The general rule is that teachers of unaided private schools are to be paid and provided benefits at par with government school teachers. This is substantiated by Rule 3(1)(b) of Karnataka Educational Institutions (Certain terms and conditions of service of employees in Private unaided Primary and Secondary and Pre-University educational institutions) Rules, 2005 (the “Rules”).
A circular by the Department of Public Instruction, Karnataka, based on the above rules has said that failure to adhere to this will result in penalty. However, no specification on the type or quantum of penalty has been provided.
We have summarised below legal provisions of minimum pay, leave - including maternity and paternity leave, gratuity and other statutory benefits under various laws and rules:
I. Minimum Salary
The categories of Primary School teachers and their respective salaries are in the following range:
However, based on the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the Department of Public Instructions (DPI) of Karnataka, in April 2019 has stated that all private schools must pay a minimum monthly salary of ₹25,800/- to primary school teachers, ₹33,450/- to high school teachers, ₹27,650/- and ₹21,400/- to first and second division clerks respectively, and ₹17,000/- for cleaning and maintenance employees. This dichotomy ostensibly created severe confusion about what must be complied with.
Teachers employed in private schools can complain to the District Education Regulatory Authority (DERA) if they have any concerns related to payment of salaries in line with DPI’s instruction.
II. Leave (teaching & non-teaching staff in educational institutions)
Rule 4 of the Karnataka Educational Institutions [Certain terms and conditions of service of employees in private un-aided Primary and Secondary and Pre-University Educational institutions] Rules, 2005, provides following types of leave:
a) Sick Leave. Maximum of 12 days in each calendar year but not for more than 5 days at a time due to sickness or on any other reasonable reasons. This leave shall be credited to the account of the employee at the beginning of the calendar year, i.e., 1st January of every year;
b) Earned Leave. Where an employee has not put in a service of 1 year, he may be sanctioned leave in proportion to the period of his service at the rate of 1 day for each completed month of service; and
c) For the purpose of (b) above, fraction of leave of half a day or more shall be treated as one full day’s leave and a fraction of less than half a day shall be omitted. An employee can carry over unavailed leave, subject to a maximum of 30 days.
Female employees shall be entitled to maternity leave (with pay) in accordance with the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, i.e., 26 weeks of leave.
In the education sector, this is a protracted length of time accounting to more than ½ of the school term. For the school it creates some logistical difficulties such as - recruitment of a new teacher, additional remuneration to the substituting teacher, additional burden on an existing teacher, acclimatisation of the students to the new teacher, especially when the leave is taken in the middle of term in higher classes or finding suitable roles when the old teacher is to reinstated mid-term. While the practical difficulties of this in the education sector can be understood and appreciated, this is a mandatory benefit that has to be provided by all schools.
The Karnataka Civil Service Rules (which applies to Karnataka State Government teachers) allows a male Government servant paid paternity leave of 15 days from the date of its commencement. However, this is not available to a male Government servant who has two or more living children. This can serve as a guideline for schools to allow for paternity leave.
III. Other Statutory Benefits
The High Court of Karnataka, has made the payment gratuity to private school teachers compulsory.
It further held that, following the 2009 amendment of Section 13-A of the Payment of Gratuity Act, although the schools may incur a financial burden for paying gratuity to all the teachers retiring/ retired after 3.4.1997, it was not a sufficient reason to set aside the retrospective operation of the amendment.
The Supreme Court of India has held that the Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 is applicable to educational institutions.
The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 provides for the payment of bonus to persons employed in certain establishments on the basis of profits or on the basis of production or productivity. Since most schools are registered either as a society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 or as a public trust of a charitable nature, payment of bonus will not be applicable to private unaided schools.
Institutional Autonomy or Teacher Welfare?
The Minimum Wages Act 1948 stipulates the minimum wages payable for certain skilled and unskilled workforce. Teachers are not covered under the Minimum Wages Act. Therefore, it becomes essential to afford teachers some basic standards of social & financial security.
On the flip side, many small & budget private schools are unable to pay the minimum salaries as statutorily prescribed, as this is more than the students’ annual tuition fee and requires a hike of almost 200% - 300% of the tuition fees. This situation has worsened during the pandemic with schools not being able to re-open and collect the fee. Thousands of teachers lost their jobs.
There is also a counter view that schools should be given autonomy and that the government should not interfere and impose a minimum pay for teachers of private unaided schools.
Despite challenges faced by private educational institutions, the courts of India have, in most occasions, ruled in favour of the teachers since, for most, this is the primary and sole source of income. With an increase in the cost of living, the teachers have to be protected with the minimum entitlements. The financial security may also ensure better quality of education, benefitting the students and society at large.
Therefore educational institutions must draft employee benefit policies in consultation with legal experts who are aware of the local & state specific laws.
 Karnataka Education (Second Amendment) Act, 2017