by Lindsay Patience @Mumsyme

I recently replied to a question on social media from someone returning after maternity to a Teaching and Learning Responsibility (TLR) asking if it was normal to have your TLR payment reduced if you reduced your working hours.

The query was posted in a Facebook group “MTPT Project – Connect!” which is a forum for teachers before, during or after parental leave. Of course the poster was surprised by the situation where she was still expected to complete 100% of her Teaching and Learning Responsibility but would only be paid 90% of the pay allowance.

If a classroom teacher works a 0.8 timetable, then they would expect to receive 80% of the remuneration. However it seems you can be expected to complete all aspects of a leadership role and be held accountable for it but only be paid a proportion of the pay award for it. The responses to the post were far from unanimous and uniform. They ranged in essence from “yeah, tough, but that’s how it works” to outraged cries for rebellion/negotiation. A flurry of examples came through of women returning from maternity leave to leadership roles seeking flexibility. Some had accepted that they would do the whole role for partial pay, some had negotiated full payment, others had a set up where they completed the role pro rata in exchange for pro rata pay or where they did the full role for pro rata pay but in exchange for some other benefits such as more protected time or fewer duties etc. Some of these were offered by the school, some were suggested by the teacher, some were demanded or secured through negotiation.

In my work with Flexible Teacher Talent I have seen people in all of these scenarios but I was fascinated by the range of responses, so I set up a Twitter poll to investigate further what was common in the profession. I asked “Teachers working part-time with a TLR – how does it work?”.

24% of respondents who worked part-time were paid the full TLR amount for completing the entire role. 26% were paid their TLR pro rata but were only expected to complete a proportion of the role. This all seems fair so far, you are paid for the proportion of the work you do. However, 45% of respondents said they were paid only a proportion of the TLR pay but were expected to complete all of the responsibilities and a further 5% had this set up but with some kind of extra incentive such as extra non contact time or less form time.

So nearly half of the 236 respondents undertake their entire Teaching and Learning Responsibility but are not paid the full amount for it. How can this be the case?

The issue of pro rata responsibilities

How do you determine what a 0.2 reduction in responsibilities looks like? What is 20% of the job description and who works it out? It is not always particularly easy to divide leadership responsibilities up in this way. Even if you can, if paid partially for part of the responsibilities then who does the rest of the role? Colleagues? Line managers? Are they paid for it? No wonder full-time workers sometimes resent part-time colleagues in the workplace.

School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Guidance

The DfE’s STPC Guidance on this matter is quite unhelpful. It states that the pro rata principle should be applied for pay but says nothing about the proportion of responsibilities which should be undertaken. Only local authority schools are bound by it but many other schools use it as the basis for their policy. If teachers are paid pro rata then they should only be expected to do the same proportion of responsibilities but the guidance does not say that specifically. School leaders and business managers may be trying to correctly apply the guidance when they pay pro rata but expect the full role but the guidance needs careful interpretation and even if schools feel that they must pay TLR pro rata then there are other ways to make the overall remuneration fair such as increasing FTE pay or awarding an extra TLR3 to make up the total amount.


Is it because we feel so lucky to have secured part-time work? Because the alternative was full time or lose the responsibility? There were certainly a number of responses stating that TLR and part-time are not compatible in some schools so maybe it is just that when faced with doing a role for partial pay or not doing it at all we choose the former. We often hear words such as lucky, grateful and fortunate in regard to securing flexible working arrangements.

Is accepting all the responsibility for only part of the pay just an extension of this gratitude? Are school leaders taking advantage of our gratefulness to pay TLR holders less for the same role?

The Confidence Gap

One of the key factors identified in the gender pay gap is the idea that women are less likely to negotiate and secure higher salaries. The majority of those seeking to work flexibly are women so maybe this does result in this prevalence of part-time pay for full leadership responsibility. Would this happen in other industries? Would this happen to men on the same scale? I have my doubts that 50% of men would accept working for partial pay. An added feature here is that often requests for flexibility come at times when people’s confidence is vulnerable. The request may come during maternity leave or be prompted by a physical or mental health issue for you or a family member, it might come due to a change in circumstance or a re-prioritisation of your work/life balance. At these times confidence is not likely to be soaring and negotiating on pay and responsibilities may be hard and uncomfortable.

Lack of Transparency

Lack of transparency on pay and job descriptions is another factor citied for the persistent gender pay gap. If we don’t know what others are paid and what their responsibilities are then it is hard to gauge the fairness. The Twitter poll showed the variety in the set up of part-time TLR pay and expectations. It is easy to assume that the way you are paid is just the way it works but clearly there are alternatives. I hope that in sharing people’s experiences and the results of that poll, teachers requesting flexibility will be more aware of the options and alternatives as well as the implications of how they are paid and expected to work. The importance of networks such as the Maternity Teacher Paternity Teacher Project and #WomenEd, as well as Flexible Teacher Talent, of course, in supporting and empowering, not just women but anyone wishing to work flexibly. is crucial to this.

There is clearly an issue of equity and fairness here. It does not seem acceptable for people to be expected to do a role and not be paid in full for it. But is there also a legal issue?

The Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 make it unlawful for part-time workers to be treated less favourably than full-time workers, this includes with regard to pay. Part-time workers have the right not to be treated less favourably than a full time worker doing the same or similar work regarding the terms of employment. The Compact Law website says “As statistically most part-time workers are women, an employer could also face a claim for sex discrimination by discriminating against part-timers. Employers, therefore, have to ensure that even if different treatment between part-timers and full-timers can be justified on objective grounds that such grounds are unrelated to the sex of the employee and there is no disproportionate impact on women.” ACAS states “When reorganising workloads employers must be careful to ensure that part-time workers are not treated less favourably than full-time workers, unless the employer can justify the different treatment on objective grounds. This will mean, for example, making a wider range of job types open to part-timers, such as levels of management.”

The adage that you can’t do leadership roles part time surfaced from a Headteacher on Twitter but 45% are doing the leadership role part-time, they are just not being paid for it! This poll looked only at TLR post holders so it doesn’t even consider the situations where schools refuse to allow part-time TLR roles and those who are paid through leadership scales rather than specific TLR.

I hope that raising this issue helps people and school leaders to consider how part-time leaders are treated and paid in our schools. There will be some who see it as another excuse not to appoint part-time leaders in their school but we need to call out this unfairness in our workplaces if we are to begin to close the gender pay gap. Any school leaders seeking to treat their employees fairly and well must reflect on how part-time leadership works in their organisation, in terms of pay, expectations and opportunities.