Your questions answered

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

Dear Tina,
I am a university-trained early childhood teacher working fulltime in a large not-for-profit early childhood organisation. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic our enrolments have declined considerably, even though no fees are being charged at the moment. My employer intends to apply for JobKeeper payments. They have sent a nomination form for me to complete and return. I’m a little unsure what this means. Am I being stood down then rehired? Do I still work?

Dear Pamela

We are in uncharted times and many early childhood teachers are facing the same situation as you. If your employer is eligible for JobKeeper (a wage subsidy of $1500 per fortnight less tax), you will receive a nomination form. Your employer is asking if you agree to be nominated for JobKeeper and receive JobKeeper payments through your employer as part of the scheme. The scheme aims to keep employers and employees connected while we all navigate the pandemic.

Your employer has several options:

  • They can maintain your current full-time status, and the JobKeeper money will subsidise your salary; that is, no change to your pay per fortnight.
  • They may reduce your hours temporarily to reach the JobKeeper amount. This means you will work fewer hours, but your hourly rate remains the same. If a temporary agreement is made under JobKeeper, it should end no later than September 2020 unless the federal government extends the scheme. Please contact us if you are unsure of any changes to your employment.
  • They can ask that you take any accrued annual or long service leave. This means the JobKeeper amount would either subsidise your leave to the full time equivalent or be equal to the JobKeeper amount. You can retain up to two weeks of annual leave for later use.
  • They can stand you down from your current position and you will receive the JobKeeper amount for not attending work at all. Your employer can request you resume work at any time.

If you are a part-time teacher or temporary part-time teacher, and your employer is asking you to increase your hours for the sole reason of matching the JobKeeper payment, the Fair Work Ombudsman has made it clear this is unreasonable. However, you are free to accept additional hours and earn above the $1500/fortnight amount.

I invite you to contact us again if you still have concerns.


Dear Danielle,
I am an early childhood teacher, and I commenced leave without pay for 12 months at the end of Term 1, 2020. However, when I received my last pay for the term covering my holidays, it was less than I was expecting. Under my collective agreement, I usually get locality allowance and senior teacher allowance but, on this occasion, it was not paid. I asked our centre’s HR person who said that because I wasn’t actually at work on the days after the Term 1 teaching period finished, I wasn’t entitled to the allowances on those leave days. However, I noted that I had always been paid these allowances across holidays in the past, even though I wasn’t working. Is the advice HR gave me correct?

Dear Teneal

Payment of allowances is absolutely reliant on the industrial instrument that covers you in your employment.

The general rule is that when you go on leave, you should receive the same pay as you would if you were in attendance for work. However, many agreements and the award do not always make this clear, and where there is no reference to how payment should be made, employers often take the position you have experienced – that they are not required to pay allowances on days that staff do not actually attend.

To remove all doubt, when we negotiate a collective agreement, we ensure there is a clause clarifying that payment while an employee is on paid leave is the same amount the employee would have received had they attended for work.

I encourage you to contact us to talk about this issue, so we can check the industrial instruments that apply in your particular case and determine whether payment is due.