330x220 covid update supply.jpg24 June 2020

Director-General responds to QTU advocacy

The QTU understands the employment and financial uncertainty that supply teachers have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that these challenges are largely unique to our supply teacher members.  Your Union appreciates the ongoing angst experienced by supply teachers.

The QTU continues to campaign at the highest levels of the department for supply teachers, in seeking compensation for loss of work for Weeks 1-5 of Term 2.  This advocacy is occurring in a complex space, but we continue to persevere.  Ultimately, we are dealing with the decisions of government and the employer.

The employer recognises the insecure nature of supply teaching by applying the 23 per cent casual leave loading to the hourly rate payable to supply teachers.  This is not new.  The following is stated in the QTU’s “Working as a supply (casual) teacher” brochure: 

“Supply teachers receive payment at Band 3 Step 1 of the classroom teacher salary scale, plus casual loading of 23 per cent […] As a casual, you have no entitlement to payment for school vacations, public holidays, holiday loading or paid sick leave. In recognition of the lack of certainty and of access to entitlements, casual employees are paid a higher hourly rate through the application of casual leave loading.”

As outlined to members, Senior Officers of the QTU formally wrote to the department of education’s Director-General (DG) seeking a response in relation to the compensation for supply teachers disadvantaged as a consequence of COVID-19.  This correspondence also highlighted that supply teachers are feeling significantly disadvantaged and unsupported by their employer due to the inaction around support for Weeks 1-5 of Term 2.

The DG provided a response on Tuesday 16 June, which outlined the department’s position in the following points:

1.  The department is monitoring staffing levels across all schools through the pandemic. 

  • This includes monitoring patterns of leave of permanent teachers, and temporary and casual relief engagement rates. 
  • The department is committed to supporting secure employment for employees through the maximisation of permanency and extension of contracts for temporary teachers.

2.  During Term 1, the department granted a large number of requests by permanent teachers to withdraw previously approved leave applications.

  • As a result of the pandemic, many permanent staff were forced to cancel leave (including long service leave) or needed to return to work from leave to support their family’s financial situation.
  • The department advises that, nevertheless, they maintained high levels of temporary teacher relief, and that this allowed vulnerable teachers to access flexible working arrangements (working from home) or access special leave as appropriate for their circumstances. 

3. In Term 1, the department provided casual employees directly affected by COVID-19 with access to special leave and payment for Week 10. 

  • For those eligible for special leave, the payment of this was based on the average of hours worked in Term 1 or the prior year, whichever was more favourable.   The department will continue to provide eligible casual employees directly affected by COVID-19 with access to special leave. 
  • Upon implementing student free days in Week 10, Term 1, the department provided payment to casual employees, as they were directly affected by this.  This payment was based on the average of hours worked in Weeks 8 and 9 and was paid at the supply teacher rate.

Overall, the Director General has advised that the department will need to consider a range of factors when considering additional payments to casual teachers.  These factors include the current financial situation of the Queensland government, quantifying the costs associated with supporting permanent vulnerable staff and impacts on the TRS safety net.

While an immediate answer would be favourable, the QTU is of the view that allowing the department this time will be in the best interests of a fulsome and definitive outcome for supply teachers. 

In the meantime, there are a range of financial avenues available to support supply teachers, as advised by the QTU throughout the pandemic.  These include:

  • applying for special pandemic leave
  • applying for paid special (quarantine) leave
  • enquiring with the department about accessing accrued leave (e.g. long service leave)
  • accessing Job Seeker.

We understand that some supply teachers may continue to struggle in accessing engagements, even with all students returning to school in Week 6 of Term 2.  As a result of our advocacy with the department, the QTU secured extension of temporary engagements (contracts) to ensure this group of members would not have contracts terminated in the pandemic climate.   This, combined with a high withdrawal of leave applications, has resulted in contract teachers being used by schools for the provision of local relief, and in some cases lowering the need for schools to engage supply teachers.

Further, the QTU is aware that some supply teachers opt only for casual engagements, which further extenuates the insecure nature of supply teaching. 

The QTU will continue to advocate for supply teachers and will advise members of outcomes accordingly.

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