A sustainable transition to retirement

Starting his career in a small Catholic secondary college for boys in Sydney, IEUA-QNT member Col Grant never anticipated he’d still be working in education past the customary retirement age, journalist Jessica Willis writes.

Grant has spent most of his teaching career at Villanova College in Brisbane, specialising in Geography and Environmental Science — and he is now making use of his expert knowledge in a non teaching role as part of a transition to retirement.

“From the start of this year, I have begun supply teaching and working in a non teaching position referred to as Environmental Compliance,” Grant said.

“Supply teaching allows me to maintain contact with students and staff, while providing valuable service to the college.

“Pope Francis, in Laudato Si, places an obligation on organisations such as ours to develop a culture of care, sustainability and stewardship which includes the protection of our world.

“The environmental role gives me the opportunity to follow interests I have built up over the years, working on matters I believe to be important, along with supporting the environmental initiatives of others.”

Some of Grant’s work is ‘on the ground’ while the rest involves developing policies and considering ways the school can adapt for better environmental protection, such as shades for students and classroom cooling.

Rewarding transition pathways

While it is still early days working in this position, Grant finds it heartening that there is a general determination to do what can be done among staff and students, and a willingness by administration to explore options put forward.

“This term we have switched printer and photocopy paper to 50% recycled sources, thereby reducing demand for new fibre [from trees],” Grant said.

“We are about to make the change to recycled coloured paper, which is less expensive than new paper.

“Senior students have also been replanting herb garden beds in nearby church grounds for use by priests and parishioners.

“Following on from this, it is hoped that next term there will be workshops for staff on organic gardening, and that the results of these will eventually supply herbs and greens to food preparation classes.”

Grant is also working with a team of others towards a campus wide recycling project for paper, cardboard and drink containers and exploring options for reducing electricity usage.

“A rather complex and wide ranging project,” he said.

“This project is of considerable challenge and still needs ‘smoothing-out’ as is the case sometimes in such a large and busy school.

“It requires the ongoing efforts of the whole school community including grounds staff, teachers and students.

Making the transition

Under the National Employment Standards (NES), employees who have completed 12 months’ continuous service have the right to request flexible working arrangements in certain circumstances.

One circumstance is where an employee is aged 55 years or older.

Transition arrangements vary depending on an employee’s individual needs and circumstances, but can include:

  • job sharing
  • reduced workload
  • working partial days
  • non teaching roles
  • accessing special leave arrangements in the lead up to retirement, and
  • deferring salary or purchasing leave under the collective agreement.
  • Options for transitioning may also vary between different collective agreements.

Grant’s transition arrangements were implemented after one-on-one discussions with his principal.

This included four years of part time teaching which Grant concluded at the end of 2018 before beginning his current role.

“Since beginning my transition I have kept in regular contact with my principal to keep the communication open and up to date”, said Grant.

“At each change of my employment conditions we have had an open discussion in good faith with a specific agreement signed by both parties.

Grant said these arrangements have formed a well controlled conclusion to his teaching career and he would like to see availability of transitional retirement arrangements formally included in collective agreements.

“I would like to see transition to retirement separated from other flexible work clauses in the collective agreement as I believe that heading towards retirement is an entirely different form of employment when compared with other flexible work arrangements,” he said.

Three other staff members at Villanova are transitioning to retirement, two by working in their preferred areas (middle school art and vocational pathways) and one in general teaching – all with reduced loads.

Grant said the whole school has benefited and each teacher has gained a renewed sense of professional satisfaction.

“Staff satisfaction raises as stress levels fall, expertise can be harnessed in different and interesting ways and school cultural memory is extended.”

Union can help

As a Union member, the IEUA-QNT helped Grant explore different options available for transitioning to retirement.

“Our IEU officers and other Union members have helped me to clarify issues involved in seeking transition to retirement at my school,” Grant said.

He also said that being an active member of the IEUA-QNT Branch Executive and Equity Committee exposed him to a broader range of views on transitioning to retirement within the education sector views he would not otherwise have had.

How to apply for flexible working arrangements

A request for flexible working arrangements must be made in writing and set out the details and reasons for the changes sought.
Employers are required to respond to the request in writing within 21 days and may only refuse on reasonable grounds.
As a member of our Union, our industrially trained staff can provide assistance in:
  • understanding the process of transitioning to retirement
  • advising specific leave or transition to retirement entitlements that may be outlined in your agreement
  • reading through and providing advice on your application, and
  • support and assistance, including pursuing a dispute where possible, should your application be rejected.