The Remarkable Difference Between Fixed Term Contacts and Teachers’ Fixed Term Contracts

If I was working on a fixed term contract, and I wasn’t a teacher, I would be really incensed.

teachers-contracts
Teachers’ fixed term contracts are different

Let me explain.

In order for a worker on a fixed term contract to be entitled to a contract of indefinite duration-similar to a permanent contract-the law states that 2 conditions must be met.

Firstly, that I have been employed on at least 2 fixed term contracts.

And secondly, that I have at least 4 years continuous employment in the position. (Source: Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003).

But that’s not the case for teachers.

Because since December, 2013 teachers only required 3 years’ continuous service to qualify for a CID (Source: Circular letter 64/2013) .

And things are about to get better.

Expert Group Recommends Big Improvement for Teachers

Because this week a report by an “expert group”, chaired by Senior Counsel Peter Ward, established under the Haddington Road agreement to look at public sector pay and productivity promised to make life even better for teachers.

One of its recommendations is that teachers become entitled to a CID after only 2 years continuous service.

So an ordinary worker who isn’t a teacher needs 4 years continuous service to qualify for a CID. A teacher currently only needs 3 years and will only need 2 years from the beginning of the 2015 school year.

And it gets better for teachers.

Because one of the ways that an employer can prevent an employee from being entitled to a CID is if he can objectively justify the non awarding of a CID. One way this objective justification could arise is if the employee was covering or filling in for someone on a career break or secondment.

But thanks to the “expert group” this barrier won’t stand in the way of teachers.

Because they recommend:

“With regard to teachers covering for others on a career break or secondment, the report recommends that these individuals should not be disqualified from entitlement to a contract of indefinite duration on that ground.”

The law surrounding the entitlement to a contract of indefinite duration has been set out in Statute since 2003 with the Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Work) Act 2003. Remarkably this law hasn’t applied to teachers since December 2013.

Is this fair?

Is it moral?

Do teachers endure such ghastly working conditions compared to other workers that this non application of the law is justified?

It would be hard to make that argument for 3 reasons:

  1. A job for life
  2. A good pension
  3. Incredible holidays.

The Minister for Education (and former teacher), Jan O’Sullivan, has agreed to implement the recommendations of the expert group.

She will hardly meet with any resistance at the cabinet table from the Taoiseach or Minister for Finance who are both former teachers.

What do you think?

Teachers and Fixed Term Contracts-the Essentials

Fixed term contracts are very common in the teaching profession in Ireland.

teacher-fixed-term-contract

This is due to a number of factors including

• The DES (Department of Education and Skills) sanctioning temporary teaching posts for a school year, rather than approving permanent posts or contracts of longer duration

• Teachers taking leave from the school on a career break, maternity leave, sick leave, carer’s leave, parental leave, job sharing, secondment etc. with the subsequent need for the school authority, such as the  Board of Management, to find a replacement.

This replacement will be given a fixed term contract.

The teacher’s contract of employment will be with the managerial authority of the school such as the VEC committee or Board of Management.

In the primary education sector the Board of Management of the school will be the employer, even though the teacher is paid by the DES.

For Boards of Management in the Primary education sector, all the normal rules and laws discussed elsewhere on this site apply when granting a fixed term contract. Additionally, there may be the requirement to make a job offer subject to certain conditions, eg

  • approval of the Patron (where necessary),
  • Garda vetting,
  • registration with the Teaching Council,
  • a certificate to teach Religious Education (if appropriate),
  • pre employment medical screening by Medmark,
  • and approval of the Minister for Education and Skills.

See also equality and discrimination in the workplace which sets out the legal grounds for schools to discriminate on religious grounds when taking on employees.

Fixed term contracts for teachers will fall into one of two categories:

• Fixed term where the duration of the contract is known or

• Specified purpose contract where the end date may be uncertain (such as maternity leave cover or illness cover).

Fixed term contracts for teachers will normally not exceed the school year, which runs from 1st September to 31st August.

Objective Grounds

It is critically important for the Board of Management to inform the teacher in the contract why they are being employed on a temporary basis, rather than being offered a permanent contract or a contract of indefinite duration, and how the contract will be determined/terminated.

Here is an example of a clause you may use when granting a contract to a teacher who will be covering for a teacher on a career break:

This contract is a Fixed-Term Contract of …. duration and is offered due to the absence of a permanent teacher in the school who is currently on career break. The contract will end on the termination of the career break. A career break can be sanctioned for a period of 1 year with annual application to renew up to 5 years.

In addition, where the Board decides to renew a fixed term contract, it is vital to inform the teacher in writing beforehand why it is not offering a permanent contract and to set out the objective justification for this.

This notice in writing should be given to the teacher at the latest by the date of renewal.

Renewal of Fixed Term Contracts

Renewal of a fixed term contract may lead to the entitlement to a contract of indefinite duration arising. (Click the link to see the circumstances where a CID may arise)

All of the other protections and obligations arising from the Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Work) Act 2003 will, naturally apply.

(See Department of Education and Skills-employing a teacher )

For a more detailed look at fixed term contracts

Recommended: Education Law in Ireland

Haddington Road Agreement and Contracts of Indefinite Duration

The Haddington Road agreement saw some significant changes brought some significant changes to a teacher’s right to a CID and reduced the service requirement from 4 years to 3.

The relevant circulars are 64/2013 for Primary teachers and 0005/2014 for secondary teachers.

Then, further improved conditions were introduced for teachers pursuant to circular letter 23/2015 which implemented the recommendations of the Ward Report, a report prepared by Peter Ward SC. The huge change in respect of CIDs brought about by this report and circular letter was a further reduction in the service requirement for primary and secondary teachers from 3 years to 2.

Yes, 2 years’ continuous employment is all that is required for a CID, whereas if you are not a teacher you will need 4 years’ service, as explained above.