment of support staff. The contracts can lead to support staff having their salary cut by up to 20%.

The union believes that treating teachers as full-year employees but reducing the salaries of support staff by up to 20% through term-time working is divisive, bad for morale and unfair. Term-time contracts also penalise a predominantly female workforce and worsen the problems of low pay.

The call for reform is a key part of the national pay claim submitted this year to the local government employers by UNISON and the other unions GMB and Unite. The claim calls for the introduction of the Living Wage Foundation rates (currently £9.15 an hour in London and £7.85 for the rest of the UK) as the new minimum rate of pay in all schools and a flat rate increase of £1 per hour for all other staff.

The outcome of the national negotiations with the local government employers is respected by the overwhelming majority of schools, including academies, in England Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland has its own separate national pay negotiations.

Even within term-time only contracts there are variations and inconsistencies in the formulas used for reducing pay from the full-year rate to a term-time figure and no clarity on holiday entitlement. Employers, even within a single local authority, have a variety of contracts, which makes it difficult to identify who is being paid what, and for how many weeks.

Support for the unions’ proposal can be seen from UNISON’s survey of councillors and local government officers attending the Local Government Association’s 2015 annual conference. 82% of respondents agreed it was divisive and unfair that many school support staff are on term-time contracts of around 39 weeks a year while teachers are paid the whole year.

Support staff are critical to the smooth running of all schools and make a vital contribution to delivering improved educational outcomes for children and young people. UNISON is clear that paying them properly for the vital work they do is long overdue.


Download UNISON’s negotiating advice on term-time contracts for school staff