Our best advice on your most common – and uncommon – concerns for Term 4, 2021
Q. One of my duties this year has been first aid. I share this duty with two other colleagues, but I’m the only one who receives the first aid allowance. Should my colleagues be entitled to the allowance as well?
A. Your colleagues are likely eligible for the first aid allowance, and your school would need to provide the full allowance to all three staff. A first aid allowance will not be payable where first aid duties comprise 10% or more of an education support class employee’s normal duties. The first aid allowance for a full-time education support class employee (pro rata for a part-time employee) is currently set at $692.
Q. I’m an AEU rep looking to recruit the two new graduate teachers at our school. I know student membership is free, but what fees do new graduates pay?
A. Great to hear! We are currently running a promotion to welcome new graduates to the profession. If they sign up for a full membership using the code ‘GRAD2022’ before the start of Term 1 (28 January), they won’t pay any fees until Term 2, 2022, on top of the 40% discount we already offer graduate members. See terms and conditions at aeuvic.asn.au/upgrade.
Q. I am a principal, currently developing the Workforce Plan for 2022 based on the projected budget for my school. When and how does this need to be provided to staff?
A. You should be discussing the Workforce Plan and Long Term Plan with your Consultative Committee as you go. The Workforce Plan is included in the Long Term Plan and must be presented to staff, in writing, in the last week of November. Sample Long Term Plans can be found on the AEU website.
Q. I am the principal of a small regional school. The department’s regional director has recently told me that they are only renewing my contract for one year or a maximum of two years. I have no performance issues. Can they do this?
A. Technically, yes. However, they must follow the procedure as set out in the Principal Contract Renewal guidelines. These dictate that where a regional director wishes to renew a principal’s contract for a period of less than five years, or is not prepared to renew a principal’s contract, the reasons will be clearly documented. If the decision relates to performance issues, these should be clearly identified, together with the improvement sought over the new contract period. The director needs to outline what support the region will provide. Any issues should have been raised with the principal during their contract period so that they could be addressed.
Q. I am considering submitting my resignation as a school teacher in mid-November. Before I do so, I’d like to clarify whether I’ll be receiving any leave loading upon ceasing my employment?
A. To be eligible for any leave loading payments you must be employed on 30 November. The allowance is calculated on the amount of paid service (in aggregate) for the period 1 December to 30 November. Payment will automatically be paid to eligible employees in December each year. So, delaying your resignation until December will ensure you receive the leave loading allowance. In the event you cease employment and are re-employed at a school in the same year, your current and prior service in that year may be included as service for salary loading purposes.
TAFE & Adult Provision
Q. I work in a disability day centre where staff are often put in positions I feel uncomfortable with, and work with clients in isolation from other staff. I have spoken to management and my HSR about this, but it goes nowhere.
A. Work with and support your health & safety rep (HSR) to undertake further action. We have a useful training video made by our HSR organiser – you can find it here: aeuvic.asn.au/everything-you-want-know-about-pins. This will explain the process for submitting a Provisional Improvement Notice and the powers of an elected HSR in the workplace to ensure safe work practices are being upheld. I would suggest watching this and passing the information on to the rep directly or raising the issue at your next AEU meeting to take a collective approach to this situation.
Q. I’ve been accused of hitting and yelling at a client while he was involved in a program I run. He is non-verbal and does not like to be touched. I didn’t hit him but I did raise my voice. I have worked at this service for years, and with this client for some time, and I have a good relationship with him and his family. I have received the complaint in writing, and management has suggested they may need to pass this on to the department for investigation in line with the Disability Worker Exclusion Scheme. I love and need my job and I am worried.
A. It’s important to approach this situation one step at a time. The AEU will work through the process with you to ensure each step is dealt with appropriately. You will need to respond in writing to the complaint. There will probably be a meeting held following your response and you should take a support person to this. We can assist with your letter and also attend this meeting if you want. Be honest about your reasons for raising your voice and reflect on what you could have done differently. Once the local process has taken place, management has the option of transferring the case to the department for further investigation. If you are found to pose a threat to the health, safety or welfare of people with disability, then you will be placed on the Disability Worker Exclusion Scheme. You can make an appeal, with 30 days to present your case. Meanwhile, seek some support for your mental health during this time. If your employer has an EAP scheme, use it. Otherwise, talk to your GP or treating practitioner. And call on the union as much as you need to.
Q. At our TAFE, we have been provided with workplans to sign. But I’m still uncertain about my caring responsibilities next year. If I sign the workplan now, does that mean I can’t make any changes to my work days? How long do I have to sign?
A. Although annual workplans are to be finalised by 1 March, some institutes are planning ahead. A person who is a carer can make a request for a flexible work arrangement at any time of the year. That said, the more notice you can provide, the better chance you have of the employer being able to accommodate the adjustments required regarding days of attendance, time fraction changes, and late start times. Relevant legislation prohibits employers from unreasonably refusing to accommodate a request for flexible work arrangements, but employers can refuse on reasonable business grounds, e.g. if the changes would significantly impact the operation of the service. So it’s worth getting your request in as early as possible.
Q. I am a TAFE teacher rostered on to teach 6pm to 9pm but I am expected to stay until 9.30pm to answer questions from students after class. I have reviewed my workplan and cannot see where this is expressed. Should this time be added as teaching-related duties?
A. If your head of department is directing you to attend to student queries after class for a designated period of time then it is reasonable for this to be expressed as ‘pastoral care’ or ‘student counselling and consultation’ under the ‘teaching’ sub-heading of your workplan. Schedule 6 of the Victorian TAFE Teachers Agreement 2018 states that teaching “includes sessions of direct student instruction rostered or required for curricular or pastoral functions involving student supervision, student counselling and consultation”.
Q. I am an early childhood teacher working in a sessional kinder employed under the VECTEA. This year we had one organisational day without children at the start of Term 1. Will this be the same in 2022?
A. The new VECTEA that came into effect this year has an entitlement for two organisational days at the start of Term 1. The organisational day for the last day of Term 4 remains. If you don’t work on the first two days of Term 1, you will be able to access these child-free days at a time agreed between you and your employer within the first two weeks of term.
Q. I am a diploma-qualified educator employed under the VECTEA. Our enrolments are dropping for next year and the committee of management wants to drop my hours. Can they do this?
A. A drop in enrolments may allow an employer to request that employees reduce their hours in the following year. But employees should be consulted well before the change is implemented. As part of this consultation, you can provide alternative suggestions to your employer for other operational changes they may not have considered. Following the consultation process, if your employer maintains that they want to reduce your hours, and if that reduction is by more than 25% and you do not agree to it, you would be entitled to receive a redundancy payment. Feel free to call the AEU for support if needed.