College chiefs are considering ways of wriggling out of their new statutory obligations to give lecturers and other staff proper paid holiday entitlement and maximum weekly working hours.
Under the new Working Time Directive, which came into force on October 1, lecturers and other employees were given rights to work no more than a 48-hour week, and new rights to paid holidays and breaks.
But advice from lawyers and consultants on how college chiefs can avoid giving staff these rights is already coming thick and fast.
Lecturers now have a statutory right to a minimum of three weeks' paid leave but only if they are in continuing employment.
The solution, some colleges have been advised, is simply to ensure that lecturers' contracts run for no more than 13 weeks, with a break in service between each contract.
Education law consultant, Eversheds, is advising firmly against this. "It may be within the letter of the legislation but it is not within the spirit of the EU directive", said Eversheds employment law expert Robert McCreath.
Even the Association of Colleges has warned against the trick. "It is our view that an attempt to avoid providing paid holiday would be indefensible in the courts," the AOC has warned members.
The AoC has its own ideas - simply ask lecturers to sign away their rights to limited hours. The AoC has circulated a draft letter for principals to give to their staff.
"Dear lecturer ..." it says, "the college invites you to agree to work for more than 48 hours per week ... in order for you properly to fulfil the duties inherent in your job."
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