Teaching unions will fiercely resist any moves by schools to dock the pay of teachers unable to get to work because of the travel disruption caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland, industry figures have said.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the largest teachers’ union, the NASUWT, said the disruption is affecting workers and workplaces nationally and internationally and to single out teachers would be “totally unreasonable and unnecessary”.
“Employers should be warned that they are vulnerable to a legal challenge for ‘unlawful deduction of salary’ if they seek to penalise teachers in this way,” she said.
Her comments followed reports – denied by the authority – that Coventry City Council was planning to dock the pay of teachers who failed to report to work and expected them to reclaim the lost earning from their travel insurance.
Employment lawyers told Personnel Today that there is no legal obligation for employers to pay staff who cannot work, but a school sector source said teaching unions are “very, very strong” and often get results for their members that many others could not.
“The longer teachers are absent, the more this will become an issue, as cover budgets will take a hammering,” the source added.
Mark Southworth, headteacher of Woodcote High School in Croydon, said 13 of his teachers were unable to get back to school. “We have made the decision that we are going to open and are planning for the worst-case scenario,” he told the BBC.
Steven Paddock, one of the 13, told Personnel Today that the school has been “in contact religiously” via e-mail and text to find out when he could return from Morocco. He said there had been no discussion in relation to pay or extended leave, but added that “with prescribed holidays in teaching, it could be a strange one”.
Another teacher, who is stuck in Egypt, said he had been in contact with his school regularly since last Thursday but had yet to hear back. He told Personnel Today that there had been no talk of docking pay but, if there was, he would be “kicking up a fuss”.