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Is this unfavourable treatment? Calling flowery et al... (Long, Sorry)

(40 Posts)
donthateme Tue 30-Aug-11 13:23:24

I teach humanities in a secondary school, I'm full time. Have just received 2 emails, one from my head of Dept finalising details of my teaching timetable for the coming year, the other from the Deputy Head HR who organises rotas for other duties outside teaching.

Two things have cropped up which I feel a little peeved about and am wondering if I have a case for saying I am receiving less favourable treatment.

Timetable issue first as that is the biggy for me. Another colleague is returning from maternity leave next Monday when term begins, and has had part time, 3 days a week agreed. She is working 3 full days and the upshot of that is that nearly all her teaching will be split classes, ie she will teach them the days she is in, and other colleagues pick them up the other days. Unfortunately I seem to have drawn the short straw and have a lot of split classes with her. My concern is that while this benefits her (because she only wants 3 days work) it poses a disadvantage to me (greater prep and marking load overall, a lot more parents to see on parents evenings, more reports to write etc). Basically, even though my teaching hours are the same overall as they would be if I had all my own classes, the work load is massively increased when this is spread over a lot more teaching groups.Apart from anything else, its the increased number of pupil relationships you have to manage (as well as the marking, report writing as mentioned).Plus time to communicate effectively with the part time colleague. I doubt we will have non contact time together so when does this happen? Lunchtime? After school? Evening emails? Not happy about that idea. Also I have doubts about whether this is best for the pupils as they can tend to play teachers off against eachother.

I am aware that in all teachers contracts there is a standard clause stating we basically teach whoever we're told. So I am sure the bottom line is technically the Principal can do this, however, I do feel that in agreeing to this colleagues flexible work request, the Principal and governers have not taken into account the less favourable impact on colleagues.

My 2nd point is very much minor in comparison, but again i wonder how reasonable this is. Another colleague is pregnant, and will be back at school for about another 8 weeks before starting maternity leave. The email from deputy Head HR is about revised duties around the school (break, lunch, end of school). It appears that the pregnant colleague will not be expected to do these for the rest of her pregnancy - which i TOTALLY understand if a risk assessment has indicated she shouldnt, because our school is pretty big and break times can get chaotically busy, and there can sometimes be a bit of pushing and shoving. (That probably sounds awful to non teachers - it really isnt, just the normal hustle and bustle). However, my issue is that I have been allocated some of pregnant lady's duties in ADDITION to my own, ie as well as my usual corridor patch, I also have to supervise one of the outside yards (where pregnant lady usually goes on duty). Surely it cant be reasonable for one persons pregnancy to cause extra workload for others? On the other hand, I can see that the school are a bit stuck until she actually starts on ML and they can provide cover.

Sorry this is so long, and I hope I dont come across as looking for problems. I take my job very seriously and am committed and hard working, but I do feel that I am being discrimated against for being full time. I am a mum too, but happy to work full time and I dont see why my work situation should be compromised to fit around someone who wants reduced hours. There is not benefit to me, just the drawbacks.

TBH I will let the duty thing go and just cover it out of goodwill if needed because there is a time limit on it - once she goes on ML there will be a supply teacher in. But the split class issue will last indefinitely, and I am really not happy with the increase in work load.

Even if technically the Principal and Head of Dept can do this, how should I voice my concerns about the impact on colleagues and pupils? I don't want to appear to be a complainer but neither do I want to be a doormat.


StillSquiffy Tue 30-Aug-11 13:42:19

Agree that you need to stick to the key issue and not try to tackle both. And I would start by simply laying out your first paragraph to the Head of Dept/HR. I would add an extra paragraph to explain what you would suggest is done instead.

donthateme Tue 30-Aug-11 13:54:08

Thanks squiffy, I shall stick to the main issue.
Is the onus on me to provide a solution though? I am reluctant to start suggesting anything because that kind of assumes it is MY problem, when I understood that it is the responsibility of the employee requesting flexible working to prove that it wont have a detrimental impact on colleagues, and not up to the colleagues to try to find solutions.

