The Request

Received on 10 May 2017

From:  

Sent: 10 May 2017 06:52

To: IG_Disclosures

Subject: Freedom of Information Requests for the BC China

To Whom it May Concern,

 I am submitting a FOI request for the following six items divided into three categories:

Expenses related to new examiner contract consultations/planning

The British Council in China and its subsidiaries recently undertook a prolonged project meant to to draft a new labour contract for IELTS examiners in China. After a significant expenditure of time and resources, this effort was ultimately canceled.

1) What were the total costs in terms of both work hours and monetary outlay of the effort to research, plan, draft, and present the proposed new examiner contract, including but not limited to:

a.         Research (benchmarking, market research ect.)

b.         Consultations with existing examiners and other relevant parties

c.         Various meetings ect.

This information should be itemised in terms of expenses based on work hours, hotels, flights, travel subsistence, research, and any other relevant outlays. It should be expressed in terms of Chinese New Yuan RMB, or any other relevant currencies which were spent. Efforts to plan for and draft a new examiner contract ran through sometime in 2016 to early May 2017.

IELTS and IELTS UKVI earnings in China

2) Was was the total income for the British Council and its subsidiaries in China earned from administering IELTS and IELTS UKVI tests in China in 2016?

3) What were the total costs of administering IELTS and IELTS UKVI tests in China in 2016?

4) How much money was sent out of China to other countries by the British Council and its subsidiaries in the year 2016? 

Labour law protection for IELTS examiners in China

The British Council and its subsidiaries has employed several hundred IETLS examiners in China.

5) What efforts has the British Council taken to ensure that the current contracts of IELTS examiners in China are fully compliant with the legal requirements of Chinese, British, and European Union labour law?

6) Currently IELTS examiners are not paid at an hourly rate or TOIL compensation for their inter-city work travel. Local staff members are compensated with TOIL for work travel. What is the justification for the discrepancy between IELTS examiners in China and other British Council staff in China in terms of work travel compensation?

I expect a comprehensive response to each of the six numbered items. If, for any reason, any of these questions cannot be answered as they are currently formatted I request assistance in redrafting my queries so as to receive comprehensive answers.

Please contact me within a fortnight with answers to these queries. If for whatever reason any of the six numbered requests for information should be reformatted, I also expect to be informed of this within a fortnight.

Furthermore, I request these queries and the responses to be published on your website.

 

Our Response

Responded on 

From: IG_Disclosures 

Sent: 08 June 2017 16:15

To: 

Subject: RE: Freedom of Information Requests for the BC China (FOI_2017_39)

Case Reference: FOI_2017_39

8 June 2017

Dear 

Thank you for your request for information dated 10 May 2017 concerning IELTS in British Council China. Your request has been handled under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000 and has been passed to me for reply.

For your ease of reference, I have restated your request below in bold and have provided our response beneath each point.

Expenses related to new examiner contract consultations/planning

The British Council in China and its subsidiaries recently undertook a prolonged project meant to draft a new labour contract for IELTS examiners in China. After a significant expenditure of time and resources, this effort was ultimately cancelled.

1) What were the total costs in terms of both work hours and monetary outlay of the effort to research, plan, draft, and present the proposed new examiner contract, including but not limited to:

a.         Research (benchmarking, market research etc.)

b.         Consultations with existing examiners and other relevant parties

c.         Various meetings etc.

This information should be itemised in terms of expenses based on work hours, hotels, flights, travel subsistence, research, and any other relevant outlays. It should be expressed in terms of Chinese New Yuan RMB, or any other relevant currencies which were spent. Efforts to plan for and draft a new examiner contract ran through sometime in 2016 to early May 2017.

Please find below a breakdown of monetary outlay incurred by the examiner contract project:

•           Staff travel – CNY46,483.28

•           Venue hire – CNY10,370

•           Examiner pay, lunch & refreshments for attending consultation meetings – CNY163,544

•           Legal consulting – CNY13,680

Total cost is CNY234,077.28 

We cannot provide a cost for work hours as the amount of staff time spent on a particular project or task is not recorded therefore this information is not held.

