Call to change staff paying for background checks

Teachers were urged not to pay the charge, following claims it could be illegal. Picture: Getty
Teachers were urged not to pay the charge, following claims it could be illegal. Picture: Getty
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CITY chiefs are today facing demands to reverse their decision to force 10,000 employees to pay £59 for their own criminal background checks.

The calls came as teachers were urged not to pay the charge, following claims it could be illegal.

We revealed yesterday how city chiefs have sparked outrage with their demand the fee is paid by workers – who risk losing their job if they refuse.

The Evening News contacted all 32 local authorities in Scotland to ask their policy over the new Protecting Vulnerable Groups scheme. Of 25 that responded, only Falkirk and Edinburgh are refusing to cover the charge for any existing staff.

Alan Mackenzie, acting general secretary of the Scotland Secondary Teachers Association, said: “The legal advice we have had is that there is no obligation on the employees to pay this, the legal requirement is with the employer. Our advice to members is not to pay.

“If they endeavour to deduct it from pay we will certainly consider a legal challenge as an illegal deduction from wages. The question to Edinburgh council, one of the only councils in Scotland to do this, is ‘are you prepared to go to war over this?’”

Major authorities including Glasgow, Aberdeen City, Dumfries and Galloway, North and South Lanarkshire and Highland all cover the cost of fees for existing staff, with some also paying for new employees.

Clackmannanshire Council said only staff earning £30,000 per year or more had to pay while a similar policy is operated in Stirling.

Fife Council also said it paid for existing staff to have the check. A spokesman said: “It would be right to protect staff from costs arising from something a new policy requires them to do.”

NHS Lothian has said its staff will not have to pay to join the scheme, which was brought in by the Scottish Government and is to become compulsory for all workers who deal with vulnerable groups.

We told how Edinburgh council employees have the option of paying the charge over one or two years, depending on how much they earn and face losing their jobs if they refuse. It would cost the council £590,000 to cover the cost for existing workers.

City finance leader Alasdair Rankin said that the authority had no plans to perform a U-turn over the policy, which was decided by the previous SNP and Liberal Democrat administration.

“Councillors pay for their own PVGs as an example to council staff,” he said. “The main reason for the decision is that this is portable – they can take it with them if they move to another job. Other councils can take a different point of view, but that’s the point of view we’ve taken.”

He added: “Of course, the decision is influenced by the council’s current financial position. We have to make £107m in savings over the lifetime of the administration, and we want to protect front-line services as much as possible. If there were less constraints, then it’s possible we might have looked at it in a different way.”