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private school staff fee reductions - place refused - discrimination?

(62 Posts)
frenchlion Fri 24-Mar-17 16:10:24

OK; so I work in a fee paying school which offers staff discounts. The policy say "We off staff discounts depending on length of service, up to 2 years, 20%, between 2 and 5 years, 50 %, after 5 years, 70%"

A few (not many) staff have dc in the school (which goes from nursery all the way up to secondary).

In the primary school, there are about 30 members of staff - all but 3 are women of child-bearing age!

Anyway, a colleague applied for her twins to join the preschool. They were invited in for a trial day. Her dh had to take the day off work to bring them in. She was told that they did well, and that they were a good fit, but actually too many staff have places in the nursery/preschool, so on those grounds, her dc were refused places.

She is really angry, as the above doesn't suggest any limitations, why invite them in in the 1st place (they know how many staff kids attend!), she feels it is also discriminatory as they were turned down, not on ability, but purely on the grounds that she is staff. There is another member of staff for example with dc in the nursery, who only works for 8 hours a week, yet she works full time, and with 10 years service, is one of the longest serving members of staff there!

She wants to seek legal advice. I'm curious - what do you think?

Oh, and the boss cleared off on holiday and left the secretary to tell her - by the time boss gets back, the contracts will be being sent out, so too late.....

Bluntness100 Fri 24-Mar-17 16:13:37

Hmm,. Difficult one, I assume the policy does not guarantee a place,,,does it speak to it in any way, as in "based on availability " or "subject to offer" what does it say exactly?

LIZS Fri 24-Mar-17 16:20:19

I think she'd struggle to prove that they have contravened policy. Would they be accepted if she paid more than with the discount ie. If it were 20% , what if she paid 90% per child so she only took the value of one place. Bearing in mind in most private schools she could claim eyf until they turn 5. However given the issue already how much does she really want them to attend?

meditrina Fri 24-Mar-17 16:43:01

If they are a good fit, then she could still send them there, but it would have to be as full-fee paying (same as any parent whose child is of the standard, but who cannot be offered a bursary as the funds have run out). So to that extent it's not discrimination, unless they are not giving her the chance of a full-fee place.

Yes, she needs to check exactly the wording of the policy around staff discounts - is it in her contract? Or some other written guidance to staff, and is it anywhere caveated about being subject to affordability. Because depending on what is written where, then there might be a case that they have breached her contract.

What she decides to do about this is up to her. But she needs to think how far she wants to go.

Because either the school is in a bit of a pinch financially (hence perk cannot currently be afforded) and/or she is a member of staff they are least bothered to lose. Both of those might be reasons to consider looking for an employer who is a better fit, rather than sticking with this one.

frenchlion Fri 24-Mar-17 17:01:29

The info regarding discounts is pretty much word for word what I said here. There is absolutely nothing about any limitations, subject to availability, nothing, just "we offer staff the following discount..."

This was on a presentation to the staff.

She desperately wants her kids to come here as her kids are in a pretty bad place (under staffed with rough kids, quite a lot of very rough behaviour. The dc are not happy, she is not happy. ) But no way could she afford it paying full fees. Not a chance.

There have been a lot of changes with our school recently, causing some ill feeling and discontent amongst staff. She has been on the vocal side, and fears this is behind the decision? Mind you 4 weeks ago, a teacher who is on maternity leave with her 2nd dc was turned down for a place on the same grounds, even though her 1st dc does go there. People are pretty shocked - most people did not know.

Sort of constructive dismissal, her so angry she chooses to leave?

SO the company saying the do offer their staff a discount (with no mention of limitations) does not oblige them to honour the offer?

frenchlion Fri 24-Mar-17 17:03:16

Even if she could pay the fees (which she can't), the decision has been made (though the contacts not yet sent out) and all the places will have been allocated to other people. The boss comes back from holiday the day they are due to be sent out, giving her no time, or very little time to talk to her.

LIZS Fri 24-Mar-17 17:05:38

So it isn't in the contract? I don't think she could claim constrictive dismissal . How long has she worked there? Most contracts will contain a clause that they can withdraw or amend perks with notice anyway.

Neolara Fri 24-Mar-17 17:07:06

Would legality depend on whether the discount is a benefit of employment in her contract?

HelenDenver Fri 24-Mar-17 17:10:12

Very unlikely to be constructive dismissal! It's a perk; if, say, gym membership or a staff crèche was withdrawn or limited, it wouldn't be constructive dismissal.

Fundamentally, the school can only pay staff if it has sufficient fee paying pupils. Are they oversubscribed in general? If so, other children will be turned down for other reasons too.

Dozer Fri 24-Mar-17 17:11:51

Not a lawyer but doubt she'd have grounds for constructive dismissal. Nor is it discrimination under employment law.

She might want to take legal advice on breach of contract, and gather together her contract and the information shared with staff verbally and in writing (eg presentations) about reduced fees places: eg to see if she could argue that the school created a legitimate expectation of places being offered at the reduced rate.

