Ruling boost for part-time teachers

Part-time teachers were yesterday given a major boost with a High Court judgment that has major implications for their entitlements.

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley upheld a Labour Court finding that Anne Boyle, a part-time teacher for 20 years in a preschool for Traveller children, was an employee of the education minister and not, as the minister argued, of her school’s management board.

The Labour Court had correctly ordered the minister to pay compensation to Ms Boyle under the Protection of Employees (Part-Time) Work Act 2001 over being treated less favourably than teachers doing comparable work, the judge held.

However, she ruled the Labour Court had no power, given the rules governing the national teachers pension scheme, to make an additional order directing the minister to admit Ms Boyle, a qualified secondary teacher, to that scheme.

The judge said the Labour Court had not acted irrationally in awarding Ms Boyle €10,000 for the “general effects” of the discrimination suffered by her and should now reconsider the compensation sum given the finding the minister could not be ordered to admit Ms Boyle to the pension scheme.

In proceedings described as “of major importance” for all teachers, the minister sought to overturn the Labour Court finding that Ms Boyle is an “employee” of the minister within the terms of the 2001 Act, being treated less favourably than other teachers.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation supported Ms Boyle’s claim of an employment relationship with the minister within the meaning of an employment contract for the purposes of the 2001 Act.

Ms Boyle, of Monivea Park, Galway, taught at the Hillside Park Preschool for Travellers until it closed in June 2011. The minister argued that Ms Boyle, like about 50,000 teachers in the State paid by the minister, was employed by the school’s board of management and not by the minister.

In her judgment, Ms Justice O’Malley said the case involved a serious matter affecting a large number of people. It was rooted in the “unique constitutional arrangements for education in this State”, involving a “unique tripartite relationship” between the Department of Education, the department-funded teacher, and the school.

In relation to teachers whose salaries are paid by the State, the role of employer is “uniquely split”, with one part paid by the department and the other by the school management, the judge said.

The school management has the right to hire, discipline, and generally direct a teacher in the day-to-day running of the school while the department sets the rules about, and pays, the salaries.

Since the department was taking on what would normally be the rights of an employer in relation to pay, it also carried the “legal duties” of an employer associated with pay, she ruled.

Compliance with its own departmental rules was one such legal obligation and is a matter of contractual right on the part of teachers, said Ms Justice O’Malley.


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