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Can anyone give some solid advice re employment law (I am reading up as well using ACAS).

 

In preparation for new premises and our move we are asking (in written form) what sessions staff would wish to do. Some staff have stated that they wish to increase their hours, whilst others would like to remain the same.

 

However there have been a few difficulties with some aspects and I wonder if anyone can answer this:

Could we legally offer staff fewer hours than they are already doing or do we have to continue their current hours?

 

 

Do we have to consider length of service as a factor when choosing who to offer hours to (ie, the longer term staff and shorter term staff all may want the same days -do we base our judgement on ability or length of service?

 

Can we take into account the staff's abilities and whether they have attended regular training, completed their paperwork duties etc?

 

All answers greatfully received.

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Can I ask why you would need to reduce the hours that staff do? Are there economic reasons for this - such as a drop in the numbers of children? Or do you want to reduce their hours so you can offer increased hours to other staff members?

 

Maz

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Can I ask why you would need to reduce the hours that staff do? Are there economic reasons for this - such as a drop in the numbers of children? Or do you want to reduce their hours so you can offer increased hours to other staff members?

 

Maz

 

mmm, I did wonder whether someone would ask that. there are some who are not as able or willing as others.

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mmm, I did wonder whether someone would ask that. there are some who are not as able or willing as others.

I'd stress that I'm not an expert in employment law - and I'd definitely ring Acas and ask their advice before you do anything. However, I'd say that if there is no economic reason for reducing the hours staff work you might run into trouble if you sought to reduce certain staff's hours and not others.

 

Obviously if your staff are agreeable to changing their hours of work then you haven't got a problem. However, I know that if an employer is taken to an industrial tribunal the onus is on the employer to make sure that good employment practice was followed and that the company's policies and procedures were followed. Good practice might include identifying staff weaknesses and offering support and guidance in order to help them improve performance.

 

I'm wondering whether choosing to reduce certain staff's hours because they are not as effective as other staff members whose hours you want to increase might lay you open to a case of constructive dismissal. This is definitely the worst case scenario, of course: the worst that may happen is that you are left with some very demoralised staff members which might make for a difficult working environment.

 

Of course, a lot will depend on the type of contract your staff sign - if it is a fixed or temporary contract then you are probably free to reduce their hours once the contract has come to an end.

 

If it were me I'd ring the Acas helpline, explain what you would like to do and ask them if its legal. They'll tell you in no uncertain terms!

 

Good luck

Maz

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Hi Maz,

 

thanks for your answer. I will be ringing ACAS tomorrow.

 

It is difficult to work out what to do. I get the feeling we will have to offer the same hours they are doing now and hopefully no more. When we move premises, we will be closing our current pre-school, changing the name, premises and everything so I wondered what scope there was here, but it looks as if we would follow the same routes as when a company is taken over by another (offer same hours etc).

 

When we move we will be offering a full weeks work too - rather that our 5 sessions now and I do have some staff who are really enthusiastic and who are willing to train and do their paperwork - however there are two staff members whose folders are 'blank' for want of a better word and who most other staff feel are not pulling their weight - that is why I'd prefer to reduce their hours and increase the hours of those who are fulfilling their contract and completing their paperwork and training.

 

 

At present I am helping one member of staff, but I have had to speak to the committee about this - they did wonder why we are getting paid 15 mins at the beginning and end of each session to do paperwork, but theirs is not being done -can you believe I pushed the committee into this and I'm still being told by these staff that the 1 1/2 hours paperwork time isn't enough? The others are managing well.

 

I have flagged this up at every appraisal and staff meeting..the committee have said enough is enough and we will now be having 10 mins paid per key child per week to get folders done! I could scream!

 

Will speak to ACAS tomorrow, but I think I know their answer!

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Id be inclined to agree with Maz, proceed with caution

 

unless it is econimic reasons or the member of staff has requested a reduction of hours you could be open to all kinds of problems.

 

if you have extra hours available you can choose who gets them but it has to be justifiable that you cannt be seen to be playing favourites, to be fair treat it like there is a new position available, inform all staff and ask them to apply for the extra hours and then interview each memeber of staff that applies - levels of qualification and training can be taken into consideration over hours of service

 

I hope you manage to sort the problem

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I think you have two different issues here and you may find it easier to think/plan for them seperately.

 

1/ Moving equates to change of contract

 

2/ Staff ability.

 

 

1/ Looking on the positive your move has enabled you the focus of really looking at and reviewing your employment policies and contracts.

