TEFL Workers’ Union takes Kaplan to employment tribunal, alleging bogus fixed-term contracts
Members and followers of the union may remember that we had a campaign at Kaplan language school in late summer and early autumn 2020 when the company made deep cuts to staffing levels.
We ran a number of redundancy law training sessions for Kaplan workers. Also, we worked closely with redundancy staff reps during the redundancy consultation process. Union membership grew and union reps accompanied many Kaplan employees at their individual consultation meetings as well.
One of the main issues facing our members was that, for hourly-paid teachers, Kaplan used rolling fixed-term contracts. This meant that redundancy would only be calculated based on the start date of the most recent contract. As a result, some teachers with decades of service were told they’d only receive the redundancy payout (plus an extra three weeks of pay) of someone with a single year of continuous employment.
The affected workers rightfully felt outraged and, as a union, we were not going to stand for this.
After being informed of their precarious legal position, Kaplan management quickly conceded that employees with four or more years of service would have their proper length of service recognised. This, in itself, saw employees across the company awarded tens of thousands of pounds in rightful redundancy pay.
However, the company has so far refused to budge on workers with three years or less of service.
If Kaplan wants this fight, bring it!
With the backing of the union, a number of affected teachers made a claim to ACAS for early conciliation, a first step to an employment tribunal.
Their demands for settlement were clear. They wanted the money, obviously. But they also wanted formal agreement from the company that, as a matter of policy, Kaplan would stop using fixed-term contracts for their long-term staff.
The company wouldn’t concede, so the TEFL Workers’ union is now formally filing for an employment tribunal.
Included in the claim is the demand that Kaplan reimburse two workers who were denied their appropriate amount of furlough pay as the company refused to calculate furlough pay across fixed-term contracts.
Notably, after the pressure from the union, staff redundancy reps, and the wider staff, Kaplan is already moving all current fixed-term employees on to permanent contracts.
This is down to the dedication of Kaplan workers and they should be rightfully praised for willingness to keep the pressure up. Kaplan is a particularly cut-throat employer. They’re not moving staff on to permanent contracts out of the goodness of their heart.
But it does beg the question:
If Kaplan is already moving staff on to permanent contracts, why not agree to the settlement proposed by the union?
We think the answer to this is simple: right now the company is doing this on their own terms. Kaplan can decide to change their mind next year or hire a group of teachers on the same fixed-term contracts. If they make an agreement with us, it’s in writing, it’s binding.
Kaplan is a huge multinational language school, owned by a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. Certainly, Kaplan has the money to make this right. This isn’t about money for Kaplan. Above all, it’s about power.
Luckily for us, the union has been looking for a case to challenge the wide-scale prevalence of fixed-term contracts in the industry. At a number of smaller schools, we already won nearly identical cases just by making an early conciliation claim to ACAS.
The workers involved are dedicated. The union is fully behind them. By winning, we begin to build a body of case law that can be used to challenge any TEFL employer that uses fixed-term contracts.
Work(ed) at Kaplan? Were you denied your rightful redundancy based on your fixed-term status?
If so, we encourage you to contact the TEFL Workers’ union to join our existing tribunal claim. There’s no cost associated with an employment tribunal. You’ll have the support of an experienced union representative to guide you through the process.
However, in the case of Kaplan, there is an upcoming deadline to be able to make a claim to tribunal. To join our claim, contact us at tefl [at] iww [dot] org [dot] uk.
A note on fixed-term contracts:
According to gov.uk, fixed-term contracts are for “a seasonal or casual employee taken on for up to 6 months during a peak period, a specialist employee for a project, [or an employee] covering for maternity leave.”
It’s important to understand that full employment rights don’t begin until two years of continuous service. This includes the right to redundancy pay and, in most cases, the right to take your employer to tribunal. Since fixed-term contracts are periodically re-newed, this restarts the period of employment. It also prevents workers from accruing the two years of continuous employment needed to access their full legal entitlements.