In this briefing we set out some of the changes to law and best practice which will affect Academy schools in 2014.
In January 2014, the government provided new advice regarding sexual misconduct of teachers. The new guidance states that any teacher who receives a criminal conviction or caution involving indecent images of children should be banned from teaching.
The existing statutory guidance, “Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education” is due to be replaced by new guidance, “Keeping Children Safe in Education”. The new guidance will be far less prescriptive and substantially shorter, less than 20 pages, compared to the old advice which was 122 pages. The government intends, by being less prescriptive, to give more responsibility back to schools. For example, schools will no longer be required to ensure that at least one member of any recruitment panel has completed the current mandatory safer recruitment training.
From April 2014, all employees who wish to bring an employment tribunal claim will be required to submit details to ACAS for mediation before formally lodging their claim. Both parties will then be offered mediation for one month. Only if mediation is unsuccessful, or if one party refuses to engage in conciliation, will the claim be able to proceed to a tribunal.
The right to request flexible working will be available to all school employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service. Schools will be required to ensure they are reasonable when considering any requests although the requirement to follow a set statutory procedure will no longer be necessary. This change will also take effect from April 2014.
The government proposes to introduce a new state funded health assessment scheme for employees who are absent from work due to illness for more than one month. There is no set date yet for this to begin and more details are to follow regarding how the scheme will operate in practice.
The government has published new advice regarding paid time off for staff performing trade union duties in schools. The advice sets out the government’s expectations and examples of good practice, for example:
There should be no full-time union representatives.
Union representatives should spend the majority of their time doing school work.
Schools should review and reduce costs where possible.
For further advice regarding any of the issues discussed above, please contact Lesley Gaskell, who heads our Education team.