MU Column: Employment law for hubs

Diane Widdison
Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Musicians' Union (MU) and Music Mark, the membership body for music education hubs, traditionally represent different parts of the music education workforce. Diane Widdison, national organiser for education and training at the MU, tells us about some new employment law guidance designed to help members of both organisations.

Music Mark's annual conference in Sheffield last November saw the launch of three new employment law guides that the MU has worked on jointly with Music Mark, for use by music education hub managers and leaders as well as by MU members.

The catalyst for this work was that the MU was dealing with similar patterns of issues on behalf of our members who teach for hubs, partly because there seemed to be no consistent employment law guidance available for hubs. Since the inception of hubs in 2012, the MU has been in contact with approximately two-thirds of them on a variety of workforce issues, from negotiating reorganisations and individual casework to more proactive, collaborative interactions like providing training and workshops.

The MU also has a network of hub reps who meet annually and keep us informed about what is happening on the ground. What we were hearing from them was the same pattern of issues, with particular confusion around how employment law worked in practice, how holiday pay was calculated, and how Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and the related online update service worked. These became the topics we decided to focus on for this project.

In the MU's experience, the quality of advice that hubs are able to access is very mixed. Those hubs who still have an association with their local authority (LA) have often been affected by the LA cutbacks in recent years, which have resulted in a great loss of knowledge and HR expertise. Other LAs have outsourced their HR, which often comes with a lack of understanding of how instrumental and vocal teachers are engaged. We hope that the guides we have produced will help hubs navigate some complex and ever-changing points of law that affect all organisations engaging or employing teachers.

This project was a close collaboration between the MU and Music Mark, and the three documents went through many iterations and edits, as well as input from the boards and committees of both organisations and their respective legal teams. The aim was always to produce guides that are clear, concise and, most importantly, useful to members of both organisations. We wanted to keep the text as neutral as possible, to state the law without interpretation or comment. It is understood that each organisation's members will have their own unique take on legal compliance, but at least there is now some consistent and agreed guidance.

New case law can change legal advice at any time. Therefore, these documents are available as online resources only, and will be regularly reviewed and updated to stay in line with current legislation.

Employment status

This guide looks at what employment law says about how you can engage individuals, and how this is interpreted following test cases. It lists what the determining factors are in defining employment status, and what the advantages and disadvantages are for both sides of employed, worker and self-employed status. There is also useful information about the value of issuing contracts, as well as understanding the implications of IR35 tax legislation.

Holiday entitlement and pay

This guide offers concise explanation on how to calculate holiday pay and entitlement and who is entitled to it. This is especially useful for those working with teachers who don't follow a typical pattern of work, taking into account the implications of recent case law changes.

Disclosure and Barring Service

This guide covers how the DBS checking system works and who needs to have a valid DBS to be able to work within the education sector. It also explains how the DBS online update system works and why it is beneficial for organisations to engage with it.

All three guides are available on the Music Mark and MU websites. The MU and Music Mark are committed to producing more joint guidance documents in 2020.

Contact either organisation for more information on this project ( or via the MU website: