Prison teachers sue providers over alleged contract breaches

Claimants suing for nearly half a million pounds - an average payout of over £13,000 each

Claimants suing for nearly half a million pounds - an average payout of over £13,000 each

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Dozens of prison educators are suing their employers for nearly half a million pounds.

Thirty-seven workers have taken Milton Keynes College, LTE Group and PeoplePlus to court for allegedly not considering pay reviews along a pay scale as stipulated in their employment contracts. 

High Court documents reveal the claimants are demanding more than £450,000, plus 8 per cent interest a year, after lodging a claim in the King’s Bench division last year. 

The combined claim relates to alleged failures by the employers to honour contractual obligations around pay reviews. 

The 37 claimants work in prison education services across the country run by the three providers: 14 are bringing claims against Milton Keynes, 21 against LTE’s prison education arm Novus, and two against PeoplePlus. 

Anthony Sakrouge, partner at Russell Cooke, representing the claimants, said: “Our clients were told when they were taken on that they would be eligible for periodic pay increases along a pay scale.  

“They consider that they had a contractual right at least to be considered for such increases and that the defendants breached their obligations in that regard, by moving away from the pay scales without any proper explanation.” 

The University and College Union are supporting the staff.

The court proceedings come at the same that that all three providers placed bids for the new £1.5 billion prison education tender, due to begin next April.

Prison education has gathered damning headlines in recent years, from Ofsted handing out scathing judgments of its quality to MPs calling for it to be brought into the public sphere.

Lawyers on behalf of the claimants allege in the court documents that the providers breached “express and implied terms of contracts of employment” by failing or not properly carrying out the contractual pay review provisions. 

In employment law, express terms relate to conditions of employment put in writing such as pay and/or working hours. 

Implied terms are not written into contracts but are terms that are either too obvious to be written down, are part of the law or related to behaviour and conduct. 

According to a blog post by the Acas arbitration service, this could involve the statutory redundancy pay rate, for example. 

In the claim form, the claims brought against the three defendants are “materially the breaches of very similar contractual provisions in similar educational settings”. 

This means the judge will hear all the claims in one case and can “conveniently” dispose of them in the same proceedings. 

The combined claim is valued at £456,035.43, plus the 8 per cent interest at the judgment rate, taking the total claim if they win to £492,518.26. The average payout for each claimant would be just over £13,000. 

The case was filed on December 20, 2023, and was officially opened by the King’s bench division on February 23 this year. 

The particulars of the claim have not been published. 

A spokesperson for the LTE Group said: “It would be inappropriate to comment at this stage of the legal proceedings.” 

Sally Alexander, the chief executive at MK College Group, said: “This claim is being defended and it would not be appropriate for us to comment on live proceedings.” 

PeoplePlus did not respond to requests for comment.

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