New Limits on Cover- for all teachers.

From September 1st all teachers are protected from the requirement to provide cover for absent colleagues beyond a maximum of 38 hours in a school year. Like any legal protection it is more likely to be enforced effectively if you know your rights. We suggest therefore that you keep this bulletin in a planner or file and make use of the recording grid on the reverse side.


Cover in High schools is mainly the supervision or teaching of a class normally taught by a colleague. In Primary schools it more often takes the form of taking additional pupils into classes. No teacher can be required to provide cover for more then 38 hours in any school year.

This new limit applies to teachers on fixed-term or temporary contracts and pro-rata to those on part-time contracts. If, for example, you are on a 0.5 contract you cannot be required to cover for more than 19 hours. It also applies to those on the leadership spine and ASTs.


No detriment.

38 hours works out at about 1 hour per week. Many schools have managed over the years to reduce cover requirements to well below this level. If that is the case in your school there should be absolutely no question of increasing the use of teachers to cover up to the 38 hour limit. 38 hours is a maximum and there is a ‘no detriment’ clause in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STP&CD) which states that ‘once the limit has been introduced it is not appropriate for schools to seek to increase the amount of cover to thelimit’. The aim of the National Agreement on workload is ‘that teachers at a school should only rarely cover for absent colleagues’.


Gained time.

Gained time is time when teachers have been released from their normal timetable due to study or examination leave. This has often been used as an opportunity to demand significant extra provision of cover from these teachers. We can be required to cover during this time but where we do it must count towards the 38 hour limit.

Leadership and Management time (introduced in Sept 2003) can also be used but must count towards the limit. Planning, Preparation and Assessment time (10% PPA to be introduced from Sept 2005) cannot be used for cover.


Other changes

Members should note that the changes made last year which removed 23 administrative tasks from teachers and imposed a duty on schools to have regard to the work/life balance of their employees continue to be in force.


Protecting your rights

Management should keep records of the cover provided by staff but you are more likely to be protected if you also keep a record. Given the frantic pace of the school year this can be difficult so we have produced a simple table for members to use to record the cover they have done this year. If you sometimes cover for periods of less then 1 hour please photocopy an extra sheet.

Individual record of cover provided