For everyone Q&A: your Term 2 questions answered

Our best advice on your most common – and uncommon – concerns.


Q. I’m a new teacher and I’m feeling overwhelmed and highly stressed at work. Is this just the life of a school teacher?

A. It can be very challenging being a new teacher. However, it is important to look after yourself and know where to go for support. From an OHS perspective, if you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed at work, first consider the causes. Have there been any incidents or hazards making you feel this way? If so, report these incidents on eduSafe Plus. It is also important to find out who your Health and Safety Representative (HSR) is at the school and speak to them about the issues affecting your mental health. Your HSR can facilitate communication and consultation and provide a crucial link between the principal and the staff members at your school.

The AEU has secured some important provisions for graduate teachers, including a 5% reduction in workload and a mentor in the first year for all graduates working full-time. Make sure that you have regular, scheduled time with your mentor. If this isn’t happening, let your sub-branch reps know. This AEU News article offers further advice:

Q. Five of my ES staff are rostered on for a single lunchtime each to look after the first aid room and administer first aid. Are they all entitled to the first aid allowance?

A. Yes. They are each eligible for the full allowance. An education support class employee who holds an appropriate first aid qualification and agrees to perform first aid in addition to their normal duties should be paid a first aid allowance. This allowance is payable where first aid duties comprise less than 60% of an employee’s normal duties.

Q. A teacher from another school was the successful applicant for a position at my school, due to start next week. His principal says he will not release him until he finds a replacement and, if he can’t find one, won’t release him before next year. Can he do that?

A. Yes, the principal can prevent the staff member from leaving until the commencement of the following year. The Recruitment in Schools policy states: “An ongoing employee who is permanently transferred will take up the position from the beginning of the next school year or earlier if an agreed start date is negotiated with the employee and their current principal.” This is different if the position is a promotion position, or the employee has priority status or is filling a family leave position.

Q.  I’m teaching high jump for the first time. What should I know about safety requirements?

A. When teaching high jump, you need to be qualified or experienced in teaching high jump instruction. From an OHS perspective, it is very important that you use the correct equipment. You may only use foam or round fibreglass bars, not triangular aluminium bars. You must use block crash mats for the students to land on.

The thickness of the mat will depend on the weight of the jumper, the height being jumped, and the surface. You should surround your crash mat with other gym mats for extra protection. For more information about teaching sports safely, visit the Department of Education’s Physical and Sport Education – Safety policy.

Q. I am a part-time teacher working three days a week. I have arrived at school this year to find that my timetable has changed, and I am required to be onsite four days a week. Can my school enforce this change?

A. The agreement is very clear that a teacher who works a part-time fraction between 0.4 and 0.6 cannot be required to work more than three days a week. The MSC can support you to raise this matter directly with your principal, or you can speak to your AEU rep on the consultative committee to raise this on your behalf at the next consultative meeting.

Q. I am an ES working in student support. I have been told I am no longer working with the student I was previously assigned to, and I am now required to work with a student with much higher needs, including severe behavioural issues I don’t feel equipped to deal with. I am very nervous about this change. Is there anything I can do?

A. Speak to your principal about your concerns regarding the lack of preparedness you feel in working with this student. Whilst you cannot refuse to work with any student, you are required to have a safe workplace. The VGSA requires that ES be provided with training before having to support students with challenging behaviours. So, if you do not have previous experience with this, it would be appropriate to request PD as a first step.

It is also important to ensure that OHS is put forward as a concern – use eduSafe to log any hazards and incidents to ensure your employer is making your workplace as safe as possible. Also, ensure that the student’s planning is made very clear, and that you are involved in these discussions to best support you and the student in line with expectations of the school and the parents/carers, and that all parties are working together as much as possible.

Early Childhood

Q. I am an educator employed in a sessional kindergarten. I recently injured myself at work and I am unable to return to work for now, so I’ve lodged a WorkCover claim. Will I receive my normal salary while on WorkCover?

A. If the WorkCover claim is accepted, you’re entitled to receive payments from your employer’s insurer. The payments from the insurer are based on your pre-injury average weekly earnings (PIAWE) – which is your earnings in the 12 months prior to your injury, converted to an average weekly figure. The insurer is required to pay 95% of the PIAWE for the first 13 weeks of incapacity, and 80% of the PIAWE from week 14 onwards. If you are covered by an enterprise agreement, your employer may be required to cover the difference between the amount paid by the insurer and the amount you would have earned if you’d been able to keep working. This is generally known as ‘make-up pay’ or ‘accident pay’. Employers covered by VECTEA are required to provide this ‘accident pay’ for the first 39 weeks of incapacity (except the first five days). Different agreements will contain different accident pay provisions, and some may not provide accident pay at all.

Q. I am an early childhood teacher at a kinder covered by the VECTEA. I’ve recently had to take time off after contracting chicken pox at work. Does this come out of my sick leave?

A. Employees covered by VECTEA are entitled to additional paid leave, without deduction from their personal leave (sick leave) balance when they contract certain infectious diseases during the course of their employment. This is known as ‘infectious diseases leave’. If you’re unfit for work because you’ve contracted chicken pox from one of the children you teach, you’re entitled to five consecutive days of additional paid leave. A medical certificate is required to access this leave. If you’re still unfit for work after five days, you’ll need to use personal leave to cover the rest of your absence. Other infectious diseases to which this leave applies are German Measles, Influenza, Measles, Mumps, Scarlet Fever, Whooping Cough, Rheumatic Fever, and Hepatitis (with more than five days leave available for some diseases).

TAFE and Adult provision

Q. I am employed under an enterprise agreement with a disability service that is now more than 10 years old, and my employer says we are switching to the SCHADS Award. Can they do that?

A. If your employer notifies you that your employment and contract conditions are about to change because they don’t wish to use your existing enterprise agreement anymore, we encourage you to contact us. While the AEU is working hard to bring all of our members in disability services under a multi-enterprise agreement (MEA), some are still employed under ‘zombie agreements’ – agreements put in place before 1 January 2010 that are still in operation, despite having passed their nominal expiry date. Although out of date, many of the clauses in these agreements are significantly better than those in the modern award (SCHADS).

We are urging all services where zombie agreements are in place to join the disability MEA or to negotiate a new enterprise agreement with us. The AEU will advocate for its members when employers push to replace agreements with Award conditions, so we encourage members in this situation to contact us for advice and support.

Q. I have been asked to undertake excess teaching duty hours. What should my rate of pay be for these hours? Is it 50% or 150% of my normal hourly rate?

A. The Victorian TAFE Teaching Agreement wording can be a little confusing on ETDH rates of pay. Clause 33.5 provides that: “Where the excess teaching duty occurs within the 38 hours of duty within the span of ordinary hours, at an amount of the rate of 50% of the ordinary hourly rate.” This means that you should be paid your normal hourly rate plus 50%. In effect, you should be paid 150% for every ETDH hour worked. You should also be allocated half an hour of prep and correction for every ETDH hour worked.


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