The Department of Education has said that teachers participating in NUT/NASUWT work-to-rule action could be in breach of their contracts.
The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has written to schools to advise headteachers that they could dock the pay of NUT and NASUWT members of the taking part in action short of a strike, following advice from Government lawyers.
Mr Gove said work-to-rule action which has been taking place since October over a range of issues including pay, pensions, job losses and workload, was threatening the quality of pupils' education.
In his letter, he said: "I respect the right of teachers to take industrial action, but this action short of a strike lacks a clear purpose or even a set of coherent aims.
"The legal position is clear: teachers who are following this industrial action are very likely to be in breach of their contracts. Pay deductions represent a lawful response, and the advice sets out how deductions can be made in a proportionate and reasonable way".