In a decision with considerable significance for many teachers, the Court of Appeal has recently ruled that the Minister for Education (the “Minister”) was the employer of a part-time teacher who had been awarded compensation for discrimination under the Protection of Employees (Part-Time) Work Act 2001 (“the Act”). The Court noted that while there was a contractual employment relationship between teacher and school, the remuneration was paid by the Minister. It held that there was a “unique tripartite relationship” in existence between the Department of Education, the Department funded teacher and the school where she worked. This means that for teachers whose salaries are paid by the State, the role of employer is, “uniquely split”, between the Department and the school.
In 2009, the Complainant, a part-time preschool teacher for Traveller children brought a claim under the Act alleging she was treated less favourably than full time staff by not being admitted to the National Teachers Superannuation Scheme. The litigation followed a long road to get to the Court of Appeal stage where the Court indicated that, although “unsatisfactory”, teachers may find themselves with two employers whereby the Minister is connected by virtue of remuneration and the school board in terms of responsibility for the teacher’s conduct and vicarious liability. The Court went on to state that any other possible deduction “seems at variance with the underlying realities and would represent the triumph of contractual formalism over the substance of employment rights.”