Once again the Sandy McManus network of Tefl spies returns results - John le Carre would be proud of me, I swear! Well, maybe not ... Anyway, I have tied in this item of current dodgy-doings with some similar tales of Tefl shysterism from about 18 months ago. Enjoy the read, and feel free to add any comments or updated information if you wish.
First - Caledonian English, Prague. Agent D reports that one of his informants is working there, and not having a good time of it at all. Not only is the salary derisory -barely enough to pay for a can of beans each day, apparently - but they're basically just an agency dressed up as a bona fide employer. As such, they have devised a clever little wangle, a legal loophole you might even say, regarding the payment of holiday pay. They argue that as the main company is registered in Switzerland, which isn't part of the EU, they do not have to abide by EU law - and can therefore duck out of paying any holiday pay at all. Sneaky, eh?
My first reaction to this is "What a load of bollocks!". For surely, if the Caledonian School is operating in an EU country, they need to follow EU employment rules. However, I'll do a bit more digging and find out. In fact, I tried to do some 'research' into Caledonian myself, but only came across the hardly-startling fact that they have been dissed as "notorious" for having illegally employed American teachers in Prague. But what EFL school in Prague doesn't do that?!
Anyway, compliant with this surprisingly unexpected topic of EFL schools being cavalier with the law, here are a couple of related items from Summer 2008, courtesy (more or less) of the EL Gazette ...
Kaplan, the educational giant owned by the Washington Post Group, has admitted knowingly breaking European employment law. In an internal document circulated at its UK subsidiary Kaplan Aspect, the company explained that holiday pay would continue to be included ('rolled up') in the hourly rate paid to teachers, despite this practice being illegal in the European Union.
An extract from the document notes that"it is true that the European Court of Justice has ruled this practice to be 'unlawful' ... However, the practical ramifications of accruing holiday pay for hourly paid workers according to this principle [the court ruling] are complex and unworkable."
Kaplan, which last year had an estimated turnover of US$2 billion, is not the only educational institution operating in the European Union to have failed to comply with the European Court of Justice ruling. There is clear evidence that the practice of rolling up holiday pay remains widespread throughout the EU's language school industry. In fact, the UK government's Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has stated that "Rolled-up holiday pay is unlawful. Payment for statutory annual leave should be made at a time when leave is taken."
The most interesting thing here is that, although the company have grudgingly admitted that they've been breaking the law for years, they seem to be in no great rush to put their house in order. "Complex and unworkable!" they cry, the poor dears!! Even worse, other TEFL Timelords appear to be equally lax, if not bewildered by the whole notion of 'holiday pay' at all, and one of them has rather pompously declaimed that "in our sector I'm not sure how one would actually define it. Perhaps it isn't an applicable concept."
Or perhaps they just can't be bothered to get their tiny little Tefl minds around the grand idea of … giving teachers what the law states they should have. Hard to define? Not applicable? I find that all rather ludicrous – don't you?! Shame on them, the stingy bastards!!
And the next one, please! Yes, it's our old mate EF, the Tesco's of the Tefl industry, the Walmart of the whiteboards. Would you believe they've been found guilty of … stitching up their freshly-recruited teachers! I know, it seems so uncharacteristic of them, dunnit?!
Language schools in the US and the UK who recruit teachers for schools abroad may find themselves in breach of US or UK law if the contracts offered by the schools overseas break employment law at home. This point has been brought into focus by a UK investigation of a contract issued by English First (EF) in Russia, believed to be a franchise of the EF chain. A clause in EF Russia's contract of employment makes its teachers liable for the costs of their recruitment and replacement if they are dismissed or leave before the contract ends. The contract is for 'Native Full-time Teacher Recruited Abroad', and EF have stated that both American and British teachers are hired to work in Russia by its UK arm in Manchester, England.
The UK government's Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has stated that British agencies recruiting staff for overseas have a duty of care when they fly them out to ensure they get them back, so that employees are not left stranded. BERR felt that the requirement to pay back recruitment costs is likely to be an 'unlawful detriment'.
Nice phrase, that, isn't it - 'unlawful detriment'. Now, I don't think there would be many experienced Teflers who would deny that EF itself operates to the detriment of the EFL business as a whole, but that's just an aside. Anyway, when asked to comment on the matter of their illegal activities, one of EF's lickspittles wriggled out of his tight corner by dryly commenting that "we are currently under investigation by a government body [so] it is inappropriate for us to comment further at this time." Fuggin' worm!!
However, the fact remains that any EF teacher who quits or is sacked even one week before having completed the contract will be held liable to repay ten per cent of their recruitment and replacement costs. My Christ! It almost makes working for Shane seem like a good alternative!!