Dr. Spilchuk – My Contract Prevents Changing Schools…2017-06-02T14:25:40+00:00
Dear Dr. Spilchuk…

April, 2011

My Contract Prevents Changing Schools

Dear Dr. Spilchuk,

I currently work at an International School – I have worked there for two years and will finish my contract in June this year.  I would like to stay in the country, but move to another school.  My school has a clause in my contract that states that the school must give permission in order to find employment in another school, but my school has refused myself and other teachers this permission.

What is the next step for me?  Essentially, if I do not take a new contract with my current employers, then I must leave the country to seek new employment.  This impacts upon my financial reserves, as I have to pay to pack up my home, my pets and my family to move away.  Others schools in the country have alluded to the illegality of this clause, but are reluctant to move against the school due to a ‘gentleman’s agreement’.

I do not wish to leave the school because it is a terrible school.  I have enjoyed working at the school, but feel that it is time to move on.

Yours sincerely

Confused

Hello Confused,

I am well aware that this type of clause exists in some schools in countries in the Middle East like Kuwait.  I also understand that the reason for these schools to include this clause is because they do not want other schools poaching their teachers.  On the other hand, a school could save the cost of return airfare and shipping for a teacher who wants to move on were it to allow another school to pick up these responsibilities. If this cannot be negotiated, however, since the other school would have to pay for all of the expenses of moving a new teacher into the country with his/her family, you could follow through with having your current school pay for you/your family to leave (and cancel your visa); the new school would then simply pay for you to return and they would be responsible to apply for a new visa for you. They would have to do this for a new external hire anyways so the new school hasn’t lost anything; in fact, it will have gained a teacher already seasoned in the culture of the country and one whose teaching can be locally checked.  I know this creates a real hassle for you in terms of moving your family, pets and belongings but I don’t think I’d leave any of those things behind in the event that something goes wrong with a new contract between leaving and returning.

While it sometimes is possible for another school to negotiate this type of clause out of a contract, and I have heard of this happening, be careful that you don’t end with a ‘local hire’ contract rather than an ‘external hire’ contract at the new school were this to occur. You could lose many of the benefits of an ‘external hire’ teacher were this to occur.

In the end, you may have no alternative but to stay at the school you are currently at or leave.  Sad to say, but true.

Good luck and keep me posted
Barbara

Responses to This Column

This situation is true at an American British School in Oman. They do not want their teachers to move to another school that offers a higher salary. When I finished my contract with them, I moved to another country and this was a very good decision. It was interesting that the director was not happy to see me get a position at a good school and had a desire for teachers to move to school with problems.Name withheld (sorry it is a small world)


Your last sentence is incorrect. You can check to see if it is illegal in the country you are based in. If this is the case, you can take it through the courts in that country to get the school to change it – this could be beneficial if there are a number of teachers who wish to pursue it. Also, you can write to the educational bodies the school is linked to, and inform them of the contract clause. Sometimes, they will pursue the case with the school on your behalf. Its not just a stay at the school, or leave as you put it.


This situation sounds familiar. I worked at an international school in Japan and after two years there, I decided not to resign my contract with them for the next school year in an effort to seek employment at another school. It was not a wise decision because I was not able to secure recommendations before I made my choice. Anyways, a school that I applied to was interested in me and wanted me to do an observation lesson for them, so I was forced with the awkward situation of having to ask the principal and vice principal of my school for permission for another school’s admin to come and observe me. So there I was in the principals office, (a few weeks after telling him I was not coming back) asking him if it was ok for some other schools principal to come watch me. I never did get the job and I strongly believe that the principal gave me a poor reference. My advice for anyone who wants to change schools is that you do it after getting your letters of recommendation and after you have given the situation a lot of thought.


I worked at a school in China who tried to insert this clause. The clause was challenged in law and found to be illegal. The school was then forced to withdraw the clause. It was suggested they should try to retain their teachers by keeping them happy rather than miserable.


Dear Dr Sputnick,

I have a tale to tell… I moved to Lima, Peru to teach obviously. My “School” administration was told by the owner to get me health insurance. They did not, reasoning in their Peruvian way that being a Gringo, I was rich and could afford not to have insurance. I worked in Egypt for 6 years; china 4 years and various other countries for about 2 years each. Nothing ever happened to me… I even crossed streets in Cairo on a daily basis and emerged unscathed. However, that all changed after being in Peru only 2 month. A taxi did me in, broke my right femur. It has been 6 months now and my right leg is 2 inches shorter than the left. I cannot walk and am confined to a wheelchair. Everyone stays I must sue the hospital and doctors. Ok, but how does one do this is Peru? Finding an honest lawyer is as difficult as finding a good surgeon here. Almost impossible.

I have not worked in the US for 20 years. I do not have a bank account because not only did the school fail to get me health insurance, they have not provided me with a work visa either. I am still existing on only a visitors visa and working which is illegal. This school does nothing unless forced to do it. Now with a broken leg and working from a wheelchair, I don’t think any other school is going to hire me. So essentially, I’m stuck here at this horrible school, unable to get proper medical care or even get out of here and return to the US.

Have you got any suggestions? Desperately wanting to walk again,


Dr. Spilchuk….To the teacher working in Lima, Peru, can you please email directly at drbarbaraspilchuk@yahoo.com and we can work on your situation in private?


You need to remember that in some GCC countries, for example, Qatar, a No Objection Certificate (NOC) is also required. There is no obligation for an employer to give this to a departing employee and indeed some schools refuse to issue a NOC as a matter of policy. Without the NOC in Qatar, you cannot work for two and sometimes four years in the country. It’s not a matter of leave and come back on a new visa, it’s a matter of not being able to get a new RP at all. At one point, you could not even get a tourist visa to visit friends, but that rule has now been relaxed.


Those who suggest getting a lawyer: Good luck with this if you teach in a school in the Middle East. Ain’t gonna happen.


Dear Confused,

I have been working in Kuwait as an administrator at one of the international schools for many years and I had witnessed the same situation with lots of teachers like you. It’s all due to residency rules and regulations for those who are working in private sector such as international schools in Kuwait.

Before the end of each year, teachers who decide to renew their contract stay as usual for the next year, but for those who wanted to leave or signed a contract with another school, a document of transferring or release of residency must be signed by both parties (the new school and the current one) so teachers residency could be transferred to the new school. Usually this occurs at end of the school year in general.

When the current school refuses to sign this release of residency document, nothing the new school can do and they have no right according to the residency rules and regulations. Therefore, if the teacher still wants to leave, the current school will work on cancelling the teacher’s residency before the end of June when the school ends. In this case, the new school will have to work all over again on issuing a visa for the teacher and the teacher will have to go with the same process he or she did with the old school (finger stamp, medical checkup..etc) in September.

If this is the situation in your case and if you decide to go to another school, the current school will cancel your residency in June and you will have to come back with a new visit visa or work visa in August/September.

In case if you decide to go with the new school, you can leave your stuff packed with some of your friends in Kuwait or at the new school’s housing as they may offer. The new school should also let you know if they will issue a new work visa for you or you will have to come back with a visit visa which you will receive upon arrival to Kuwait airport. There are few things to be considered and steps to be done in each case. Why don’t you share it with teachers who have been through the same situation or friends, sure they will give you an idea(s) that would help.

At the end, you have to decide, either to stay with the current school and forget about or delay “moving on” idea, or to go to the new school and not to worry about the consequences or the process as long as you want that.

Whatever was your decision, I wish you all the best of luck!.

Km

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