16 December, 2015
Employment and HR queries we have received from schools this month:
A: No, in order for an employee to attend an Occupational Health referral and for the information to be released the employer will need the employee's consent. Employers sometimes will have a clause in the contract of employment which requires the employee to attend a medical assessment and to release the information. This enables employers to issue a reasonable management instruction to co-operate with the process, as it is a contractual requirement, meaning if an employee should refuse without good reason to do so, this may lead to disciplinary action under the school's disciplinary procedure.
A good starting point before considering disciplinary action is to discuss with the employee their reasons for not wishing to grant consent and explain that it is in their best interests to attend the occupational health appointment as it will allow you to establish whether anything can be done to support the employee and assist them back to work. If you do not have medical evidence to assist, the employee should be made aware that the employer will have to proceed without it and make decisions without the information and any measures which could be put in place to support them, which is in neither of the interests of the school or the employee.
A: During severe weather conditions, such as flooding, schools should remain open for as many children as possible. However, it might be necessary to close temporarily due to inaccessibility or risk of injury.
If the school has to temporarily close its premises at short notice because of unforeseen circumstances such as flooding, fire or a power supply failure, employees will be entitled to receive their normal pay for the duration because in accordance with contractual principles, the School is obligated to provide work and the employee is obliged to do that work. Employees could bring a claim for unlawful deductions or breach of contract if they are not paid, unless there is a specific contractual provision dealing with this issue. The Burgundy Book and the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions include no specific provision dealing with this issue.
A: Where the school is still open in severe weather conditions it is the responsibility of all employees to make every effort to attend for duty at their normal school, however the School should not expect employees to ignore official advice not to travel and put themselves at risk. An Employer should be flexible in order to assist their attendance, for example, by bringing together groups and classes together to cover absences.
Where the school accepts that an employee has used their best endeavours to attend school but are unable to do so due to severe weather conditions, the wording of the Employer's policy will determine whether employees are entitled to full pay or permitted to take the time off as unpaid leave.