OUR BEST ADVICE ON YOUR MOST COMMON – AND UNCOMMON – CONCERNS FOR TERM 3, 2020
Q. I am experiencing conflict with a colleague who started working here a few months ago. I feel like everything I do is being criticised and they are trying to make me look bad. It feels like bullying. What can I do?
A. There are a number of ways to respond to this situation. From our experience, it is usually best to first look after yourself and try to mend some of the damage that this stress may be causing. Being exposed to constant conflict is physically and emotionally draining and using the EAP and/or the support of a trusted friend or family member can make all the difference.
If you find you cannot improve the situation yourself, there are two options. First would be to make an informal complaint to your principal, seeking to discuss ways of supporting you to find a resolution. If the problem persists, you can then lodge a formal complaint to your principal in writing, documenting specific allegations, which will require a written response from your colleague for your principal to investigate.
The principal should then present solutions, which may include more clarity on job roles, mediation or a formal warning. Most importantly, take care of yourself and seek support from health practitioners and from the AEU.
Q. It looks like the AFL Grand Final will be held in late October, rather than September. If the Grand Final Friday public holiday is moved and doesn’t fall within the school holidays, will ES staff working in schools need to use additional annual leave?
A. The Victorian government has advised that, as the date is based on the AFL fixture, the timing of the Grand Final Friday public holiday may be altered for 2020. We expect that further information will be released once the fixture is finalised. If the public holiday no longer falls within a vacation period, full-time ES staff will need to use 10 days rather than 9 days of annual leave in this period. Part-time ES staff may or may not be affected, depending on their usual days of attendance.
Q. As a disability worker, do I have to register for Victoria’s new Disability Workers Registration Scheme?
A. No. Registration is voluntary under the legislation that established the scheme, which will come into effect on 1 July 2021 (delayed from its planned introduction date of 1 July 2020 due to COVID-19).
Registration is a two-year process. The granting of a licence, and the applicant’s right to call themselves a ‘registered disability worker’, will depend on the Disability Worker Registration Board of Victoria’s assessment of whether the applicant is qualified, with reference either to qualifications and training or work experience, as well as professional competence. This will require disability workers to meet registration standards set by the board, e.g. criminal history checks.
Though registration is voluntary, in due course it may come to be considered essential. The primary purpose of the scheme is to provide disabled people and their families with more information to determine who provides their care and support. If the scheme has a significant uptake, it may become difficult for a non-registered worker to obtain work.
Q. I’m an ES employee in a school. My principal has just told me that I must attend for duty during the vacation period. Is this reasonable?
A. ES staff can be required to attend during a school holiday period, but notice must be given no later than four weeks into the preceding term, and attendance can be required for no more than six days per year and during no more than two holiday periods per year. Attendance during term breaks must also occur at the beginning or end of the break.
Q. The face-to-face professional learning activities I had planned to undertake this year have not taken place because of COVID-19. Am I still required to demonstrate completion of 20 hours of PD when I renew my registration in 2020?
A. Yes, it is expected that teachers will be able to undertake online activities that will meet the requirement of 20 hours of professional development. Eligible activities include online learning and professional reading. If you have undertaken any activities that have assisted you in delivering remote learning, this can be counted towards your 20 hours of PD. Keep in mind that any professional learning undertaken from 1 October 2019 until 30 September 2020 will count towards your 20 hours.
Q. During remote learning, a student has attempted to contact me with school-related questions through Facebook and Instagram. Is it OK for me to respond?
A. If your principal or employer has not approved your communication with students via social media platforms, we advise that you don’t respond. It is important to use only those communication channels approved by the school. You may choose to talk to your principal about the attempted contact and discuss how you can assist the student with their learning in a way that maintains your professionalism as a teacher and adheres to the Victorian Teaching Profession’s Code of Conduct.
Q. My principal has told me they will offer me another contract next year and not to worry about applying for other jobs. I have been teaching for two years, but this is my first at this school. He keeps telling me that he will sort it out in Term 4, but I’m getting nervous.
A. Unfortunately, we do hear this from many members. Until a job is offered in writing, there is no guarantee of employment into the following year. If you have been on a contract and this position is going to continue next year, you should speak with your AEU rep on the consultative committee to determine if this will be another fixed term or an ongoing role.
Advertising of all roles must be discussed at consultative committee and your rep is best placed to help inform your decision-making. There are any number of legitimate factors that can change a school’s ability to advertise or offer further employment, so our advice is always to look after yourself and apply for any positions to ensure your employment next year.
Q. I’m about to go on leave for all of Term 4 and my principal wants me to write my reports. Can they ask me to do this in the last week of Term 3?
A. The short answer is yes, you can be asked to write your reports for all progress to the date of your leave commencing. Although you can’t be asked to write reports for content you haven’t taught or assessed, your principal can reasonably expect you to contribute to the reports for all work you have taught.
However, as with all requests for work from your principal, you should be given appropriate time to complete this task.
The DET Management of Teacher Work guide references the 30+8 model, confirming that time should be given for teachers to complete all their work within the 38-hour week. We would encourage you to consult with the school, using the chart in the ‘work guide’ to assess how your work is being arranged. Estimate how much time reports will take and whether it can fit into your hours of work. If not, consider requesting to be released during your third organisation hour or using time set aside for staff meetings, rather than having it spill over into non-work hours.
Q. As an eligible fixed term employee (continuously employed for more than 12 months), what’s the best time to request conversion to ongoing?
A. It is a requirement for all fixed term contracts to detail why the position is fixed term, e.g. replacing a temporary absence or tied to specific funding. In the case of the former, if you know the person you are replacing has resigned or taken up another position with the employer, do not hesitate in making the request. If you don’t know who it is you are replacing, you can rightfully request that information. If your contract does not detail any reason for fixed term employment, then you should promptly request conversion to ongoing, as it is the default mode of employment.