This case concerned a Claimant who was a Year 3 teacher at the Coleraine Park Primary School. She had taken a holiday to Gambia and had, during the holiday, made contact with a local school.

Coleraine Park Primary School wanted to be part of a British Council initiative creating links with schools around the world. As part of the application they wanted to show that they had existing links with an overseas school. The Claimant suggested that she return to the school in Gambia and take materials from her class to be exchanged. The head teacher agreed that the Claimant could have the Friday before half-term to fly out.

During her time in Gambia the Claimant contracted an infectious disease. She then claimed that under the terms of her contract of employment she was entitled to be paid during the period of her illness.

The Claimant relied on the terms in the Burgundy Book. One of the clauses in this agreement said that when an infectious or contagious illness was contracted ‘directly in the course of the teacher’s employment’ full pay should be allowed.

The original Tribunal rejected this argument and said that “Whilst it was connected with her employment...it was not directly in the course of it."

The Claimant appealed. The Employment Appeal Tribunal allowed the Claimant’s appeal and referred to another clause in the Burgundy Book dealing with absence due to matters that have “arisen out of and in the course of the teacher’s employment”, which specifically includes ‘voluntary activity connected with the school’. They therefore decided that the parties had agreed through the Burgundy Book that “absence due to an infectious or contagious illness contracted during participation in any extra-curricular or voluntary activity connected with the school was to be regarded as being in the course of the teacher’s employment.”

The conclusion of the EAT was that the Claimant’s activity was undertaken with the approval and permission of the school and connected with it. As a result of this activity she had contracted an infectious illness and was therefore entitled to be paid.

Comment:

Whilst there was a dispute between the parties as to what had been agreed at the time about the trip, the outcome of this EAT decision appears to mean that schools will have to pay teachers for periods of absence related to not only illnesses contracted in the course of their usual employment, but also for illnesses or injuries contracted while undertaking voluntary activities which are connected with the school in some way, or for which the employer has given authorisation.

This was not a vicarious liability case but was a case considering the construction of clause 10 of the Burgundy Book.

If a school has any concerns about any employment issues or other disputes it should seek legal advice.

Please contact Alice Lane for further information or advice.

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