For everyone Q&A: your Term 1 questions answered

Our advice on the most common questions reaching our Member Support team in Term 1, 2024


Disability

Q. What rights do AEU members in disability services have to improved safety and health in their workplaces?

A. By the time you read this, the Victorian Disability Services (NGO) Agreement 2023 should be approved and in operation. For members covered by this agreement (which covers the 24 disability support organisations throughout Victoria who recently voted to accept it), there is a new clause that strengthens your rights to a safe workplace. Clause 8 covers the processes for consultation about change, but it now also contains words that place an obligation on the employer to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to an employee’s health and safety. The employers also commit to induction processes that ensure employees have all the relevant safety information that allows them to remain safe at work. This will include disclosing to employees any program participants prone to violent behaviours. Other agreements and awards covering AEU members in disability services do not have an equivalent set of words. Employers have obligations under health and safety and workers’ compensation legislation to maintain safe workplaces, but setting out that obligation in agreements between unions and employers significantly strengthens protections. The new clause for workers covered by the Victorian Disability Services (NGO) Agreement 2023 means the AEU and its members now have an avenue, through the Fair Work Commission, to have any disputes about health and safety heard and resolved.


Schools

Q. What are the changes to face-to-face teaching hours in 2024, and how do I check if mine are within the VGSA 2022?

A. The 30+8 model is how your workload is calculated: 30 hours for work directly related to teaching requirements, which includes face-to-face teaching, and planning time. The remaining 8 hours are for lunch, yard duty, 2 hours of meeting time adjacent to the school day, and other activities (pro-rata for part-time teachers). The face-to-face maximum reduces to 18.5 hours per week in 2024 for full-time secondary teachers and it includes extras. So, for example: 30 hours minus 18.5 hours in the classroom equals 11.5 hours of planning time to be directed by the teacher, and you cannot be directed by the principal to do other activities in this time. This is a significant change, providing teachers with protected planning time. If you are not allocated the maximum face-to-face teaching hours per week then the 30+8 model needs to be adjusted using the formula in the VGSA 2022. 

Q. Do we get a professional practise day in 2024 and, if so, when should it be?

A. Yes, you get one professional practice day in 2024 and beyond, pro-rata for part-time teachers. By agreement, it can also be taken across two half days. The PPD is in addition to existing planning time provided in the 30+8 model. It is also in addition to existing pupil-free days and/or curriculum days. Individual teachers can nominate the timing and the focus on a separate day in consultation and agreement with the principal. If there is no agreement, then the focus is determined by the teacher and the timing is determined by the principal. The teacher can request to reschedule the PPD by agreement with the principal. There is the option to have a single PPD on a common day for all teachers. 

Q. What is the length of the probation period for an education support employee working in a primary or secondary school?

A. Education support (ES) employees employed casually or on fixed-term contracts do not have a probation period. ES employees employed on an ongoing basis typically have a probation period from the commencement of their ongoing position, the length of which is determined by their service history. An ES employee who has at least 12 months of service within the previous 24 months (including periods of both fixed-term and ongoing employment) upon commencing in an ongoing position will have a probation period of up to 3 months. An ES employee who does not have at least 12 months of service within the previous 24 months upon commencing in an ongoing position, will have a probation period of up to 6 months. Principals also have discretion to waive the probation period for ES employees, although this discretion is rarely exercised.

Q. I am a school principal with four staff currently eligible to be translated to ongoing. Two are on contracts that terminate at the end of this year, and two are on contracts that can be rolled over. Do I translate one employee of my choice, or should I advertise one ongoing position for the following year?

A. Firstly, you need to double check who is eligible to be translated. To be eligible, they must have been on a fixed-term contract for longer than 12 months. You should advertise internally if you have eligible staff, and each must be notified. This can be done at any time if you have a suitable ongoing position available. Internal processes still need to follow merit and equity principles. The successful candidate would then be offered an ongoing position. Remember to speak to the consultative committee first, as it is a change in staffing.

Q. As an ES employee attending camp, is it correct that I should accrue TIL at 150% when “on duty” between 6pm and 11pm and then at the 50% “on call” rate between 11pm and 7am?

A. Under the VGSA 2022 Clause 24(9)(c)(iv), time in lieu accrued outside of the hours of 7am and 6pm (the span of normal hours) for an ES member must be paid at a rate of 150%. If you are “on duty” between 6pm and 11pm, you should receive 150% of your normal rate, i.e. for 5 hours. But if you are “on call”, you should receive 50% of 150% (or 5 hours at 75% of your normal rate). Similarly, if an ES staff member is “on call” between 11pm and 7am, they should receive 50% of 150% of their normal rate (or 4 hrs at 150% of their normal rate). 

Q. Due to staffing shortages, I have been asked to work extra teaching hours, which result in me being required onsite for more than 8 hours a day and more than 38 hours a week. If I agree to do it, what rate of pay should I receive? 

A. There can be misunderstandings about Overtime and Excess Teaching Duty rates of pay. If you are teaching additional classes in the place of other organisational work – but which do not require being on site for more than 8 hours a day or 38 hours a week – it is an additional 50% per hour for the excess teaching. However, if you are teaching extra classes that are requiring you to be on site for more than 8 hours a day, or more than 38 hours a week, the rate of pay is 150% for the first two hours and 200% for each hour thereafter.


TAFE and adult provision

Q. I have been working at my TAFE institute for several years now and been offered yet another fixed-term contract next year. What can I do to be made ongoing?

A. There are limited reasons for legitimately employing a TAFE teacher on a fixed-term contract: to replace another employee who is on leave or temporarily absent from the position; because the program you are teaching is tied to specific funding; or that your course does not have sufficient enrolments and might not run in the following year (sometimes referred to as a potential excess situation). That said, these reasons can cease to be valid if the circumstances change, e.g. the person you are replacing on leave resigns, or enrolments have increased or remained stable for several years. If the reason no longer exists and the institute does not proactively convert you, you should request conversion to ongoing employment in writing. A reason for fixed-term employment must be specified on the contract. It is not sufficient for a contract to use vague language such as “one of the reasons for fixed term employment”. If your contract does not specify a reason or the explanation is confusing, contact the MSC to discuss the contract.


EARly childhood

Q. I have a dual qualification to teach both early childhood and primary-aged students. If I move into the school sector, will my years of service in early childhood be recognised?

A. In the most recent Schools Agreement (VGSA 2022) negotiated by the AEU, teachers employed in the public school system now have any years of early childhood teaching recognised when reviewing teaching experience and determining classification. Every year of teaching experience (full time or equivalent) will translate to one level on the classification scale. For this to be processed, teachers must provide a statement of service to the school that details the years of early childhood teaching, the time fraction worked during those years, and whether you accessed any leave without pay during that period of employment. 

Q. What is salary packaging, and can I access it?

A. Salary packaging is an agreement that you enter with your employer which results in a reduction of your taxable income, meaning you pay less tax. Clause 20 of the VECTEA and clause 27 of the EEEA states that employees are eligible to apply for salary packaging. If working under an Award, you may be able to request for salary packaging if your negotiated salary is above the Award rate. As the Award sets the minimum wage in the industry, salary packaging would not be possible if it took your taxable income below this threshold.

If you are interested in salary packaging, ask your employer if it is currently available to staff. If so, then continue the conversation about what can be packaged and how to commence that process. If not, then see if the employer is willing to investigate salary packaging as an option. Although there is no obligation on the employer to provide this for staff, there is no cost to them, and it’s a great incentive for both current and potential staff, which is always helpful during a workforce shortage! 

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