WHS: Know your rights at work

You have a right to a safe workplace under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and your employer has an obligation to provide you with one.

Your rights at work and work practices frameworks (where they are in place) still apply in 2023. So here’s a reminder of what to look out for as you start full steam ahead in February.


Consider the following as areas of WHS:

  • How many events, or extracurricular events, will you ‘volunteer’ for?
  • What is reasonable to take on given your teaching load and classroom responsibilities, and the current shortages across schools?
  • Through your IEU Chapter, ask why initiatives are being introduced. What is their purpose, and how do they improve teaching and learning? How much extra release time will you be given to take on and implement initiatives or programs?
  • Classes: your timetable should tell you your face-to-face load and duties, and its pro rata allocation if you work part time.
  • Meetings should already be scheduled. If you work in a Catholic systemic school, do you know the limit of meetings permissible under your Work Practices Agreement?
  • Annual big-ticket or whole-school events – most should be published already and known to you. Consider what is reasonable to take on above and beyond your teaching load.
  • Professional development should be undertaken during work hours and, if possible, be accredited by NESA.

Support staff

  • Work your hours – anything asked of you outside of those is overtime. However, remember that your employer needs to pre-approve overtime for you to be able to claim it.
  • Take your breaks – you are entitled to them.
  • Extra duties – if you are asked to perform extra duties such as providing first aid, ensure you are paid the allowance.
  • Classification – make sure it is correct and depending on your role, check that you are progressing through the steps for each full-time year worked or equivalent.
  • Higher duties – if you are performing higher duties for a period, check if your EA has allowances.
  • Professional development should be offered to you, and during work hours.

Think about your physical safety when you are putting up classroom displays, hanging materials or moving furniture, and if it is heavy or high, ask for help. It is important to maintain your safety rights.

Stay up to date with union news, and protect your colleagues by inviting them to join the union.

As always, if in doubt, give your union organiser a call: 8202 8900.

Lubna Haddad