Casual shortage and workplace fatigue

The chronic shortage of casual or supply staff across all education sectors, amongst both teaching and support staff, may be causing increased workplace fatigue. Certainly, in the independent sector attracting and keeping casual staff is now at an all time low. This chronic shortage is not limited to rural schools but is also affecting significant sections of Sydney’s metropolitan area.

Anecdotally, it seems that that there are several reasons for the shortage. These include, but are not limited to, retired staff not wanting to work casually after retirement, incumbent teaching staff not renewing their registration and schools reducing their casual supply during COVID-19 and those staff now having work elsewhere. But a major factor seems to be the reluctance of school leavers to enter teacher or support training (both at tertiary and TAFE levels). The flow on effect of this, of course, is that graduates are not looking for casual work to ‘develop their skills’.

Staff in schools need to be on the alert to the ongoing effects of ‘covering’ colleagues’ classes and workloads. While it is admirable to help during a time of shortage, ongoing additional workload places a strain on us, our students, and our families. Staff should monitor the frequency of ‘extras’ and speak to their line managers or school administration if it is becoming unmanageable or of the frequency seems excessive.

It is not okay for teachers or support staff to be covering multiple classes, large study groups or multiple sporting teams. Nor is it okay for teachers or support staff to be providing cover outside their discipline. It would be appropriate for the school IEU chapter to meet and discuss these issues but keep in mind that some individual schools simply cannot find casuals. Dialogue between staff and management is the key.

It is unlikely that this issue will go away any time soon. The union, school systems and staff need to develop flexible, alternative methods of dealing with staff absences and shortages. It is time for all areas of education to start to ‘think outside the box’, to get creative and work together to solve the problems which lay at the heart of this issue.

Bruce Paine
Vice President Non-systemic schools