Campaign group Zero Hours Justice calls on Grey Court School, the Richmond academy, to properly pay its invigilators for the work cancelled due to Covid-19.
Despite the unprecedented support from the government to help employers pay staff while closed, invigilators have been one of the groups that have fallen through the cracks.
Grey Court School, which is part of multi-academy trust Every Child Every Day, has declined to furlough any of its 20 invigilators on 80% pay. Instead, it made a “gesture” offer of 35% of the pay that invigilators would have received.
When challenged on the level of their offer, they then offered a further 35% as a loan that
would be paid back through deductions of 10% from future pay.
Pravin Jeyaraj, Communications Officer for Zero Hours Justice, said: “Thirty-five percent may sound like a lot for someone on a professional wage such as a teacher or headmaster. But, for a zero hours contract or casual worker on the London Living Wage, 35% is a paltry amount that for makes it impossible to live. It is particularly galling for those invigilators represented by us that, had Grey Court School furloughed them, they would have received 80% of their pay.
“The offer of a loan that, due to the nature of invigilation, would end up being paid back over three years was adding insult to injury.”
Grey Court School’s excuse for not paying invigilators fairly was that they had lost income from bookings of their premises that could not take place because of Covid-19. But this was precisely the situation that the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was meant to address.
All 20 invigilators wished to remain anonymous out of fear that going public might affect their chances of future work.
One invigilator, A, said: “I’ve been employed as an exams invigilator at Grey Court since 2008 and I’m really disappointed with the salary proposal.”
Another invigilator, B, said: “How can the budget be exhausted when the exams have been cancelled and the invigilators (including myself) have not been paid? If anything, the budget is untouched and fully available to do what it was intended to do, which is meet the cost of paying invigilators.”
A third invigilator, C, said: “Who can afford to take a 65% cut in salary? What I would normally receive for working virtually full-time through the exams season is a significant part of my annual income.”
A fourth invigilator, D, said: “I tried to explain to my employer that the Government schemes and guidance has been put in place to enable them to support their staff during this difficult period. His cold hearted response was to offer me a 35% loan. I was so shocked!”
A fifth invigilator, E, said: “It seems that invigilators across the country are not really respected by schools. My school informed me, pretty much, that I was lucky to receive any offer of payment at all.”
There is no obligation for employers to pay staff for cancelled shifts, which is a big problem for all zero hours contracts staff. However, in July 2019, the Department for Business, Energy and Industry consulted on various proposals that would benefit flexible workers, including compensation where shifts are cancelled at short notice. The proposals were proposed by the Low Pay Commission.
Zero Hours Justice was launched in January 2020 by a coalition of concerned citizens to:
It is led by Ian Hodson, who is also president of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union, and founded and funded by Julian Richer, the founder of Richer Sounds and author of “The Ethical Capitalist”.