Our advice on the most common questions reaching our Member Support team in Term 3, 2023
Q. I frequently have my personal clothing soiled and damaged at work. What can I do about this?
A. The recently negotiated 12-month rollover of the Disability Multi Enterprise Agreement provides for repair/replacement of clothing that has been soiled or damaged at work. The employer must reimburse the employee’s reasonable repair/replacement costs. You are required to inform your employer of the details of the soiling or damage and, if requested, provide any evidence, so take photos and keep receipts. You must also comply with any reasonable request by the employer that you wear personal protective equipment and to not negligently cause the soiling or damage yourself.
Q. I was injured on the job at my school. My WorkCover claim was accepted, and I have been off work for just over a year. I’ve noticed that my pay has dropped. Why has this happened?
A. Payments under the WorkCover scheme are based on an injured worker’s pre-injury average weekly earnings (PIAWE), which is an average of the worker’s weekly earnings in the 12 months prior to their injury. The insurer is only required to pay a percentage of the PIAWE: 95% for the first 13 weeks and 80% thereafter.
However, employees covered by the VGSA 2022 are entitled to a top-up payment known as ‘accident compensation leave’. Accident compensation leave entitles the worker to receive their normal rate of pay for 52 weeks of incapacity. After this 52-week period has ended, the worker receives the 80% of the PIAWE provided by the insurer.
Q. We have a health and safety officer appointed by the principal, but we do not have a staff-elected health and safety representative. I am interested in this role, but how do I get elected and what does the role involve?
A. Under the OHS Act 2004, all workplaces must have a staff-elected health and safety representative, and the principal is required to organise an election. There may also be an elected deputy to work with the HSR and fill in when they are absent. The representatives do not have to be AEU members, but it is preferable.
HSRs act as advocates for their colleagues. You are not required to remove or fix hazards. You cannot be held liable for incidents and accidents. HSRs must be consulted on health and safety concerns and assessments at work and may attend OHS committee meetings.
Approved training for beginning HSRs is an entitlement under the OHS Act. HSRs and deputies should attend an approved five-day training course of their choice. You should inform your principal/manager of the course you wish to attend at least 14 days before the course starts. HSRs and their deputies are also entitled to attend one-day refresher courses each year.
Call the AEU if you have trouble accessing training or need any further support with OHS matters at your workplace.
Q. As an ES, I am unsure how time in lieu works if I am required during a term break. Do the rules regarding the Leave Purchase Allowance still apply?
A. If an education support (ES) member is requested to attend during a term break, this request needs to be made no later than four weeks into the preceding term. The time in lieu (TIL) provisions do not change the Leave Purchase Allowance requirements regarding notice and TIL. An ES working in the school vacation period is still entitled to the Leave Purchase Allowance; and an employee at education support class level 1, salary ranges 1 and 2, cannot be required to work in isolated circumstances or to attend unless a responsible manager is present. It is important to know that, even if the notice is provided, a person might still have reasonable grounds to not be able to work in that period – e.g. caring responsibilities.
Q. I am an education support officer, and I am not sure how sick leave affects my pay over term breaks. How is it different to teachers’ leave?
A. Education support staff accrue Annual and Additional Leave to use over school term breaks. The rules regarding sick leave are the same as those for teachers with respect to providing a medical certificate (if the leave required is adjacent to a term break or public holiday) but different regarding accessing sick leave during a term break.
Q. I am a school teacher who is currently pregnant. I attended a pre-natal appointment recently and my school’s business manager says this time must be deducted from my personal leave balance. Is this correct?
A. No. Under the Victorian Government Schools Agreement (VGSA) 2022, a pregnant teacher who works full time is entitled to 38 hours paid leave to attend routine appointments associated with their pregnancy. This entitlement applies on a pro-rata basis for part-time teachers.
Under the VGSA 2017, a teacher’s attendance at pre-natal appointments was deducted from their personal leave balance. However, the AEU won several improvements related to pregnancy and maternity leave in the VGSA 2022. Among them, the leave needed for a teacher to attend pre-natal appointments is now provided as an additional leave balance.
An education support class employee who becomes ill or is injured during annual leave or additional paid leave may be granted personal leave (illness or injury) for the period covered by a required document and have the equivalent period restored to their annual leave credits. It is important to know that this rule is only specific to sick leave and not carer’s leave.
The benefit in having leave recharacterised as sick leave is that you can save the other leave for another occasion or be paid out when your employment ends, whereas unused personal leave is not paid out on cessation of employment.
TAFE and adult provision
Q. I work casually with a disability service provider, and I miss out on the regular professional development that permanent part-time and full-time employees receive. I have asked my employer if I can participate but they always say no. How can I access this valuable PD?
A. The current 12-month Disability Multi Enterprise Agreement now states that employers must provide casual employees with equal access to PD and training. The AEU fought for this new entitlement to ensure casual workers are not disadvantaged. This also applies to any compulsory training.
Q. I am a three-year trained early childhood teacher (ECT) working at a sessional kinder under the VECTEA. I am currently classified at level 2.5. Can I move up to the next level (3.1)?
A. Under the VECTEA, in order for a teacher to move from classification 2.5 to 3.1, they need to be four-year trained (at a minimum) and have completed the Capability Assessment. Given your specific circumstances, your employer would not be obliged to classify you any higher than level 2.5. However, if you were to enrol in a suitable university course, you may be able to upgrade your current qualifications and then access the higher classifications.
Q. I am an early childhood teacher and have recently been supervising a pre-service teacher. Should I be paid extra for this role?
A. The obligation of an employer to pay an ECT for supervising a pre-service teacher depends on the EBA or Award that applies at that service. The VECTEA requires that employers pass on, in full, any monies that the university pays them to the supervising teacher. Unfortunately, ECTs in private long day care centres do not have the same entitlement, though they can request that an extra payment is provided.
Members who are concerned about pre-service teacher supervision payments can contact the MSC to discuss their specific circumstances.