OUR BEST ADVICE ON YOUR MOST COMMON – AND UNCOMMON – CONCERNS FOR TERM 4, 2020
Q. As a new migrant in Australia, I have been subjected to racist remarks from a student, related to COVID-19. Can I be protected from this?
A. Yes. No-one should tolerate discrimination in the workplace, whether that be department employees, students or anyone connected to the school community. Any racial discrimination forms a safety risk at work and should be addressed by the employer directly or through your representative, logged on EduSafe, with reference to the Victorian government’s equal opportunity policies, and subject to a restorative process with those involved, to allow for apology and education. Any restorative process put in place should not lead to further risks to safety. We encourage you to raise the matter with your local AEU representative and/or contact the MSC. The department has information on how to raise the matter with the central Conduct Branch and on accessing the Employee Assistance Program.
Q. I am an Aboriginal teacher at TAFE. When taking part in events such as NAIDOC Week, what kind of leave should I use?
A. Under the Victorian TAFE Teaching Staff Agreement 2018, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander TAFE teachers are entitled to one day of paid leave (pro rata for part-time) to participate in NAIDOC Week activities and events. This leave does not accrue from year to year, so if you didn’t use this leave this year you’re not entitled to take two days next year. Note: this is in addition to ceremonial leave provisions.
Q. I recently applied for a new job and the interview panel was made up entirely of men. Is that OK?
A. Selection panels for jobs in government schools are required to be comprised in such a way that gender representation is considered. A selection panel made up entirely of men does not meet DET standards. Contact MSC to discuss the different options that may be available to you.
Q. I am of Aboriginal descent and there is a community meeting on one of my normal working days. Am I able to attend the meeting?
A. As long as the meeting is not the AGM of Aboriginal Community Organisations then you should be given approval to attend the meeting during your regular hours of work. You are also entitled to three days of cultural leave per year for ceremonial purposes connected with the death of an immediate or extended family member, or for other ceremonial obligations under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law. These days are in addition to the compassionate or bereavement leave provisions.
Q. I am on family leave, returning to work next year. Before taking leave, I was the PE teacher. Will I get this role again when I return?
A. Ideally, all staff should be able to resume duties in the same role after taking leave. However, in primary, you are considered a generalist teacher, which means you are able to be placed into any teaching position in the school. This placement should always follow a consultation process with you as the teacher. While you may have a preference for a particular subject, the principal can allocate you to a generalist teaching position.
Q. If a teacher or ES is returning to school part time, what is the process for determining the time fraction and working days?
A. The teacher/ES can put a request to the principal indicating the time fraction and days of attendance they would prefer. It is helpful if they include reasons, such as available childcare, etc.
The principal should then try to accommodate this request in the workforce plan and discuss this with the consultative committee, as well as arrangements regarding attendance at parent-teacher meetings on non-work days. If there are any issues accommodating staff requests, the principal can negotiate a suitable alternative with them.
Q. We’ve all been enrolled in first aid training as a compulsory activity. Working 0.6 as an ES, do I get the first aid allowance?
A. Education support employees in schools can be enrolled in first aid training for PD, provided this training happens within regular working hours and it fits within their dimensions of work. Under the VGSA, payment of a first aid allowance depends on: 1. whether someone agrees to do first aid in addition to their normal duties and; 2. how many hours they performed first aid. A school nurse, for example, would not get a first aid allowance, as first aid would be within their job description.
If an ES employee who holds an appropriate qualification agrees to perform first aid in addition to their normal duties, they will be paid the allowance if first aid duties comprise 10% or less of their duties. Someone who works 22 hours a week and does two hours of first aid would get the allowance. If they did three hours, that would be more than 10% of their duties and they would not be paid the allowance.
Q. I’m a principal. One of my teachers is pregnant and wishes to continue working up until one week before her birth date. Is this allowed?
A. Yes. Under the VGSA, a pregnant employee is required to be absent six weeks prior to the expected date of birth. However, clause 26.17(e) states that if the employee provides a certificate from their doctor stating that they are fit to perform normal duties for this period, you must permit them to do so.
Q. I am a school teacher in an ongoing position, but I have secured a job in another industry. Can I take leave without pay?
A. Leave without pay is discretionary. Every employee is entitled to request this type of leave, which should be made in writing to your principal. Each request should be considered on its own merits, taking into account factors such as when the requested leave is to commence, its duration, operational factors such as disruption to existing programs, and ease of replacement. DET also requires all employees, even those on leave, to seek permission from their principal to engage in work outside of DET in order to minimise potential conflicts of interest. If your request has been rejected and you want to discuss options, please call the MSC.
Q. I’m a secondary school teacher currently in my second six-month contract, which finishes at the end of Term 4. Am I entitled to any pay over the summer holidays?
A. DET has specific policies relating to holiday pay for teachers who work until the end of Term 4. Your start date, and whether your two contracts were contiguous, will affect whether you are paid for all, most or some of the summer holidays. To discuss the specifics of your contracts and determine your holiday pay, please call the MSC.
Q. I have mobility issues and the school bathrooms are a long way from my classroom. What are my rights?
A. All employees should be treated fairly and not disadvantaged for reasons of disability. School leadership may not always be aware of the level of discomfort and disruption caused by ongoing health issues for some staff. We would urge you to get written support from your GP and other treating practitioners regarding necessary changes. Then seek support from local AEU reps about raising this matter and exploring options in line with the department’s ‘reasonable adjustments’ policy to find respectful ways of improving your experience at work.
Q. I am an ongoing TAFE teacher. My wife is due to give birth soon. Am I entitled to any leave?
A. You are entitled to up to 52 weeks parental leave. However, whether this is paid or unpaid, and how much of it is paid, will depend on a few factors. The Victorian TAFE Teaching Staff Agreement 2018 makes a distinction between ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ caregivers. The primary caregiver is entitled to 14 weeks paid leave and 38 weeks unpaid leave, provided he or she has been employed for at least 12 months. Secondary caregivers are entitled to two weeks paid leave and 50 weeks unpaid leave, provided he or she has been employed for at least 12 months. For teachers who have been employed for less than 12 months, and eligible casual employees, the entire 52 weeks is unpaid. This is in addition to any payments available under the Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave Scheme.
Q. I am an early childhood teacher working under the VECTEA. My centre has begun to discuss the possibility of dropping a group next year due to a decline in enrolments. Can they change my hours?
A. Your employer is required to consult all staff about any potential changes to rostered hours. This consultation must provide all staff with the relevant information and allow staff to put forward ideas to help reduce any potential impact on staffing for 2021. If it is agreed that the only viable option is to combine a group, then staff hours can be changed. Under the VECTEA, a minimum of four weeks-notice in writing is required; and if the reduction is more than 25%, then an offer of redundancy must be made. It would be your decision to accept the reduction or take the redundancy offer.