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New free schools and academies: Employers for the first time

With the rise of free schools and academies, more governing bodies and school business managers are taking over the role of employers from local authorities. What should they look out for?

This September, 55 new free schools are expected to open, to be followed next year by at least another 102 that have won approval to open. Taken together with more than 330 academies that are already up and running in England, it's clear that the nature of state-funded education is changing.

When setting up a free school or becoming an academy, one of the first things a governing body has to consider is the employment of staff. For most, it will be the first taste of being an employer.

Some may buy employment services from local authorities or turn to alternative providers. In some cases, there may be experienced sponsors they can call on for help. Others may prefer taking a more independent stance by handling all employment issues themselves.

Regardless of how governing bodies tackle employment matters, they will all face the same responsibilities - and if they make mistakes, the liability will remain with them.

Governing bodies - and school business managers, who often lead on HR decisions - will need to feel confident with all the key areas. These include transfer of staff (TUPE), devising written statements of employment, developing discipline and grievance procedures, dealing with maternity and paternity leave and pay, approaching absence issues and handling all aspects of dismissal, whether it be from redundancy, retirement or because of disciplinary matters.

Acas can offer independent Acas guidance for academies and free schools on matters arising from the transition of a school to academy status or the setting up of a free school, including Employing people for academies and free schools.

Acas also runs practical training courses on many employment relations issues. Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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