Saturday 22 October 2016

High Court issues significant judgment improving the entitlements of part-time teachers

Tim Healy

Published 03/07/2015 | 16:54

Ms Justice O'Malley said this case involved a serious matter affecting a large number of people.
Ms Justice O'Malley said this case involved a serious matter affecting a large number of people.

A SIGNIFICANT judgment improving the entitlements of part-time teachers and with implications for all teachers has been issued by the High Court.

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Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley upheld a Labour Court finding that Anne Boyle, a part-time teacher for 20 years in a pre-school for Traveller children, was an employee of the Minister for Education and not, as the Minister argued, of her school's management board.

The Labour Court had correctly ordered the Minister to pay compensation to Ms Boyle under the Protection of Employees (Part-Time) Work Act 2001 over being treated less favourably than teachers doing comparable work, the judge held.

However, she ruled the Labour Court had no power, given the rules governing the national teachers pension scheme, to make an additional order directing the Minister to admit Ms Boyle, a qualified secondary teacher, to that scheme.

The judge said the Labour Court had not acted irrationally in awarding Ms Boyle €10,000 for the "general effects" of the discrimination suffered by her and should now reconsider the compensation sum given the finding the Minister could not be ordered to admit Ms Boyle to the pension scheme.

In proceedings described as "of major importance" for all teachers, the Minister sought to overturn the Labour Court finding Ms Boyle is an "employee" of the Minister's within the terms of the 2001 Act being treated less favourably than other teachers.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation supported Ms Boyle's claim.

Ms Boyle, Monivea Park, Galway, taught at the Hillside Park Pre-school for Travellers in Galway until it closed in June 2011.

The Minister argued she, like about 50,000 teachers in the State paid by the Minister, were employed by their schools boards of management and were not employees of the Minister.

Ms Justice O'Malley said this case involved a serious matter affecting a large number of people.

It was rooted in the "unique Constitutional arrangements for education in this State", involving a "unique tripartite relationship" between the Department of Education, the Department funded teacher, and the school.

In relation to teachers whose salaries are paid by the State, the role of employer is, "uniquely, split", with one part played by the Department and the other by the school management, she said.

The school management has the right to hire, discipline and generally direct a teacher in the day to day running of the school.

The Department sets the rules about, and pays, the salaries.

Since the Department was taking on what would normally be the rights of an employer in relation to pay, it also carried the "legal duties"

of an employer associated with pay, she ruled.

Compliance with its own Departmental rules was one such legal obligation and is a matter of contractual right on the part of teachers, she held.

Compliance with rules imposed on employers by legislation concerning pay and pay-related matters should not be treated any differently and to find otherwise would impose on school management bodies legal responsibility where they have no legal power, she said.

The Department has over the years administered its functions with a consciousness of these responsibilities, the judge said.

If it did not, it was "hard to see how the school system could function".

While Ms Boyle was not employed in a school "recognised" under the

1998 Education Act, there was no legislation preventing the Minister entering into the kind of arrangement under which Ms Boyle was employed for 20 years, the judge said.

During that time, she was paid a rate determined by the Minister and given various allowances and entitlements consistent with the legal responsibilities of an employer for pay-related issues.

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