For everyone Q&A: your Term 2 questions answered
Q. I am employed 0.8 and have recently had to have four days off due to COVID, which I contracted at work. Should I lodge for WorkCover?
A. Firstly, access personal leave as soon as possible. If you have more than three days off in a row (or pro rata equivalent for part-time), you need to provide a required certificate or document. You may be able to access up to three months infectious diseases leave, without any deduction from personal leave. Your doctor will need to certify that you contracted COVID at work and you need to upload this evidence on Edupay. We advise you to lodge for WorkCover regardless of whether you are on personal leave or infectious diseases leave. Go to your GP to discuss this, and we can assist with lodging your application. In the meantime, you will need to use your own personal leave or infectious diseases leave. If the claim is approved, you may get your personal leave and any medical expenses reimbursed/paid. The insurance agent may take up to 28 days to make a decision on your claim. Even if you get infectious diseases leave approved, lodge for WorkCover in case you have or get long COVID.
Q. I am unwell today and have not been able to secure an appointment with my doctor. I have exhausted access to all my personal leave days without a certificate. I do not want to be docked pay for my absence – do I have any options available to prevent not being paid?
A. You absolutely do. It is not always possible to secure a consultation with your doctor. Hence, you have the option of organising a telehealth conference with your doctor’s clinic or an alternative service online. This will ensure you can access the required document (medical certificate) to certify your absence for the day. Furthermore, if this is not an option, you could obtain the required documentation from your local pharmacist in the form of a statutory declaration stating the reason for your absence. Please note, however, that even though a statutory declaration may satisfy the need for a required document (for sick leave purposes), it could be questioned by the school. The judgement as to whether it was practicable to provide a medical certificate is a decision made by the principal on a case-by-case basis.
Q. I work as a CRT employed directly by a school council. I thought the rates for CRTs employed by school councils were going to increase this year, but my payslip has the same daily rate as last year.
A. Wages for CRTs who are employed by school councils are set out in Ministerial Order 1039. This Ministerial Order was updated in early 2022, but there was an error in the CRT rates. The AEU identified the issue and raised it with the Department of Education and Training. The problem has now been fixed and the rates have increased. If you worked as a CRT this year, employed by a school council, and were paid less than $397.15 for a full day’s work, you should contact the relevant school as you may be entitled to backpay.
Q. I am employed by a CRT agency to work in schools. Do I get additional pay if I work for five consecutive days?
A. CRTs who are employed by agencies are typically employed under the Educational Services (Teachers) Award 2020. For teachers classified at levels 1, 2 and 3 under this award, there is no additional pay for working for five or more consecutive days. Teachers classified at levels 4 and 5 are entitled to a higher rate of pay where they work for five or more consecutive days. Progression from level 1 to 4 is based on years of teaching experience. Progression to level 5 requires a teacher to demonstrate they meet the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers at the level of Highly Accomplished/Lead Teacher.
Q. As a teacher, should my salary progress in Term 2 this year?
A. Consistent with the VGSA 2017, the salary progression cycle is common to all employees commencing on 1 May each year and concluding on 30 April in the following year. This will occur provided you have at least six months of eligible service at your current salary subdivision within the current performance cycle. Should you see no change in your classification status, I encourage you to touch base with the AEU to discuss your specific circumstances.
Q. I have been on Workcover for more than 12 months and on a gradual return to work plan. I am not back to my pre-injury hours and my employer says they are not obliged to participate in a return to work plan any longer. Does that mean I lose my job?
A. No, you do not lose your job, because even though the employer obligation period under Workcover is an aggregate period of 52 weeks, this does not discharge employers from their obligations under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) to make “reasonable adjustments” for employees with a disability/injury. These are separate to those obligations arising under Workcover and, importantly, is not limited to the 52-week period. The department provides the framework for schools to maintain their obligations under the EO Act and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) in the Workplace Adjustment Guidelines.
TAFE & ADULT PROVISION
Q. This semester I am being rostered on to work two shifts in a day — one in the morning, one in the evening. This is extremely difficult to manage alongside my caring responsibilities. Do I have any recourse?
A. Although caring responsibilities are generally sufficient grounds for reasonable refusal, it is not necessary to cite any reason when it comes to split shifts. The TAFE Teachers Agreement expressly deals with this in Clause 27.7, which dictates that an employer “will not roster an employee in broken shifts” or create a roster that results in the employee having “less than 10 hours break between shifts”.
Q. Staff shortages at my TAFE means some teachers are being asked to teach excessive hours and not being given proper planning and preparation time. Can management get away with this?
A. The AEU is aware that many TAFE teachers are experiencing dramatic increases in workload, well above their contracted hours, with some expected to agree to excessive Excess Teaching Duty Hours, and not always being paid correctly for the additional hours worked. We are also hearing reports of teachers not being allocated the required half-hour for planning and preparation for every hour of teaching. The union has successfully addressed this situation for several members, so any members in this situation should reach out to their AEU rep or contact the Member Support Centre for advice.
Q. I have just been informed of allegations that I manhandled a student. I have not done anything wrong, but my employer says they must contact DET and that I need to go through an external investigation. I am scared and stressed and need support.
A. This is a very stressful time, and we recommend reaching out to EAP and/or your GP as a first step to get support. There is requirement for your centre to report this matter, and so it will trigger a series of investigations. We can support you through the process, provide feedback on any draft responses to the allegations, and ensure that you are supported at any meetings. While parents have the right to make a complaint, that doesn’t mean it is true. We will support you to make a case against any unsubstantiated allegations.
Q. Today, a child fell off the play equipment and broke their arm while I was supervising. I followed the processes of recording the incident and called the parent immediately, but I’m still concerned they will make a complaint. I feel stressed and unsure how to respond.
A. If you have followed the correct processes, then be confident that you did everything correctly. There should be a review of this incident, and I would recommend speaking to your manager about this situation and being open about your concerns. If the parent does decide to lodge a complaint, please reach out to the AEU. We can support you throughout the process. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for children to get hurt in the playground. If you need support for your welfare or some time off work, then speak to your GP and log this on your OHS systems to document the impact this event has had on you.