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What to do if you are offered a temporary contract

‘I’ve been offered a temporary contract . . . again. Why is it not permanent’?

As the year draws to a close our thoughts turn to opportunities for the coming year. For teachers on temporary contracts, the number one question at this time is: ‘Will I finally be offered permanency?’

Teachers working on temporary contracts often call the union during Term 4 questioning the ongoing nature of a temporary contract and the lack of clarity as to why the position is temporary at all.

Members are often worried that if they raise their concerns with their employer they will not be re-employed.

Temporary appointments play a vital role in the running of schools in that they allow teachers access to various leave entitlements as well as providing opportunities for schools to introduce a range of short-term programs and initiatives.

For teachers and support staff, having a temporary contract rather than being employed on a casual basis also provides greater access to leave entitlements including personal leave and long service leave.

What temporary contracts don’t provide is a sense of job security for the people filling these positions.

To fully appreciate the role of temporary staff in our schools it is important to understand the rules around these contracts. For this reason, the union has ensured that enterprise agreements (EAs) and multi-enterprise agreements include clauses that protect those members employed on temporary contracts.


Before a temporary contract is offered, certain conditions must be met. The Educational Services (Teachers) Award 2020 clearly sets out the minimum circumstances under which temporary or fixed term contracts may be offered.

For a contract to be legitimately temporary, it must be limited to a fixed period of at least four weeks but not more than 12 months on either a full-time or part-time basis, and be for one of the following reasons:

to replace an employee who is on leave, performing other duties temporarily or whose employment has finished after the commencement of the school year; or

to undertake a specified project for which funding has been made available; or

to undertake a specified task which has a limited period of operation.

In addition to the reasons contained in the award, the union-negotiated NSW/ACT Catholic Systemic Enterprise Agreement allows a position to be temporary when a school’s staffing is to be reduced in the following year overall or in a department (in a secondary school) or the school has not been able to fill an ongoing position using normal selection criteria and the teacher has been informed of this in writing prior to the appointment.

The NSW/ACT Catholic Systemic EA also states that teachers cannot be employed on a temporary basis for the purpose of probation. It also says the advertisement for the position should clearly state that it is temporary; and on accepting the position, the teacher must be advised in writing the reason the position is temporary and the length of the engagement.

If your workplace agreement is silent about temporary appointments then, in addition to the award conditions which will apply as a minimum, the additional EA conditions outlined above should also apply as an accepted minimum standard.


The following information should be included on the temporary contract:

the reason for the position being temporary

if the position is related to someone taking leave – the name of the teacher you are replacing

the start and finish dates of the contract.

You should receive a new contract each time you are employed in a temporary capacity, even if it is because the reason has been extended.

While working as a temporary teacher you will be entitled to leave conditions in line with those provided to permanent employees and your day-to-day working conditions should be the same as those of permanent employees with the same duties and responsibilities.


‘I’ve accepted the temporary position, what if I get offered a permanent position elsewhere’?

While holding a temporary position you could continue to look for permanent work. The nature of temporary contracts is that while they are vital to the effective running of schools, they do little to provide job security to those who are filling these positions. As such, you could continue to look for a permanent position and accept an offer while filling a temporary role.

While on the temporary contract you have the same notice requirements as permanent teachers. This means that if you are offered a permanent position elsewhere you are within your rights to accept the new position and submit a resignation from the temporary contract if the minimum notice requirements are met.

We are often asked about a ‘rule’ that says a temporary position must be made permanent after two years. This is not correct. We all know of someone who has been at a school so long they are viewed as being permanent. The agreements allow for this if each contract is for a legitimate reason as stated above.

Preparations for 2022 have already begun so if you have any questions about your temporary status, please contact your IEU organiser now for advice specific to your circumstances.

In the next issue of Newsmonth (December) we will discuss temporary contracts for support staff.

Donna Widdison and Jackie Groom