Pregnancy test of fairness over leave

Anna Uren
Women's Coordinator

As Term 4 approaches, schools will be working out how many temporary teachers are needed for next year, gathering information about permanent teachers’ leave intentions, secondments and any temporary programs at school. Many teachers, meanwhile, will be making their own preparations for major change in 2017 — the arrival of a new baby.

While this is a time of excitement for many people temporary teachers suffer the anxiety of not knowing whether they will be able to access paid maternity leave.

To qualify for paid maternity, adoption or parental leave, a temporary teacher must have:

  • completed 40 weeks’ continuous service in the two-year period immediately prior to the anticipated date of birth (or date of taking custody in the case of adoption leave), and
  • a temporary engagement covering the anticipated date of birth from which to take leave.

The common experience of discrimination for temporary teachers is for work to suddenly dry up upon bcoming pregnant. With temporary engagements changing at least every year, most pregnant temporary teachers will be seeking work at some point during pregnancy.

Failure to offer a temporary engagement to a teacher due to pregnancy constitutes discrimination. While considerations about which temporary teachers to engage may include their availability, it is unlawful not to employ a temporary teacher on grounds they will or might take leave for the purpose of childrearing.

The Department’s memorandum to principals, DN15/00042, states:

“A pregnant teacher must be engaged for the full duration of the available employment… The engagement does not have to cover the entire period of approved maternity leave.”

This requirement will not change with the new capacity for principals or directors, from term 1, 2017, to make longer-term temporary appointments of up to three years, arising out of the 2016–2020 Staffing Agreement. Any temporary teacher who is pregnant and having difficulty securing a post (where there is one available) should contact Federation’s Professional Support line on 1300 654 367.