What I think is unfair is that either a)the Principal didn't consider all the implications properly or b) he did, but just glossed over them and hoped we'd all put up with it, or c) the woman returning part time may have addressed the issues, and for example written 'i will ensure proper liaison takes place re the teaching and report writing by using my lunchtimes/ evening to discuss / email colleagues. And if its c) then I feel rather aggrieved that a colleague could do this without consulting the very people shes referring to.

I am not saying she did do that btw- obviously I have no idea about the ins and outs of her revised contract. But I think something is very wrong with the system if one employee is able to change their t and c in a way which directly increases another colleagues workload. And its especially ironic as we are both mothers. Why should my marking and prep load increase (therefore giving me less time with my children) simply to enable a colleague more time with hers? Thats the bit I don't get.

donthateme Tue 30-Aug-11 14:22:26

Ps I will give an example of 'the teaching impact. We have six teaching groups in each year. 12 of my lessons in the week are yr 9 and each class is allocated 4 lessons in the week on humanities. If I was able to teach my own classes for their full allocation (Which is the normal way of timetabling where I work) I would teach approx 90 pupils in yr 9 (ie 3 of the classes). I would be responsible for planning, marking, liaison with parents for those pupils. On my new timetable, I am now teaching ALL 6 classes in yr 9, for two of their humanities lessons, with the other woman doing the other two lessons. So, overall teaching time is the same, but I will be having to get to know 180 different yr 9 pupils as opposed to 90; and Write reports on 180 and be available to 180 sets of parents at parent eve. Even if we work something out where I write reports for half the year group and my colleague does the other half, we will still need to spend a lot of time liasing about what is written, and checking that we agree on attainment grades etc. Teaching is about people, it does not lend itself to simply dividing a batch of paperwork in Half and saying one person does one half and splitting it like that!

And that's even before any problems which may arise with discipline (eg let's suppose a pupil does some substandard work in one lesson, and then has the other teacher next time, you cant possibly record and follow up incidents like this constantly when it involves emailing a colleague each time. I use a code in my Mark book to help me remember missed homework/ poor work etc but this becomes unwieldy when trying to liaise each incident. I can See how it could work with a job share, because both parties are agreeing to divvy up one job between them. And the onus is on them to liaise etc as necessary. But this isn't a job share- I am a full time member of staff and I feel I've been thrust into almost a job sharing position. I don't want to moan but I am already dreading next week now, not because of the job itself but because I feel I have to speak up and say something.

An0therName Tue 30-Aug-11 20:52:28

do you have kids donthateme as you come across as how dare people have kids etc -

re the preganancy thing your collegue may have health issues related to preganancy - and the school will have done a risk assesment to see what is reasonable and to take care of her health - do you think the school should pay for extra cover for the 8 weeks? and how would feel if it was another health issue not related to pregancy?
re the split lessons - its unusual for a secondary school to be so acommadating - most of the people I know who work part time - have to work at least 4 days - even if they are not full days - I think its worth raising - although if they have agreed it alreadly there may not be much they do in the short term

donthateme Tue 30-Aug-11 23:17:00

Yes, as I said in my posts, I have kids. Most of our staff are parents. Your post is actually rather bizarre- I don't know where you get the idea I think people shouldn't have children. How odd!

I simply want to know how this stands regarding fair and equal treatment of employees.

As I said I also understand the risk assessment issue with pregnancy, so you're only repeating what I wrote! If a certain duty is deemed unsuitable for a pregnant woman then fine. Same with other health issues. But for how long is it reasonable for other colleagues to have to cover those duties IN ADDITION to their own duties? Obviously with pregnancy theres a limited time scale and I have said, I will cover the duty from goodwill for 8 weeks. The split classes are a much bigger issue and I feel the increased workload on colleagues is unfair.I thought unfavourable impact on other employees was a reason why a specific flexible work request could be refused.

