Mrs Aleem was employed by E-Act Academy as a science teacher but became unable to teach due to mental ill-health, which was classed as a disability. Mrs Aleem was therefore moved to an alternate role as a cover supervisor so she did not have to undertake normal teaching duties. It was made clear to Mrs Aleem that while she tried out the role of cover supervisor, she would continue to be paid at the higher salary of a teacher for the three-month probationary period.

After the probationary period finished and following occupational health advice indicating that she was not fit to return to teaching, Mrs Aleem accepted the role of cover supervisor on a permanent basis. Upon accepting the role permanently, Mrs Aleem's salary was reduced to that of a cover supervisor and she subsequently brought a claim for a failure to make reasonable adjustments on the basis that her salary did not continue at the higher teacher's pay rate.

EAT decision

Mrs Aleem's claim was unsuccessful and the EAT has also rejected her appeal. More particularly, the EAT has held that while it was a reasonable adjustment for the school to maintain a higher rate of pay for the probationary period, when considering the reasonableness of an indefinite rate of higher pay, the EAT was clear that this was not reasonable. The EAT held that a higher rate of pay for a limited period due to particular circumstances (the probationary period of the new role in this case) was very different to the expectation that the higher pay should be permanent.

What does this mean in practice for schools?

Schools will be live to the fact that teachers are, at times, signed off work, undertake reduced hours or change their role due to ill health or disability. Schools will also be aware of their requirement under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to reduce the effect of an employee's disability so they can undertake their job. However, as demonstrated in this decision from the EAT, schools do not have to maintain indefinite higher rates of pay for teachers that opt to take on a new non-teaching role to accommodate their disability.

In practice, while this does mean that schools should identify measures to make reasonable adjustments for staff, which could include protecting their pay for a defined amount of time and helping staff adjust to the reality of any new role which they wish to take on, this case makes it clear that schools are not under an obligation to maintain a previous higher rate of pay indefinitely.

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