As winter sets in and the cold and flu season begins, it is important to reiterate that there have been no changes to sick leave or the monitoring of sick leave. This includes schools that signed up for the Empowering Local Schools Program. Taking sick leave is still a teacher’s entitlement. “Determination 1 of 2009: Sick leave” states teachers are entitled to 15 days of sick leave a year and any days not taken are cumulative. Temporary teachers receive a pro rata entitlement to sick leave.
The Determination at 3.8 allows a teacher who commences their first appointment or first temporary engagement with the Department may be entitled to additional sick leave up to a maximum of 15 additional days over the first two years of their appointment (with provisos).
The Determination also reaffirms that applications for sick leave exceeding three days must be supported by a medical certificate, however, this point has usually been interpreted as a medical certificate being required for three days or more. Federation encourages teachers to fully document their sick leave and where possible attain medical certificates. The certificate should be kept and can be produced if the teacher’s sick leave record is queried by the Department under the monitoring procedures.
Furthermore, there has been no change to monitoring procedures since 1987, and the Department still recognises that sick leave taken by staff is generally well within community norms. The provision of a medical certificate, including of absences of less than three days, will prevent an absence from counting as ‘unsupported’ instance of sick leave.
Taking in excess of five ‘unsupported’ instances of sick leave in 12 months will trigger the teacher’s name being included in the sick leave monitoring correspondence sent to principals. A principal who receives monitoring correspondence listing one or more teachers can still simply decide that no interview and no action of any type needs to occur.
Insufficient school funding cannot be a rational for the monitoring of sick leave. Principals and teachers should not be pressured to take less leave or split classes for colleagues that are absent on leave. Sick leave is an entitlement. The Department has always paid for teachers’ leave entitlements and that money held for casual relief either in school accounts or centrally is all Departmental (public) money. Schools are also still able to apply for a global supplementation if their casual supplementation runs out.
Federation’s advice regarding the monitoring of sick leave also remains unchanged. Principals are under no obligation to interview or take any further action in regards to the monitoring of sick leave, which they as principals would have already formally recommended be authorised (at the time the teacher’s application for leave was submitted). Federation recommends that principals should only ever consider further action if they have major concerns with a teacher’s health or patterns of absences.
The principal will then need to follow the guidelines in Leave guide for principals, which include an interview so that the teacher has the opportunity to raise any issues influencing their record of absences. Teacher(s) should be given sufficient notice, an agenda as well as be informed of their right to have a support person of their choice present at the interview. An individual teacher’s privacy must always be observed.
In most schools this process is dealt with sensitively, but if you have any concerns please contact your school’s Workplace Committee or your local Organiser.
See information leaflet L6 Sick leave for detailed information.