Your questions answered

Danielle Wilson is an industrial officer for IEUA-QNT and Lisa James is an organiser for the IEUA NSW/ACT Branch. They answer your industrial and legal questions as they relate to state laws and regulations.

Flexible working arrangements

Dear Danielle

I am employed as a teacher/director in a centre and due to my own parental responsibilities, I am wanting to work part time, ideally in a job share situation, from the beginning of next term. I have floated the idea with our committee, but they do not want to engage an additional teacher as they say it will create too much instability for the children. I don’t believe that is the case, and I can see lots of ways that it would be better for the children and the centre to have another teacher to rely on. What is the best way forme to approach this?


Dear Lydia

Our members ask this question frequently. Committees find it hard to see how a job share arrangement can work within a kindy setting. However, we find that if you can look at the current arrangements and propose reasonable alternatives that are straightforward to implement, this might help your committee accept the idea more readily.

The National Employment Standards (NES) offers capacity for employees with family responsibilities, who have been working for at least 12 months with the employer to ask for flexible working arrangements. Such a request must be made in writing and set out the details as well as the reasons for the changes sought. Employers are required to respond within 21 days and they can only refuse on reasonable business grounds.

There are no rules about what can be agreed to in an arrangement like this. It may be that it is a temporary arrangement until you are ready to resume duty in your original position, or it may be that you want to ask for a reduction in hours permanently. Whatever is agreed must be in writing and we encourage people to ensure that every aspect of what is agreed, including what will happen with your existing tenure, is written into the agreement. We regularly check agreements of this nature for our members to ensure they are not unwittingly relinquishing their substantive positions.

Some of our centres have guidelines set out either in their collective agreements or as a matter of policy for people who need to ask for some flexibility in their employment, so these should be referred to as needed.

We are aware that centres that do not have anything established often find it too hard to contemplate. Regardless of the circumstances, we would advise you to consider how your preferred arrangement can work in your workplace.

Think about the hours you need for yourself and how the remaining hours could be covered, whether that be with a part time teacher or a jobshare partner.

Consider how you will manage events such as open days, meetings with parents, professional development, set up days and clean up days. Consider also how you would accommodate your director duties, whether you could maintain full responsibility, whether these could be shared or whether you would prefer not to carry out the director role.

If this is the case, consider how the director duties can be done. The more questions you can answer about the things that are likely to concern the committee, the better chance you have of negotiating an arrangement that will suit both you and the centre.

Should your employer refuse to permit you to undertake a flexible work arrangement, contact our union for further advice to see if the decision can be challenged.


Unpaid overtime

Dear Lisa

I work in a long day care service and there are one to two afternoons each week when I am on early shift and I can’t leave at the end of my shift as I need to ensure we are meeting staff/child ratios. Most days this is only 10 or 15 minutes but it’s been as much as two hours on occasion. My director says I am not entitled to be paid for working after my shift finishes. Does this sound right to you?


Dear Sharon

The Educational Services (Teachers) Award is very clear about this issue for teachers who are employed in long day care centres. Schedule B at the back of the Award contains the working conditions specific to teachers working in long day care (as opposed to those who work in preschool). The relevant clauses are:

B.4.1 (a) An employee will be paid overtime for all authorised work performed outside of or in excess of the ordinary or rostered hours at the rate of time and a half for the first three hours and double time thereafter.

B.4.2 (a) An employee and an employer may agree in writing to the employee taking time off instead of being paid for a particular amount of overtime that has been worked by the employee.

If your service has an enterprise agreement check the relevant clause to find out the overtime provisions in your particular service. You can always phone the IEU if you need assistance with this. In the first instance I recommend that you approach the director and show him or her the relevant clauses of the award or enterprise agreement. If the issue is not resolved, send the IEU copies of the sign in and out book on days you worked more than eight hours and copies of your payslips.

Provided the IEU is able to substantiate your unpaid overtime and with your permission, we will write to your employer to request that you are paid for the overtime you have worked.

If this does not resolve the issue the union can make an underpayment claim for the unpaid overtime.


Hours cut

Dear Lisa

I work 24 hours a week. Last week the owner of the centre told me to go home at lunch time and I would not be paid for the afternoon because we were over ratio. I said okay and left early but this week she told me that she expects numbers will be down over the next few weeks. I have the feeling she’s going to cut down my hours even more and she’s going to do this every time we’re over ratio. I can’t afford for my pay to go down all of a sudden. Can you help?


Dear Bel

According to the Educational Services (Teachers) Award clause 10.4(d) it is unlawful for your employer to reduce the hours of a part time teacher without giving you four weeks’ written notice unless you agree to the change.

The award states: 10.4(d) An employer cannot vary a part-time employee’s teaching load or days of attendance unless:

(i) The employee consents; or

(ii Where such a variation is required as a result of a change in funding, enrolment or curriculum, the employer provides … four weeks’ notice in the case of an early childhood teacher, or where the change would result in a reduction in salary, the salary of the teacher is maintained for a period of … four weeks in the case of an early childhood teacher.

I suggest you give your employer a copy of this email along with a copy of the award. The IEU can pursue an underpayment claim if your employer does not pay you for your permanent 24 hours per week.