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Working with ACAS: employment issues faced by schools

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Will an NUT strike go ahead or is there another way out? This question has been exercising the minds of many school leaders in recent days.

It was a question on my mind, too, when I went with my colleague Sean to visit the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), in the East Midlands. ACAS is a non-departmental public body tasked with encouraging good practice in industrial relations.

We met with Kate Nowicki, regional director of ACAS. She happens also to be chair of governors at a local school. So we began by asking:

“What are the issues schools typically contact ACAS about?”

Kate said that the range is wide - from topical concerns around performance management and the application of performance related pay, through to more specific matters such as facility time for trade union representatives.

Given the possibility of strike action in July, we asked, “What about questions on industrial action?” Kate said the most common question schools ask is “Is an employer permitted to ask staff if they intend to strike?”

Here at The Key we answer many questions from our members about conditions of service and relationships with unions. So we collaborate closely with ACAS when writing the answers. Our researchers also regularly attend ACAS training events so they can keep up to date with the latest developments in everything to do with employment regulations.

As talks between the respective unions and the Department for Education (DfE) continue, we’ll be keeping a close eye on progress, and we’ll update relevant articles on The Key as soon as there is news to report.

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