School found guilty for the way it employs teachers
Jun 15, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
A Melbourne Islamic school has been fined $150,000 for using “calculated deception” when employing teachers - in a ruling expected to open the floodgates for similar claims.
The Australian International Academy of Education was this week found guilty of employing too many teachers on fixed-term contracts and falsifying paperwork.
Justice Christopher Jessup described the school’s practice as “calculated deception” and found it to be in breach of the Fair Work Act.
Fixed-term contracts allow the employment of staff for a definite period of time or in a specialised role, but they can only be used to fill specific needs and not as a way of allowing employers to avoid ongoing employment or payment obligations.
Mark Northam of the Independent Education Union (IEU) says he expects further action against the practice now that the ruling has been handed down.
“Given that this has been a high-profile case with a significant monetary penalty attached to it, we anticipate that our membership will be in contact with us to check that their positions are legitimate,” he told The Educator.
“I imagine that this will change the landscape and prompt employers to draw breath before they consider using temporary contracts that aren’t legitimate.”
In March, a survey by the National Tertiary Education Union found one-fifth of university employees were working under fixed-term contracts.
Of the 6857 surveyed, 1440 were on fixed-term contracts and many had spent a decade or more moving between short-term appointments, ensuring they received lower superannuation payments than permanent staff, struggled to apply for mortgages and were ineligible for conversion into permanency programs.
The IEU has urged schools to educate themselves about the rules governing teachers employed on fixed-term contracts.
It argues the increasing use of temporary teaching contracts has left educators unable to plan budgets, apply for finance and make long-term lifestyle decisions because of the uncertainty around their employment.
Deb James of the union’s Victoria and Tasmania branch told The Educator the case showed teachers are not “place holders for school budgets” or “a stop gap until an employer makes their mind up”.
“Our teachers are a valuable resource and the misuse of fixed-term contracts impacts directly on their health and wellbeing, as well as their ability to plan their lives,” she said.
“We have written to independent schools offering to assist them to ensure that they are complying with their obligations not to abuse fixed-term employment.
“If schools continue to willingly avoid these obligations, we will conduct inspections and prosecute recalcitrant employers.”