It is quite legal to change contracts and terms of contracts, but as you are doing, getting advice on this is important. I changed my staffs contracts to help with the fact that in Autumn term I could only offer less hours than summer term (due to reduction of numbers to school). My new contract stated that all staff were employed for between a minimum of 16 hrs and a maximum of 36 hrs per week, to be informed at the beginning of each term. I also included the need for staff to attend training to ensure that I met the government requirements of Degree and EYPS status by the governments given dates. ie: staff had to gain further qualifications in line with my training policy. I can't recall the fine details of this but I did get ACAS advice and the staff had the choice of whether to agree and sign the new contract or not, and by not agreeing they could become unemployed.

Use this time to ensure all employment matters are clearly defined in your 'new' contracts.

 

2/ Staff ability you say has been recorded as being bought up at appraisals, were the staff given time scales to improve, to do what they are being paid for? This issue shouldn't be confused with the new contracts but dealt with as seperate. Discuss this issue with the staff now, prior to new contracts being writtin, give timescales for improvement etc.

Your new contracts should state clearly what the job responsibilities are, including the requirement to complete x amount of defined paperwork and the consequance of not following job description is disciplinary procedure.

 

I'm happy to meet up with you if you want a chat.

 

Peggy

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I think you have two different issues here and you may find it easier to think/plan for them seperately.

 

1/ Moving equates to change of contract

 

2/ Staff ability.

 

 

1/ Looking on the positive your move has enabled you the focus of really looking at and reviewing your employment policies and contracts.

It is quite legal to change contracts and terms of contracts, but as you are doing, getting advice on this is important. I changed my staffs contracts to help with the fact that in Autumn term I could only offer less hours than summer term (due to reduction of numbers to school). My new contract stated that all staff were employed for between a minimum of 16 hrs and a maximum of 36 hrs per week, to be informed at the beginning of each term. I also included the need for staff to attend training to ensure that I met the government requirements of Degree and EYPS status by the governments given dates. ie: staff had to gain further qualifications in line with my training policy. I can't recall the fine details of this but I did get ACAS advice and the staff had the choice of whether to agree and sign the new contract or not, and by not agreeing they could become unemployed.

Use this time to ensure all employment matters are clearly defined in your 'new' contracts.

 

2/ Staff ability you say has been recorded as being bought up at appraisals, were the staff given time scales to improve, to do what they are being paid for? This issue shouldn't be confused with the new contracts but dealt with as seperate. Discuss this issue with the staff now, prior to new contracts being writtin, give timescales for improvement etc.

Your new contracts should state clearly what the job responsibilities are, including the requirement to complete x amount of defined paperwork and the consequance of not following job description is disciplinary procedure.

 

I'm happy to meet up with you if you want a chat.

 

Peggy

 

 

Thanks Peggy, there are all sorts of complications here which terrify me especially with one member of staff, however, one of my other thoughts is what if we were to offer hours according to the parent's wishes for the key children - otherwise how are we going to ensure that current keychildren (over 27 school leavers this year) stay with their key workers. We will send out questionnaires soon to see who wants which days for their child.

 

If that isn't a problem, do I have to offer the same range of days already worked to the staff members or just the same sessions? Gosh so much to think about (and the committee is just bogged down with all the move as well).

 

Would love to meet up some time - can't manage anything for a week or so though.

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Thanks Peggy, there are all sorts of complications here which terrify me especially with one member of staff, however, one of my other thoughts is what if we were to offer hours according to the parent's wishes for the key children - otherwise how are we going to ensure that current keychildren (over 27 school leavers this year) stay with their key workers. We will send out questionnaires soon to see who wants which days for their child.

 

If that isn't a problem, do I have to offer the same range of days already worked to the staff members or just the same sessions? Gosh so much to think about (and the committee is just bogged down with all the move as well).

 

Would love to meet up some time - can't manage anything for a week or so though.

 

 

I think that you may be getting 'all tied up' in pedantics ( no offence ). Staffing needs to be considered to maintain ratio's, to then consider keyworker sessions is too complex, any staff member may leave at any time, children change (leave/drop/increase) sessions throughout their time at preschool for various reasons, so planning stafing levels to individual childrens attendence patterns isn't very workable. AT THIS TIME (although I understand you are trying to consider all within your planning)

 

When planning changes try to remember to be SMART

 

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Realistic

T = Timely

 

So, staffing levels / hours

 

GOAL -To staff the new setting effectively

 

specific -need to meet ratio's, qualifications requirements, childrens needs (keyworker), exploit staff abilities (who's good at what)

Measurable - to be met on a sessional basis, termly requirements.

Attainable - look at: what staffing you have, what qualifications / development needs of staff, affordability of budget, staff skills, attendence patterns of children.

Realistic - look at: current staff skills / quals etc, consider barriers to reaching your goal

Timely - Can you achieve what you want in timescale? Will there be recruitment needs? consider meeting the main aims ie: ratio's then work towards keyworker roles - ie: prioritize.

