The Union is aware of a number of cases where Catholic dioceses have misinterpreted enterprise agreement provisions in relation to sick leave accrual to the detriment of employees. These cases have all come to light in the past month and appear to reflect a general approach across the dioceses. Although the Union has raised the individual cases with each employer, we are concerned that the problem may be much more widespread. They fall into the following categories.
Employees with a commencement date after the start of the school year
Under the transitional sick leave provisions in the new 2015 NSW and ACT Catholic Systemic Schools Enterprise Agreement (the EA), all teachers employed as at 31 December 2015 were entitled to a one off credit of 15 days personal/carer’s leave as at 1 January 2016 in compensation for moving to the new personal/carer’s leave accrual system. From 1 January 2016, 15 days personal carer’s leave accrue progressively with service rather than leave accruing as a block at the start of each year of service with the employer. Under the EA, all existing sick leave accruals as at 1 January 2016 were maintained.
Contrary to the EA provisions, the Union was informed by members in a regional diocese in March that some teachers found their existing 2015 sick leave balance had been retrospectively reduced. The teachers affected had a commencement date after the start of the school year and had received a block of sick leave during the course of the 2015 school year. In March the diocesan payroll office deemed some of the 2015 accrual to be 2016 sick leave and clawed it back, reducing the teacher’s sick leave balance. In one case this resulted in a teacher with a low amount of accrued sick leave going into the negative as she had already taken part of her 2015 sick leave which the diocese later tried to claw back. There is nothing in the EA that justifies this because the EA specifically states that all existing sick leave accruals as at 1 January 2016 will be maintained.
The Union has also been informed that similar deductions were made to support staff who did not have an anniversary date at the commencement of the year. Following complaints by the Union, the Union was advised that the problem was rectified for all affected employees in that diocese. However, the Union was informed by the payroll office of the diocese in question that the payroll offices in all dioceses had made similar deductions.
Principals outside the Archdiocese of Sydney
Another regional diocese advised principals that they are no longer entitled to accrue block sick leave at the commencement of a year of service but rather from 2016 will accrue it progressively. This is incorrect as, except for principals employed in the Archdiocese of Sydney, the existing 2013 enterprise agreements still apply. These agreements make clear sick leave is accrued at the commencement of each year of service. As at the date of writing, this diocese has not yet agreed to withdraw the change and if the matter is not resolved, the Union will not hesitate to notify a dispute. All principals in dioceses other than Sydney should check their sick leave accrual.
Sydney Catholic schools
As discussed above, sick leave accrual for employees in schools up until the end of 2015 occurred at the commencement of each year of service. However, the PHRIS payroll system used by the Archdiocese of Sydney in recent years calculated sick leave on a progressive basis. This potentially would understate an employee’s sick leave entitlement in respect of the current year of service. In relation to completed years of service the problem would resolve itself, provided the employee at no stage reached a zero balance. The Union was previously advised by the CEO that before an employee was advised they had no sick leave available, the PHRIS calculation was checked manually against EA entitlements. However, the Union is not sure that a manual check was used to record the correct accrued entitlement in the transition to the new system. Employees with an anniversary date after the start of the school year are most likely to be affected.
The Union will seek further discussions with Sydney Catholic schools about this issue.
Any employees with a concern about their sick leave are urged to contact the payroll office of their diocese. If the matter is not resolved contact the Union immediately.