The Supreme Court has ruled against a sixth form which deducted too much pay from teachers who went on strike in 2011.
Justices today allowed an appeal against an earlier ruling in favour of the King Edward VI sixth form college in Stourbridge, which was taken to court by three employees over pay deducted for a day of industrial action in 2011.
Schools Week understands that the ruling, which relates to a long-running dispute over how much of an employee’s salary should be deducted when they take part in strike action, could set a precedent for future strike action and prompt similar cases against schools which acted in a similar way.
The Supreme Court ruling is a landmark victory for teachers’ rights
Jeremy Panko, Stewart Monk and Peter Hartley – three members of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) – brought action against the sixth form in 2013 after money equivalent to 1/260th of their annual salaries was deducted from their pay following a strike.
The teachers argued they should only have lost 1/365th of their pay for taking part, but the County Court found in favour of the sixth form, and their initial appeal was dismissed.
However, the Supreme Court today allowed the appeal, and the NASUWT says it will now seek reimbursement of the money.
The Court’s judgement is based on a law from 1870 – the Apportionment Act – which states that salaries “shall be considered as accruing from day to day, and shall be apportionable in respect of time accordingly”.
The teachers argued that they had regularly performed additional work in their evenings, weekends and on days of annual leave.
The Justices found that the law “deems that payments are to accrue day by day at an equal rate” and that “where an employment contract is an annual contract, it must therefore be apportioned on a daily basis over 365 days, yielding a daily figure of 1/365”.
They also found that there was nothing in the teachers’ contracts which stipulates “for any apportionment other than apportionment on a calendar day basis”.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, called the ruling a “landmark victory” for teachers’ rights.
“Time and time again employers have sought to use the 1/260th deduction instead of the deduction of 1/365th that the NASUWT has always maintained was the correct calculation.
“We will now be seeking reimbursement of the monies unlawfully deducted from our members.”