IELTS and IELTS UKVI earnings in China

2) What was the total income for the British Council and its subsidiaries in China earned from administering IELTS and IELTS UKVI tests in China in 2016?

3) What were the total costs of administering IELTS and IELTS UKVI tests in China in 2016?

4) How much money was sent out of China to other countries by the British Council and its subsidiaries in the year 2016? 

We are withholding the information that has been requested under questions 2, 3 and 4 as the exemption under section 43 (Commercial interests) sub-section (2) applies. 

Section 43 (2) allows a public authority to withhold information where it would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it). 

Revealing this information would allow competitors to use publically available information on unit price to easily calculate our exact sales volumes and therefore to accurately calculate their precise share of market. Disclosing the total income along with total costs would allow competitors to calculate our operating margin, which they could use to inform pricing policy, investment and other strategic decisions.

The exemption for commercial interests is subject to the public interest test as stipulated by the Act, which means that the exemption can only be upheld if the public interest in doing so outweighs the public interest in disclosure. 

Whilst we acknowledge that there is a public interest in understanding the British Council’s IELTS business and disclosure would facilitate transparency within our organisation in this case the damage to our commercial interests that would be caused from disclosing this information outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

Labour law protection for IELTS examiners in China

The British Council and its subsidiaries have employed several hundred IETLS examiners in China.

5) What efforts has the British Council taken to ensure that the current contracts of IELTS examiners in China are fully compliant with the legal requirements of Chinese, British, and European Union labour law?

In terms of its compliance with Chinese labour law, the current contract was drafted by external lawyers, and has been fully reviewed by two PRC law firms. Examiners are employed on a local contract which must be compliant with PRC law. UK and EU law are not applicable to this contract.

6) Currently IELTS examiners are not paid at an hourly rate or TOIL compensation for their inter-city work travel. Local staff members are compensated with TOIL for work travel. What is the justification for the discrepancy between IELTS examiners in China and other British Council staff in China in terms of work travel compensation?

•The TACOS of examiners and local staff members vary due to different nature and requirements of the two types of workforce, among which, salary and benefits package, working hours and travel policies are quite different.  

•Local staff are paid a fixed monthly salary, while examiners are paid core salaries (which includes a reasonable amount of travel), top up work based on piece rate, travel subsistence and per destination allowance as a whole compensation package. Examiners are compensated for travel within the salary paid rather than through TOIL

•As stated in Examiner TACOS the core day salary includes a reasonable amount of travel (relevant sections below) 

•Examiners are required to travel on both core days and days when they do top-up work. The rates of pay are reflective of the overall requirements of the role, including travel. 

•Examiner staff are paid travel subsistence and per destination allowance as additional compensation for their travel. Local staff are not eligible for a destination allowance.

Examiner TACOS

Section 4: Travel 

The core salary includes a reasonable amount of travel to test centres when required. In addition, examiners will receive subsistence and, where applicable, a per-trip allowance. The subsistence and allowance form part of the taxable income. The travel policy is detailed in appendix D.

Appendix D: Travel Policy 

Travel is an integral part of this position and has been taken into account in determining core hour remuneration. In addition, there is a zone-based per-trip allowance and overnight subsistence (subsistence is 325 per night as well as an extra 195 for early morning travel). All examiners are required to travel whether for core working hours or top-up work. Travel includes by train and by air and examiners cannot opt out of travel, or out of a particular mode of travel. 

Travel by train is first class. Travel by air is economy class. Trains are the first option wherever the train journey lasts less than 4 hours and scheduling allows for this. The deployment teams will make every effort to evenly distribute travel assignments.

I hope the information provided has been useful. 

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to: 

Information Governance Advisor (Disclosures)

Information Governance and Risk Management 

British Council

Bridgewater House

58 Whitworth Street

Manchester

M1 6BB 

Email: IGDisclosures@britishcouncil.org 

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner for a decision at: 

The Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

Phone: 0303 123 1113 

Website: www.ico.org.uk

Yours sincerely

Information Governance Advisor (Disclosures) | Information Governance and Risk Management Team

IGDisclosures@britishcouncil.org 

https://www.britishcouncil.org/organisation/transparency/freedom-informa...