Education, Education, Education…

Average annual fees for independent schools rose 83% between 1992 and 2008. The provision of reduced school fees for staff is seen as a very effective aid to their recruitment and retention. However it does raise a number of complex legal issues.

There is a potential risk of claims of discrimination most notably on grounds of age and sexual orientation. More mature employees could contend that their age meant they were disadvantaged when compared with other younger employees. Similarly a homosexual employee may find it relatively easy to argue that he/ she is less likely than a heterosexual colleague to have children and therefore is proportionately disadvantaged.

It would be a successful defence against such claims to establish that the reduced fees scheme is a proportionate means of recruiting and retaining staff.

Part timers

A number of schools offer a reduced level of fee remission to part time staff. Working arrangements can mean that so called part time members of staff may perceive themselves as working full time hours and therefore entitled to unreduced fee remission.

Since 2000 the Part Time Workers (prevention of less favourable treatment) Regulations has provided specific protection to part timers not to be treated less favourably than comparable full time workers with regards to their terms of employment, or to be subject to a detriment unless the employer can prove the less favourable treatment is justified.

The first problem is that, rather unhelpfully, there is no specific legal definition of the meaning of 'part timer' in terms of specific hours. As such it is unfortunately a question of fact in every specific case.

A female part time worker could also bring a claim on the basis of indirect discrimination due to a protected characteristic, namely her gender. The answer to this claim would depend upon whether or not the statistical (and other evidence established) fee policy disadvantaged her as a woman. Justification would still be a defence to any gender imbalance.

The future

Staff discounts can amount...

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