By Senior Professional Officer (Scotland) Jennifer Barnes
Scottish local authorities periodically review staff numbers across their establishments and this is becoming particularly acute in light of ongoing reductions in council budgets. As employees are normally appointed to the service of the council, not to a particular establishment, the authority can utilise its ‘Compulsory Transfer Procedure’ to redeploy staff to other locations in line with service demand. A transfer might be instigated for:
- circumstances relating to falling pupil rolls;
- establishment closures and amalgamations;
- circumstances relating to the reduction of service provision in the base establishment; or
- as a result of restructuring.
Policies: Council policies often contain a statement that, although staff have a contractual liability to transfer from one educational establishment to another, every effort will be made to minimise the number of compulsory transfers where possible. Indeed, the first step is often to ascertain whether there are any volunteers within an identified pool of staff for transfer. Where this cannot be achieved within the relevant timescale, steps will be taken to transfer an employee compulsorily. At the volunteer stage, it is helpful for as much information about available posts to be provided as is possible. In providing this information, the council is maximising the chance of volunteers coming forward. In cases involving multiple transfers, meetings are often convened with affected staff to provide details of available posts and an explanation of the process. Visits on request to establishments with available posts are also commonplace. In matching an employee to an available post, the employee’s expertise must be of relevance to the post concerned. Should the compulsory transfer stage of the process be reached, the next step will be to identify who within a pool of staff should be transferred. Transfer process: The council’s procedure will cover the identification of the individual employee(s) to be transferred compulsorily. This normally involves the application of a measurable criterion to the staff within the pool. A common example would be “The employee with the least continuous (e.g. teaching) service with the local authority must transfer.” Policies often have a series of criteria to be applied in order of priority, in the event that the initial criterion fails to select a person. For example, if criterion (1) fails to select a person, criterion (2), such as “Total length of service within the school” will be used, and so on. In determining the appropriateness of any compulsory transfer, there should be the opportunity to consider personal circumstances such as travel, family and health. The procedure will also potentially accord certain benefits to voluntary/compulsory transferees, for example:
- providing a measure of protection from further transfer;
- some assistance with travelling expenses; or
- the opportunity, where possible, to return to their original establishment should a suitable vacancy arise there within a stipulated period following the original transfer.
Once arranged, formal written notice will be sent to the member of their impending transfer.
If you receive word that you may be affected by redeployment proposals and would like advice on your position, please don’t hesitate to contact the Edinburgh office, email us or call us on 0131 220 8241.