You probably already know the bad news - that a lot of UK summer schools pay very, very close to minimum wage per hour. However, the good news is that they don’t know the minimum wage legislation very well – but you, after reading this, surely do! So, Sandy is providing you with a copper-bottomed way to bump up your miserable summer wages this year.
In fact, it's really quite easy to work a summer school, get the money, make a complaint to the minimum wage unit, and get more money. You can even get the school thrown off the British Council accreditation scheme if you are feeling particularly vindictive. Of course, I wouldn't suggest you do anything as naughty as that, but ... Oh fuck, you're right - I DO want you to do just that!
Anyway, let's get down to brass tacks. In short, there are just THREE essential facts that you need to know if you want to make a minimum wage complaint. Follow these steps and you can't go wrong, dear downtrodden Tefler.
Fact 1. What is "working time"?
All employees in the UK (in fact in the EU) are entitled to minimum wage (currently £5.73 an hour in the UK) for every minute of 'working time'. This notion of 'working time' includes every bit of working time - not just that which is actually on your timetable. So, if you have to do a spot of lunch-time cover for Jason, or go round the pubs at night picking out the students (and the teachers), that's all working time, according to the legal definition, which is ... ALL TIME SPENT AT YOUR EMPLOYER'S DISPOSAL.
In fact, most summer schools are pretty clueless as to what constitutes working time, but actually it’s not that hard. It includes...
· Every minute you teach.
· Every minute you spend in meetings
· Every minute you spend training, including induction days.
· Every minute you are obliged to spend with students, eating with the, taking them on trips, putting them to bed, playing French cricket.
· All travelling time undertaken for the employer that includes the bus ride to and from Madame Tussauds and to and from the airport.
· Any minute of the day that you are on call. So that means that, if our contract says you have to put the students first at all times, your working time includes every minute that you are not physically in the staff room, in your bedroom, or off the premises.
· If you are on call at night, then you have to be paid for every single minute you are asleep. It doesn’t matter whether you ever actually have to get up and deal with the kids - if the presumption is you might have to, they have to pay you. If you are contracted for “overnight duties” they definitely have to pay you. If you have to sleep near the students, they probably have to pay up (why else are you sleeping there?). If there isn’t a night rota and the school does have juniors, they probably have to pay you (because the presumption is you are on call). Indeed if you have to be on the premises the night before your day off and the night of your day off, they have to pay you minimum wage for those nights as well. However, they do not have to pay you for sleeping on site at night if there is someone else on call.
In fact, the only time when you are working and they don’t have to pay you is for marking and preparation (so don't do it!). Unless they tell you when you have to do it - "Saturdays is for preparation" – in which case you can claim for it.
Fact 2. Who calculates the hours?
Strangely, it is not the employer's job to calculate every working hour over 48 hours a week, it is the employee's. This might seem like a complete bore, but it is actually good news. Because it means, if you can make a minimum wage complaint, you will have a note of the hours and your employer won’t. Simply write down, to the nearest 15 minutes or so, every moment you are required to be on the premises and can’t hide in your room or the staff room. Also, write down to the nearest quarter of an hour every time you have to be off the premises for you employer on airport runs, for example. And of course, write down all the hours you have to be in your room at night because you are (or could be deemed to be) on call. Occasionally asking if you can leave the premises when you are not on duty can also be helpful – if they say no, then you are on call and that is working time.
In short, be sure to write all your working hours down - every single one of them. This is the way to make yourself some money.
Fact 3. How to calculate if you have a claim for minimum wage.
At the end of your summer school, multiply the total number of working hours you have noted down by £5.73. Now deduct £31.22 for accommodation – that is all they are allowed to charge you (and no - they can’t deduct for food as well). That is what you should have earned BEFORE holiday pay. Now check this against your pay slip. (If the holiday pay is not noted on the pay slip they owe you that as well.)
If you think you are owed any money then just make a complaint to the Minimum Wage Unit. You can do this on-line at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/nmw/nmw_complaint_form.pdf . You will have to provide evidence – pay slips, contract, timetables and, of course, your note of working hours. You do not have to even give your name. If they find in your favour (and remember the employer has to prove that you are wrong about the hours, and they won’t have the records), then they fine the employer and give you the money.
Even better - if you win, you can rub their nose in it still more. You can send the results and your paperwork (contract, note of hours, pay slips) to Accreditation UK, reminding them that the employer is in breach of their undertaking to obey UK employment law, and thus in breach of accreditation. Copy everything in to the EL Gazette and, for good measure, send a copy to the Border Police.
So enjoy your Summer School this year, won't you. 'Cos if the Tories win the election next year, you can very probably kiss this type of legislation goodbye.
UPDATE: My 'mole' has just informed me of the following...
Two legal technicalities.
a) If preparation and marking are mentioned in your contract, you have to do them. However, if they don't tell you how long you have to spend at them, you can do the minimum (half an hour a day, say). If they complain, ask them how long you need to do for each lesson, and those hours become part of your working time.
b) You do have to tell the Minimum Wage Unit your name - otherwise they can't pay you! However, you can tell them not to release the name to the employer.