Hopefully someone with employment legislation knowledge will come along soon and advise.

gaaagh Tue 30-Aug-11 23:19:33

"do you have kids donthateme as you come across as how dare people have kids "

She's already stated that she's also a working mother. but even if she wasn't, she seems quite within her right to query the non-trivial extra workload and pressure/practical niggles that come from what's been suggested.

Quite frankly, it's attitudes like yours An0therName that make it a nightmare for certain working parents to be treated seriously. Just because someone is pregnant/a new parent doesn't mean to say that their colleagues should have unreasonable demands placed upon them without a second thought from senior management, and they shouldn't be afraid to query the situation if they find themselves in it.

Grevling Tue 30-Aug-11 23:33:02

Simple answer: This is legal there is nothing you can do about it.

Longer Answer: You have children put a flex working request in yourself but that may not change anything.

donthateme Tue 30-Aug-11 23:47:30

I don't want to put in a flexible working request! I am perfectly happy working full time. I am not happy about my workload being massively increased (and IMO the education of the pupils is being compromised) directly as a result of a colleagues t and c being changed. That is the issue- not that I want to change my contract!!

gomez Tue 30-Aug-11 23:55:36

Why do you think this is unfavourable treatment in the context of employment rights? Unfavourable in comparison to whom? Sounds like piss poor management but not that you as an individual have been singled out in particular. I am guessing there are not that many humanities staff to pick from:-) And by implication there isn't some single childless bloke who has not been impacted by these changes.

Toobluntforboss Wed 31-Aug-11 00:04:42

Totally agree with gaagh and you are definitely within your rights to be upset at your workload increasing and should address it. It's arrangements like this which give working mothers a bad reputation with their colleagues and yet it isn't your colleagues fault either - senior management need to ensure this kind of impact doesn't happen or say no to the request. Good luck with how you proceed.

donthateme Wed 31-Aug-11 00:19:39

Gomez - it is unfavourable as my workload has increased directly as a result of a colleagues flexible working request being granted. My understanding is that if a request will have a detrimental effect on colleagues, that is one of 'the reasons that can be used to refuse the request. It seems to me either management did not think this through and realise the impact OR they did, but don't care OR were persuaded by this colleague that things would be ok. Eg she may have written in the request that her humanities colleagues would be happy to share classes, or that lunchtimes and evenings could be used for joint planning etc.... Who knows? And if that was 'the case then I would be incensed because none of us were consulted.

donthateme Wed 31-Aug-11 00:24:56

Ps I do spend a great deal of lunchtime and after school on planning, but its the principle of the matter. I choose to do the prep I feel is necessary to teach effectively. I choose the times that are convenient to me- sometimes staying on after school,'or sometimes leaving at 3.30 to pick up my kids and taking a stack of things home to work on. Having to be available to liaise with a colleague at specific times, to discuss planning which is directly a result of split classes is a very different issue. It is additional work over and above what I already have .

donthateme Wed 31-Aug-11 00:58:57

Gomez - I suppose to be precise, its unfavourable compared to other full time colleagues. The norm in my school is that if you're full time, you have classes which are allocated just to you.

flowery Wed 31-Aug-11 08:42:33

Yes additional burden on colleagues could be used as a reason to refuse a request, but that doesn't mean that if there is going to be additional burden the employer must refuse the request.

Doesn't sound particularly fair and I agree you should address it with the appropriate people, but it's not illegal.

jasper Wed 31-Aug-11 08:48:10

Op I sympathise greatly but it is a common problem
In so called family friendly workplaces. One person's family friendly working arrangement very often causes inconvenience to everyone else.

donthateme Wed 31-Aug-11 09:02:33

That's what I suspected flowery- not illegal, but clearly unfair and poor practice.
Do you have any advice on how I should address this? Also, i cant help wondering whether this colleague made any reference to how the potential problems might be avoided. I know in a flexible work application, the onus is on the employee to do this,and I cant help wondering whether she referenced other colleagues in this- eg she may have said she would be happy to liaise in her own time over split classes. This was not discussed with me or my colleagues- do I have any right to know the detail of the agreed application,if it refers to colleagues? I find it very strange if not because otherwise an employee could potentially write all sorts of stuff involving their colleagues,'simply to try to get what they want agreed.

