The dismissal of teachers on the alleged grounds of redundancy whilst class sizes are rising is not to be tolerated and will be resisted by the NASUWT wherever possible.
The NASUWT Representative has an important role to play in avoiding this situation arising in the first place.
The NASUWT Representative’s role
- inform the Union immediately s/he becomes aware that redundancies are being proposed;
- monitor the school budget carefully: the Representative is entitled to ask for and receive budget statements;
- the Board of Governors is required to inform the Union of proposed redundancies. Normally this is sent to the NASUWT National Centre. If it is sent to the NASUWT Representative, s/he should immediately send it to the Union;
- correspondence between the Board of Governors and the NASUWT will be copied to the NASUWT Representative for information. Union officials may need to consult the NASUWT Representative with regard to criteria and/or selection;
- examine the notification of proposed redundancy to see if it complies with legislative requirements and includes:
- the reasons for the proposed redundancies;
- the number and descriptions of teachers it is proposed to dismiss as redundant;
- the total number of teachers employed at the school;
- the proposed method of selecting the teachers who may be dismissed as redundant;
- the proposed method of carrying out the redundancy, with due regard to the agreed procedure.
Assuming that the notice complies with the above, it will then need to form the basis of statutory consultation. Employers are under a statutory obligation to consult with the NASUWT. This consultation must be carried out in good faith by the employer.
The Board of Governors must respond to any representation by the Union.
Failure to consult can be referred by the Union to an industrial tribunal and in addition may lead to a finding of unfair dismissal.
The Board of Governors, in consultation with the recognised unions, shall investigate possible means of avoiding compulsory redundancy, for example:
- natural wastage through retirement or resignation;
- voluntary transfer to another school;
- redeployment within the school;
- premature retirement.
The Guidance for Handling Teacher Redundancies states that 'Governors must establish objective selection criteria if there are no suitable or sufficient volunteers for redundancy within the school'.
In deciding the staff complement, the Governors will need to give preliminary consideration to the qualifications, training, experience and potential deployment of existing full-time, part-time and temporary staff. The curricular and non-curricular needs of the school should be clearly identified according to their priority.
The Guidance states that the following are areas for consideration when determining school needs and establishing justifiable criteria:
- statutory requirement for curriculum delivery and teachers' contribution to the curriculum;
- specialist roles undertaken in school which cannot be easily replaced;
- total teaching experience in current school.
It is important that the use of and reliance on such criteria must be objectively justifiable and sustainable in relation to the financial or curricular deficits identified by the appropriate audit process. Criteria must take account of equality issues, such as gender, marital, civil partnerships or family status, pregnancy or maternity leave, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, racial group, age, disability, trade union membership or non-membership, criminal record, and religious belief and political opinion (refer to TNC 2009/02 - Equal Opportunities Policy for Teachers in Schools).
Also, part-time teachers must not be treated less favourably than full-time staff.
When completing the curricular audit, the Governors should list all skill areas which they consider essential and desirable for the future needs of the school.
The Guidance advises that the use of “Last in, First out” (LIFO) is potentially age discriminatory and must not be used as the sole criterion. It does, however, recommend that, if, having applied the selection criteria based on the curricular and non-curricular needs of the school, two or more teachers remain equal, LIFO may be applied.
Staff will need to be flexible and prepared to transfer teaching responsibilities within schools. In post-primary schools, this will inevitably entail teaching other than an existing subject specialism and in primary schools not being restricted to a particular age group. Individual members of staff should ensure that their qualifications, including in-service courses, are known and updated in school records each year so that a proper staff audit of staff qualifications and experience can be made.
Length of service
A teacher dismissed as redundant must receive four calendar months' notice for termination of contract on the last day of August or September. Teachers should not be dismissed as redundant at any time other than the last day of August or September.
Permanent teachers made compulsorily redundant and who satisfy the eligibility for entitlement to a redundancy compensation payment are included in a pool of like teachers who are considered for a transferred redundancy opportunity. This involves transferring a redundancy from one school where there is a compulsory redundancy to another school where a teacher has volunteered to access a redundancy opportunity. The teacher in the latter school would consequently be made redundant and the school with the original compulsory redundancy would transfer that teacher to take the place of the teacher who has volunteered to access a redundancy opportunity.
The transferred redundancy process is a two-step process. Step one involves transfers being restricted entirely to each sector. Step two involves transfers across all sectors including the Education Authority (EA), Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS), voluntary grammar schools, grant-maintained integrated schools and Irish-medium schools, as well as involving the voluntary grammar and integrated sectors. The involvement of a school in the process in terms of accepting a teacher being made redundant in another school onto their staff is entirely at the discretion of the Board of Governors of that school.
The teacher being made redundant receives a tax-free redundancy payment based on the statutory formula but enhanced whenever a redundancy takes place as part of a DE scheme.
Redundancy payment is based on continuous service up to termination of employment. The maximum redundancy payment is based on the last 20 years of continuous service.
The NASUWT is not in a position to provide estimates of redundancy entitlement. Teachers in maintained schools should request an estimate from the CCMS or if in a controlled school from the EA.
Teachers in voluntary grammar schools and grant-maintained integrated schools should request an estimate from their school bursar.