Remote Area Incentive Scheme (RAIS) update
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 125 No 5, 10 July 2020, page no.25
The Remote Area Incentive Scheme Advisory Committee continues to meet regularly to identify ways of improving the scheme in line with the commitments in the 2019 certified agreement.
The committee is reviewing the recommendations of the Remote Incentives Trial Findings Report (2019) on attracting and retaining teachers in remote areas and the incentives accessible under this scheme. It has been charged with making proposals to the Certified Agreement Implementation Committee by the end of 2020.
This is a summary of the report’s key recommendations. These are considered points of reference and are not commitments to action.
- Simplified model continuing to include monetary payments A reviewed model should be transparent, equitable and sustainable. The review identified that there is confusion about the components, particularly the monetary components. The advisory committee is charged with considering a simplified model. There also needs to be improved system processes that increase awareness and understanding of RAIS benefits.
- Increased transparency of the reviewed model (including tax implications) and access to a digital dashboard to view individual entitlements Trial participants valued having a dedicated remote incentives team providing accurate advice. System processes will need to consider how to best communicate tax implications of RAIS benefits and payments, as this is an area of frustration and confusion. Trial participants did suggest that the digital dashboard could be difficult to navigate. There is the potential for the system to explore the use of MyHR or OneSchool rather than a stand-alone platform.
- Continue to offer payment frequency flexibility Trial participants liked the option of choosing the frequency of financial incentives, which was generally offered at the beginning of this year. 1,200 teachers responded to the RAIS team, with more than 30 per cent choosing to change the frequency of payments. Consideration will have to be given to the impact for payroll teams.
- Continue to offer professional learning opportunities to teachers – Master of Education Under the trial, this opportunity was limited to Alcohol Management Plan (AMP) locations. The feedback was that this was a real benefit. A continuation would be confined to studies in education.
- Adequate flight remuneration Ensures that teachers are adequately remunerated for the costs of flying out of the most remote locations.
- Entitlement to cover increased cost of living When teachers move to work in rural and remote locations, the financial impact of additional living expenses have to be mitigated. One suggestion was that CPI increases are built in so that the payments do not remain static.
- Assess the reliability of the transfer rating model, ensuring fair distribution of RAIS entitlements in the future The trial highlighted that, under the transfer rating model, significant infrastructure development or service loss in some locations may not have been taken into account.
- Targeted, responsive, location specific incentives should be offered to teachers working in rural or remote areas.
The committee has settled on three design principles: Fair, Enduring and Responsive. Earlier iterations of RAIS were intended to be fair in allocating benefits to communities. Over the years, additional benefits or payments (such as the special incentive payment) have been added as contexts have changed, emphasising the need to be responsive. The principle of Enduring is particularly worth noting. It may be that teachers receive a payment for the duration of their time in a rural or remote community. Presently, only 15-20 per cent of teachers in TR 5-7 locations qualify for an incentive payment.
One key matter that QTU reps have repeatedly requested data on is RAIS leave. QTU members in the remotest locations have made it clear that they can’t appropriately access RAIS leave, as they can’t be replaced. Members report they either don’t ask or the leave request is not approved. This is a matter that needs to be considered in terms of access. The intention of the leave is to enable teachers working in rural and remote Queensland to attend to medical or personal business that cannot be conducted in the remote centre. The more isolated the community, the more unlikely it is that the teacher can access the leave.
The QTU is represented on the committee by Charleville School of Distance Education principal and Honorary Vice-President Jenny Swadling, Tagai State College Union Rep and Torres Strait Branch Area Council delegate Selena Halpin and Assistant Secretaries Kevina O’Neill and Thalia Edmonds.