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Back to School! The nuances of how Teachers are paid





Posted by Sarah Nash on 10 September 2021

Back to School! The nuances of how Teachers are paid

Pay Transparency | Pay Fairness | Equal Pay | Measuring pay

With my kids going back to school after the summer holidays and conversations with friends who are teachers, it got me thinking about the ongoing debate surrounding teachers holidays. Some (who ordinarily are not teachers!) think teachers get too much paid time off, yet I often hear teachers commenting that they work much longer hours during term time than 9-5 employees - please stay with me here, I’m not about to launch an attack on teachers, but I wanted to understand how some jobs are so different to others, and how to fairly and accurately compare employees’ pay who are on very different contractual agreements.

How do you handle transparency in roles that don’t work your typical nine to five, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year? Perhaps more pertinently, how can these roles be fairly and equally compared with the Monday to Friday, nine to five workforce? Teachers are a good example of a variable or irregular work pattern – by that, I mean not working the same hours every day and every week of the year. For example, a teacher works during Directed Time, which is the time that a teacher is required to be at work or be available for work (mostly term-time). Non-directed Time is time away from work, which is mostly school holidays. Teachers are paid for Directed Time and not Non-Directed Time, meaning that during school holidays teachers don’t receive any pay, meaning that teachers are only paid for the hours they work.

However, most teachers opt for 12 equal payments throughout the year rather than being paid only during months when the Directed Time is worked, otherwise, their payslip would read practically zero for two months a year. This results in two pay patterns: during school holidays a teacher receives 1/12th of their salary for working very few hours, boosting the appearance of their hourly rate of pay (and it does then appear that teachers get paid for their holidays); but then conversely during term time, as pay is equally spread throughout the year, teachers still receive 1/12th of their salary and work more hours, giving the appearance of a lower hourly rate of pay, so the best way to review pay and hours would be on an annual basis as monthly hours vary.

Are teachers working more hours per day during term time than a 9-5 employee?  If over the course of a year, the same hours are worked for the same FTE, but as teachers don’t work during the Non-Directed Time, logic says that teachers must work longer days (i.e. more hours per day) during term time for the same pay. Could this help to explain why teachers work more hours per day than 9-5 employees? Teachers are typically paid for a contract period of say, 10 months (hence they are not paid for holidays), so it’s important to understand the contractual agreement. If both a teacher and a 9-5 employee are both contracted to work the same number of hours per year, then yes, the teacher would need to work more hours per day during the Directed Time to earn the same annual pay. However, if the teacher is contracted to work 10/12th of the hours per year, then actually the teacher may not work more hours than a 9-5 employee. There are so many nuances and specifics in irregular work patterns that it is important to understand these if you really want to compare apples with apples.

There are many sectors where irregular working patterns exist, not only within education, and whether you are calculating your gender pay gap, preparing for an equal pay audit, or reviewing your pay benchmarking, understanding your contracts with employees is essential to collect and compare the right information to ensure transparency and fairness, regardless of the working pattern.

If you'd like to discuss how you can ensure transparency of pay when dealing with irregular or variable work patterns, we can help. Send me an email at or call the office on 020 3457 0894.

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