Jasper- good point about 'family friendly' work places.I have a family too and my family seems
Less important than this colleagues!

flowery Wed 31-Aug-11 09:21:14

I agree with Squiffy that you should consider proposals for alternatives. Yes it shouldn't be your responsibility, but you're far more likely to get the outcome you want if you can present your management with a solution, rather than just complaining.

In terms of finding out whether she referenced you in her proposals, the quickest way would be to ask, either her and/or management. You could make a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act but that seems a little extreme.

Ultimately it's not your colleague's fault though. If her proposal for flexible working involved dumping loads of work on colleagues, it was a poor application but your bosses should have refused it. They chose not to so your compolaint is with them rather than her tbh.

donthateme Wed 31-Aug-11 09:46:10

Yes- my complaint is with the Principal and governing body who agreed this. Unless, of course, she mis-led them in her application in terms of the increased burden on colleagues, in which case the responsibility lies with her.

I have had some more email contact with my head of dept and she suggests I put this in writing to the principal, outlining the issues and asking what is being put in place to reduce the additional burden on colleagues. Head of dept thinks this is a good way round it because it assumes the principal would have recognised the added burden.

This is late in the day' now, term starts on Monday and my head of dept thinks we may just need to run with the situation this year but the good news is she is totally on my side over this, she feels dumped on too because this other colleague has has it agreed that she can work wed thurs fri only which leaves a pig of a timetable for the head of dept to write. She also pointed out an additional problem for her that all meetings (staff, dept etc) are scheduled for Monday after school so this colleague will never be attending meetings. Head of dept is naturally very worried about that as our meetings are when we discuss things like new exams or curriculum issues and basically do a lot of updating on humanities issues.

Oh and head of dept is a working mum too so this family friendly thing seems like a bit of a joke.

KatieMiddleton Wed 31-Aug-11 17:39:13

This all sounds like nobody is prepared to find a resolution and so you've all got a situation you don't like. I think with a bit of clever thinking it could all be sorted out.

Firstly, what's done is done. The flexible working agreement is in place and can't be changed without the agreement of that worker (and FWIW it looks like it's been agreed without anyone thinking it through properly if the worker isn't in for planning meetings etc) and you could all spend time huffing and puffing (and doing extra work) and being cross with the principle (who is your boss and is unlikely to take criticism well when it's coming from a "you've cocked it up" POV) or work together to find a solution.

I would start with the timetable (and I imagine this is where it's gone wrong. Doing the rota is a horrible job). When setting it up the part timer goes in first (because her days are fixed) and she is allocated whole year groups/part year groups as per last year so there aren't any bits left over to be picked up by other staff. Then if, for practical reasons, there are some bits of year groups left over this is shared out between all remaining staff so it doesn't fall to one person to pick up the extra.

Then the day of the planning meeting needs to be moved so all staff (including the part timer) can make it.

My hr head is wondering if anyone actually looked at the flexible working request and implications before agreeing and why that might be? Not that it matters to OP as that's not her business but I'm certainly curious grin

Oh, the obvious has only just occured to me: Since the reduction in humanities cover has there been any increase in staffing to recruit back up to full staffing? Because if not the school is running with 2 days less cover which has to be picked up somewhere. Have they recruited for the extra 2 days teaching cover? I am assuming pupil numbers haven't dropped significantly this year??

WreckaJones Wed 31-Aug-11 17:57:52

donthateme Have you been able to ascertain whether other f-t staff have had to take their share of the burden or do you know for definite that it's only you from the timetable allocations?

Also just a negotiating point - once you've worked out some of your own suggestions (yes, not your responsibility but the best chance of getting what you want/something workable for you) - don't just gloss over (2) the break playground duty as a given you will do it. Just don't discuss until the end of the meeting (or as v much secondary to the rota/timetable) but when you are discussing the options you're putting forward make sure this is part of your "cover" you are offering to help out with and therefore more leeway needs to be given in sorting out (1). Even if you feel it would be mean/impossible to refuse, well there are people who wouldn't think twice about refusing so whether you think so or not, you ARE being nice and helpful already and should get some credit for that.