 

In my setting we had keyworker groups, a few staff per group, so that this ensured at least one key worker was present at any given time for each child.

 

The keyworker process has been discussed elsewhere on the forum, wit many different ideas of implimenting it, try a search, but I would say this is not a priority problem and can be sorted once settled in to your new premises.

 

Let me know when your free and I'll make the tea and provide the cream cakes :o

 

Peggy

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Just another thought, it seems you are second guessing a lot. There are changes ahead, obviously, ask all the staff (questionairr) to state what hours/ days they will be available, let them know that you will consider this information when planning staff hours but cannot guarantee (spl) to meet all 'chosen needs'. Let them know that their needs are being considered.

 

It must feel a bit like chicken and egg syndrome, but getting your childrens attendence patterns set first then appointing staff to sessions is the best way round, I would think.

 

Peggy

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When we move premises, we will be closing our current pre-school, changing the name, premises and everything so I wondered what scope there was here, but it looks as if we would follow the same routes as when a company is taken over by another (offer same hours etc).

When you ring ACAS I'd start from this point: we're closing our current pre-school and opening another one. Oh and by the way can I re-jig my staffing because some staff members are more able than others?

 

That sounds a bit flippant - but you know what I mean :o

 

I think there are provisions in the TUPE regulations that you'd follow when taking over another business for changing the details of employees contracts (or not retaining certain staff at all). I think there are also provisions about not taking over existing contracts, but offering new ones. You'd need to read the document very carefully indeed!

 

I did go through the regulations when I bought my nursery last year - but to be honest at the time I had so much going on that I just took over the contracts as they stood. Peggy has given some excellent suggestions of things to consider when drawing up new contracts - thanks Peggy that will help enormously since I'm currently recruiting.

 

Good luck - as Peggy says try not to get too bogged down. Decide what you'd like to do, and then get good advice from Acas about whether its legal - they're there to help prevent industrial relations difficulties and since they're usually the ones that get called in they have a vested interest in helping you get it right. I know it goes without saying probably, but make sure you keep careful notes of the advice you took and how it informed the action you took so that you have your facts straight if there should be 'trublatmill'.

 

Maz

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So far, we are full and have a waiting list of over 40 children. Our business plan has taken into account the fact that we could be running less than full and this is reflected in staffing.

 

Our contracts have always stated that the staff's working hours are dependant on the requirements to meet the ratio's, ie, if we have less children we'll need more staff, but this has never been implemented (it will have to be this year as we can't afford to pay staff without the fees/funding to cover).

 

Parents are being asked which days their children need and the waiting list is heaving (phone calls all the time too).

 

Staff are being asked too, but I'm just trying to help out the committee and find out what they need to do. So far I understand the following well:

 

Staff will be issued a letter from the committee notifying that their current contract will end.

The letter will also state/ask:

 

- the final decisions will rest with the committee

- staff are to inform the committee of their preferences

- Staff's preferences will be considered by the committee, but they may be unable to offer all preferred days and times

- the new contract will be issued before we begin in April and staff's comments will be considered by the committee.

- the contract will be for term time only

- staff will be asked to sign and date the new contracts indicating they have read and understood the content

- The date by which staff should respond by (pretty soon too)

 

 

Is there anything else that may go in this letter ? I've got to get it sorted early this week so that there is a five week gap between notice to terminate and actual termination dates of the contracts.

 

Blimey, wish I'd never tried to help in a way!

x

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Blimey, wish I'd never tried to help in a way!

This raises a different issue as well: be careful that you don't manoeuvre yourself into a position where this can all come back on your shoulders. Ultimately the committee is responsible for taking this action (and ensuring they have up to date, accurate legal advice before doing so).

 

Make sure that when you advise the committee of what you have found out, you tell them they should seek to verify that the information you have provided is accurate, and that you can take no responsibility for the consequences of any action they take on the basis of what you have told them.

 

You need to protect your own interests here, too!

 

Maz

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This raises a different issue as well: be careful that you don't manoeuvre yourself into a position where this can all come back on your shoulders. Ultimately the committee is responsible for taking this action (and ensuring they have up to date, accurate legal advice before doing so).

 

Make sure that when you advise the committee of what you have found out, you tell them they should seek to verify that the information you have provided is accurate, and that you can take no responsibility for the consequences of any action they take on the basis of what you have told them.

 

You need to protect your own interests here, too!

 

Maz

 

that's why I'm seeking as much help as I can..one staff member does have access to alot of backup, which has turned on us before..that quite terrifies me and is probably also why that staff member gets away with so much!

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