Thousands of teachers working in state schools could become eligible for cars though salary sacrifice schemes if a campaign by one of the UK’s leading providers is successful.
While thousands of local authority employees are eligible to join salary sacrifice car schemes introduced by their employers, the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) – the Department for Education’s guidance on general teachers’ pay – does not presently recognise such a benefit.
Since 2006, the STPCD has recognised that teachers can apply to be involved in salary sacrifice schemes relating to childcare vouchers or other childcare benefits, schemes providing cycles or cyclists’ safety equipment for travel to and from work and schemes permitting the purchase of mobile phones from employers.
Tusker has written to Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove and Schools Minister David Law, as well as contacting other MPs and teaching unions, asking for the guidance to be changed.
The STPCD is reviewed annually and while it may be too late to make any changes for 2014, Tusker chief executive officer David Hosking is hopeful the rules can be amended as part of the 2015 review.
As well as having salary sacrifice car schemes in place with 23 local authorities, which collectively employ around 60,000 teachers, Tusker also has similar initiatives in place with academy schools, independent schools and universities, which are not governed by the STPCD.
Department for Education statistics reveal there are around 442,000 teachers in England and other figures suggest almost a further 100,000 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Hosking said: “It seems to me to be a travesty that state school teachers cannot take advantage of salary sacrifice car schemes when colleagues employed by the same local authority but with a different job function are able to as are people teaching in schools outside the state sector.
“We believe it is time for teachers bound by the STPCD to be eligible for salary sacrifice car schemes. It does not require any change in the law; it simply needs the Secretary of State for Education to make salary sacrifice car schemes an exception in the same way as those for childcare vouchers, cycles and mobile phones.”
Tusker operates a fleet of 12,500 vehicles, of which approximately 75% are funded via salary sacrifice schemes.
The majority of employees opting into a scheme typically take delivery of a new low emission, fuel efficient car which replaces an eight to 10-year-old vehicle.
Hosking added: “The telephone conversations and meetings I have had to date with MPs have brought some support and they have promised to raise the matter through Parliamentary questions and other channels.
“There is a groundswell of support, I believe, for allowing teachers in the state sector to be eligible for cars through salary sacrifice schemes.”
Salary sacrifice schemes work best when substituting pay for a taxable benefit at a much lower rate.
Industry figures suggest that salary sacrifice car scheme take-up by employees at organisations where they are implemented is around 5-10%.
However, Tusker says demand at smaller organisations where it has implemented schemes is 30-40%, while take-up at large employers – more than 2,500 employees – is as high as 15% in some cases.
Hosking believes that demand for salary sacrifice car schemes will continue to grow and calculates that vehicles supplied could account for as much as 20% of the fleet market by the end of the decade.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “There are no current plans to extend teachers’ access to salary sacrifice schemes. When we consulted on the STPCD we did not receive requests to do this. We regularly review the STPCD, but at the current time there is no demand for this change. However, academies and free schools can offer salary sacrifice schemes to teachers.”
A spokesman for the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, said: “It is not something that we have focused on. We are focused more on teachers’ working conditions.”
The National Union of Teachers could not provide a comment at the time of going to press.