Are you a member of a Union? Not for big guns blazing approach but just wondering if you have a legal helpline you can ring for some advice. Will ask my friend who is a HT and see what he says he would do....won't be till next week now though so not much help to you really sad

donthateme Wed 31-Aug-11 21:58:43

Katiemiddleton- i think part of the problem is 'that this has provided a convenient saving for the school. We do have a reduced yr 7 group entering, and also one of senior management are upping their teaching allocation a bit, and basically the upshot is that no one has been appointed to cover the other two days. I think its one of those scenarios where if the woman was returning full time, the school would run with that, but as she requested 3 days it probably seemed like a good opportunity to save some pennies.

Re: the timetable- it just cant work like that; secondary school timetables are far more complex and every decision has a lot of knock ons. If the part timers lessons were put in first and she was given whole classes without split ones, all her classes would have that subject bunched on wed thurs and fri! That would have the knock on that other subjects would end up bunched on other days- which is really bad practice. You want a balanced spread so no one subject gets bunched at one end of the week.

Re: meetings - well as our staff is knocking on 100 teachers I cant see staff meetings being changed to accommodate one member of staff. Dept meetings - well, ultimately that's down to the head of dept but she is doing a higher degree which means she has commitments every thurs, and I doubt many people will be up for Friday meetings so that just leaves weds.

All in all I think you're right- this flexible working has been agreed without a lot of thought about how it will work.

I am not feeling as up in arms now that I know my head of dept is firmly on my side and I think feels pretty hacked off about all this. Btw other members of staff in the dept are affected but not as much as me. I teach a lot of key stage 3 which is where most of the split classes fall.

Anyway my head of dept is also going to put together a Letter asking what arrangements the principal has in place to reduce the negative impact of his decision.

Thanks all for your advice

KatieMiddleton Wed 31-Aug-11 23:01:09

Hmm it may be worth whoever's supposedly running the show to go back and request your colleague spreads her days and includes Mondays. However unless she has amazingly flexible childcare that just won't be possible or fair on her.

If I were in your shoes I would be careful that you don't end up in a poltical battle rather than a practical one to make your life easier. It may be the case (hopefully not) that your head of department is hacked off because she's not been involved in the decision-making but has extra work sorting it out and so may not be inclined to make the extra effort needed to make the arrangement work. She may also be sending a clear message to the Principal along the lines of "look what happens when you exclude me from the process - it all falls apart". Often getting a flexible arrangement takes a bit of adjustment on all sides at the beginning and then everything falls into place in the support is right. But it sounds like no positioning has been done and there's no incentive to make it work. Very unfair on all of you.

Tbh if your head of department wants to fight the battle I'd let her but not get too involved. You don't want to be seen to be unsupportive of a woman returning from maternity leave and ultimately what you have issue with is the timetable and work allocation. I'd stick to the facts on that and ignore the causes because although irritating and probably quite important to resolving the situation it's not your job to resolve that. It's management and HR.

I'd be fuming too mind!

RedHelenB Thu 01-Sep-11 19:59:47

Surely you will split report writing ie do 90 each?

donthateme Fri 02-Sep-11 06:59:56

RedhelenB- I agree it seems like that in theory- but teaching is about children, and therefore not as simple as splitting a batch of paper in half. Many parents will - quite reasonably in my view- expect feedback from both the teachers who teach their child for that subject, particularly as there may be strengths in some areas of the subject and weaknesses in others. Even if the actual writing of reports was split, we would need a lot of additional time to liaise about progress and attainment grades, and the content of the reports. Same with parent evenings - in theory we could split the load and see half each, but in reality an interested and involved parent may well want feedback from both to see the whole picture.

It's not just about getting the job done- its about giving the pupils a good education, and something has important as the teaching timetable should be compiled with that in mind.

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