In the first instance she could raise a grievance under the grievance procedure.

AnotherNewt Fri 24-Mar-17 17:13:35

Yes you need legal advice to establish if 'offer' (in the context it was written) means an actual entitlement, or if it is an indication of something that can be available.

I think she might be best off quietly job hunting and leaving once she has a better offer.

How long before her DC are old enough for reception? Because if that's this September, it's not long to stag on with the current preschool and things will probably change when they move up.

PigletWasPoohsFriend Fri 24-Mar-17 17:13:58

Sort of constructive dismissal, her so angry she chooses to leave?

That would be very very very difficult to prove.

Dozer Fri 24-Mar-17 17:14:56

In her shoes I would feel very let down and would seek a new job and / or to move house to get into catchment for a better state school. If she can't afford full infant fees she is likely to find fees difficult as the years go on and fees rise, and reduced fees could realistically be withdrawn at any time.

HelenDenver Fri 24-Mar-17 17:15:08

" with 10 years service, is one of the longest serving members of staff there!"

Ok. So she is looking for places for the next 8-9 years or so, for two children, paying 30% of fees each, assuming twins stay throughout nursery to age 11 and that they are currently 2 or 3.

That's a hell of a lot of fee income for the school to lose. And as you say, another staff member has also recently not got the discount.

The school may find it easier if children start in eg Year 3, as the total "loss" is less.

meditrina Fri 24-Mar-17 17:17:30

I don't think changes to or the withdrawal of staff perks would be a sufficient basis for a constructive dismissal case.

HelenDenver Fri 24-Mar-17 17:18:27

The other staff member may have got her child in before a recent reforecast of income, or whatever!

Private schools are feeling the pinch as fees rise faster than salaries, so many parents can't afford it anymore

frenchlion Fri 24-Mar-17 17:24:44

ok. thanks. we'll see what Monday brings...

My dc already has a place ( in the school not nursery) so it feels really awkward. I got a place no problem. I assumed it wouldn't be a problem, and it wasn't.

I would say as you stated, Dozer, that the school has created a legitimate expectation of a place. People who have only just started to work have had their dc start at the same time, on reduced fees. This is the first time anyone has been rejected (as far as anyone knew - no one knew about the maternity leave colleague a few weeks ago). And this teacher is one of the original. it is a total shocker.

Anyway, regardless, they have been shitty. She would have been pissed off if they had said no to her initial application, but to invite them in, and say it went well definitely DID lead to a legitimate expectation.

HelenDenver Fri 24-Mar-17 17:29:09

I'm not sure the visit led to a legitimate expectation any more than the policy wrt employment law, though. It's possible that the maths was done after the visit, and it would have been wrong of the school to pretend that the reason was that they weren't a good fit or whatever.

Pupils starting with their parent presumably only get the 20% discount, plus they may not be nursery starters so less of a long term cost.

I would also be surprised if the staff member on 8h a week gets the full discount, though she may get it pro rata to working hours. Otherwise the discount might be more than she earns!

HelenDenver Fri 24-Mar-17 17:29:45

I agree they haven't handled it well with timings though!

merlottime Fri 24-Mar-17 17:37:29

I would worry about the financial stability of the school tbh - this sounds like they are struggling.

frenchlion Fri 24-Mar-17 17:37:49

I'm a bit reluctant to reveal anything too ...revealing! but we are not in England. Her dc are 4, so it would be 1 year of preschool and 4 years of primary school, so 5 years in total, 6 max. She would not want her dc in the secondary school, but I guess the management don't know that.

I know she is going to seek legal advice, so interesting to read your views. I guess next week will bring more developments to the saga.

Thanks! Do you want to hear how it pans out? I'll update if you want. I totally understand if you all don't give a shiny shit smile

frenchlion Fri 24-Mar-17 17:41:06

merlot - don't say that! shock I'll be screwed if I were to lose my job!

I think the primary school is more or less full - only about 3 places free. The kindergarten seems to be very over subscribed, with long waiting lists. The secondary school is the 1 area that is really under- subscribed - quite a lot of pupils leave at the end of primary.

meditrina Fri 24-Mar-17 17:41:18

My shit may be many things but I don't think it shines!

Yes, I'd be interested in the upshot, because if you are in a different jurisdiction, absolutely everything on this thread is probably irrelevant. And I am passingly nosey about how things are done elsewhere.

summerholsdreamin Fri 24-Mar-17 17:58:18

I had the opposite problem. DS had trial day at prep school, all went well, good fit etc and was offered a place.

2 days later a very flustered secretary rang to apologise that the place offer was being withdrawn as a new teacher was joining the school and her DCs would take priority on the places. hmm

We went through the roof; poor secretary was mortified (Head conveniently unavailable).

Sorry, doesn't help you but just shows how the whole system is open to manipulation.

HelenDenver Fri 24-Mar-17 18:02:35

I would be interested!

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