Increasingly, students and teachers rely on support staff who work within the classroom and Learning Support Services Stream of the Catholic Systemic Schools NSW/ACT Enterprise Agreement.
Support staff work has evolved to include a requirement for a formal qualification in Education Support. Yet many support staff positions are subject to temporary contracts.
The reality is that many positions are dependent on annual funding for students identified as requiring additional classroom support and the position is only guaranteed for the life of that funding. This means most positions are kept as fixed-term contracts only.
So how do you secure core permanent hours and move out of insecure work?
For those working in Catholic systemic schools across NSW and the ACT, the first step is reviewing your contracts and Clause 12.3 of your enterprise agreement (EA).
If you have been employed under an unbroken and continuous series of fixed-term contracts over a three-year period (or more), for a specific purpose program, then your employer is required to offer to convert a proportion of your temporary hours to permanent hours. These hours become your ‘core’ permanent hours.
The offer must be made to you upon the conclusion of three years of continuous eligible service. To be eligible for this conversion, your employment must relate to duties within the Classroom and Learning Support Services stream or School Administrative Services stream of the EA.
When determining how many permanent hours should be offered, your employer will need to:
- calculate the average number of weekly hours you have worked over the preceding three school years; and
- offer you the equivalent of 65 percent of the average weekly hours, rounded to the nearest hour.
These hours become your ‘core’ permanent hours.
Once you have been offered core permanent hours, any additional hours you accept to work above the core hours will be classified as temporary only and are not guaranteed year to year. If your employer, with your agreement and the union’s, puts in place arrangements that are more generous than described above, then those arrangementswill prevail.
It is important to note what is considered a ‘year of service’. Often these contracts may go over a school year. This is particularly common for support staff employed in a learning support capacity as funding may be tied to February school census dates.
In these circumstances, your contract may be from March to March. Four school terms of employment are regarded as equivalent to a year of service. This service is regarded as continuous except where there is a break in service of 10 or more term weeks.
If you are offered a conversion of your temporary hours to deemed permanent, you could elect to decline the offer. If you decline the offer, your employer will not be required to make any further offers. You might think that permanency of 65 percent of the average hours over three years may not be worth it, but it does come with added entitlements to redundancy compensation if those hours are lost.
If, after a period of 14 days, your employer has not received a response in relation to an offer made, you will be regarded as having accepted the offer.
If you accept a reduction of your core permanent hours of six hours or more per fortnight, you will be eligible for compensation for loss of hours in accordance with the redundancy provisions in the EA. This will only apply to the loss of permanent hours.
As you can see, your industrial rights are as complex as your work. To be on the safe side, always ensure your union membership is current in case any issues arise for you in the workplace. And as ever, encourage your colleagues to join the union so they too know and understand their rights and entitlements.
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