Schools Education support: Dear James… and 2022 return date

Recent actions towards achieving a better Schools Agreement have been powerful for education support members. In total, we received around 1,016 ‘Dear James’ letters from some 384 schools, each of them conveying a commanding message that cannot be ignored. 

The union’s VGSA log of claims includes the strongest demands yet from ES members, and they have backed up those demands with outstanding participation in our campaigns calling for an Agreement that offers salaries and conditions that respect their work. The letters got James Merlino’s attention and resulted in a meeting with the minister.

Four ES AEU councillors put their concerns to him directly. Each spoke passionately and skilfully about the reality of their work and made it clear that it was the minister’s responsibility to ensure this is properly recognised and paid accordingly. 

The minister asked a number of questions, which demonstrated that he was listening carefully and understood the value of the work ES staff do in our schools. This meeting left us hopeful!

ES Return date for 2022 

Annual leave for ES can be complicated, so it is important to be as well-informed as possible. A full-time ES employee who works a full year will accrue 50 days, or 10 weeks of annual leave. ES who work part time, or less than a full year, do not accrue the full entitlement of annual leave.

Most years, the 50 days provided covers most of the school holidays. Due to varying term dates and public holidays, some years ES return to school before teachers. This happened in 2021 when ES returned two days early and will happen again when ES return on Monday, 24 January 2022 – three working days before teachers.

Most schools treat ES the same as teachers, having all staff return on the same day. Other schools have systems in place for ES to offset TIL, while others require ES to return early.

What does your school do? It’s important to know this in advance, because in 2021 some ES had a very rude shock when they were unpaid for two days without warning. To make sure you’re not out of pocket, check your school’s requirements.

All the basic facts on ES annual leave were discussed in detail in webinars during Term 2 as part of our ESP Day Spotlight Campaign. If you missed it, you can find out more on the ESP Day page under ‘The facts about ES annual leave’. Go to: aeuvic.asn.au/ESP_day.  

Required to attend for duty during leave

The VGSA no longer refers to ‘recall days’. It talks about how ES can be “required to attend for duty” for six days during their annual leave. Through consultation, the school can identify work that is required to be done by ES during the school holiday period.  

If required to attend, ES cannot refuse. ES are paid the leave purchase allowance (LPA) for the days worked during annual leave. Alternatively, schools may offer TIL. 

The LPA is not paid on days that ES return before teachers when their annual leave is exhausted. For example, in the 2022 school year, ES leave is exhausted on 23 January, which means returning on 24 January.

The basic rules must be followed when requiring ES to attend during their annual leave. These are found in clause 24(5)(a) of the Victorian Government Schools Agreement.

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