The Court of Appeal today handed down judgment on an important case* that will help secure the rights of over 150 UK teachers working in European Schools. These Schools are funded jointly by the EU Member States to provide education for the children of EU officials.

The teachers who brought the case against the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF) were supported by their unions the NASUWT and ATL.

The result represents a comprehensive victory for the NASUWT and ATL and their members over the Government's stance in its treatment of teachers working in European Schools (see "Background" for explanation of European Schools).

The Claimants succeeded in all three of their appeals meaning that:

  • The teachers may bring claims for wrongful dismissal and unfair dismissal in the tribunals in England.
  • Teachers employed by the DCSF to work in European Schools on a succession of fixed-term contracts are entitled to permanent employment status after working for four years.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT stated: "We are delighted that the Court of Appeal has upheld the rights of teachers. The employment rights of teachers based overseas will now be secured."

Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the ATL, adds: "This groundbreaking judgment shows the government's approach to employing teachers abroad is legally flawed."

Comments Simon Henthorn, Senior Associate at law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP who was instructed by the unions to act in the litigation: "The teachers, who are based overseas, will now be able to bring a claim in the English tribunals for unfair dismissal as well as wrongful dismissal on expiry of their employment. They will now have an effective remedy available to vindicate their rights derived from EC law."

Background

The claimant teachers had been employed by the DCSF on a series of fixed-term contracts to work in European Schools.

The Schools were established under a separate legal regime to provide education for the children of parents posted to work for European institutions. Under rules imposed by European Schools no teacher is able to work for a School for longer than nine years (known as the "nine year rule").

The litigation arose out of the DCSF's policy of automatically dismissing the teachers at the expiry of their final fixed-term contract after nine years.

The Regulations governing the treatment of employees on fixed-term contracts derive from EC law. They state that employees employed on a succession of fixed-term contracts for four or more years are classed as permanent employees unless the use of the fixed-term contracts is justified on objective grounds.

The Government argued its use of fixed-term contracts was justified based on the nine year rule imposed by the regime which established the schools. The court dismissed this argument and found that the teachers should be treated as permanent employees.

The court also decided that the teachers can bring claims for unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal in the English tribunals even though they were based overseas.

Counsel were Nigel Giffin QC and Simon Henthorn.