Demystifying Long Service Leave

The Point V9 N4

Long Service Leave is one of the more complicated and arcane employment entitlements.

Here are three important things all Victorian IEU members should know – plus a fourth matter of great irritation to those employed in Victorian Catholic education!

One day at a time. Employees can now access long service leave for periods as short as one day. In the past LSL was normally a period of 13 weeks taken in one, two or three periods.  Now the LSL Act (and the Catholic EBA) both specifically permit employees to take one or more days at a time.  There is some complexity for teachers in independent schools, but everyone else (support staff in independent schools, all staff in Catholic schools, all staff in private colleges/ELICOS) can take their entitlement in any number of periods of as short as one day when they reach 7 years’ service.

Employers cannot require a minimum period of notice for applying for long service leave. Regardless of whether you get LSL under an Award, an Agreement or the Act, the employer is required to grant LSL as it is applied for unless the employer has ‘reasonable business grounds’ to refuse it.  So regardless of how much notice you give, your employer must consider your application on its merits and can only refuse it if your absence will create real problems that cannot be resolved without significant disruption  and/or additional costs.
Employers cannot have a policy that requires a minimum period of notice, and the amount of notice provided cannot be used as the sole reason for refusing a leave application. Employers may however have a policy which requests a certain amount of notice – and both to assist in your school’s planning and to minimise the risk of a ‘reasonable business grounds’ refusal, it is advisable to meet this request where it is possible and practical to do so.

Teachers cannot be required to do all the preparation for periods that they are on long service leave. In a strict legal sense, employees on any form of authorised leave are entitled to be relieved of all duties normally performed in the period between the commencement and conclusion of their leave. So, for example, a teacher taking a week of leave could prepare lessons for the whole period and then, insisting on their lawful entitlement, return and expect lesson plans to be prepared for their classes for the following week. The IEU recognises that this approach will often be impractical, so would advise all parties to reach a negotiated understanding – but it must be an understanding which recognises that being on leave means ‘not working’, and that it’s not reasonable to load up masses of additional work on either side of a period of leave. Some schools have resolved this for short periods of LSL by calculating the preparation time that would have applied for the period of leave and releasing teachers for that amount of time to do preparation and marking.
The best outcome is to reach an understanding about how (and by whom) work will be done, balancing the needs of the school with the rights of the employee. Any direction to do substantial portions of the work that otherwise would have been done during the period of leave is plainly unreasonable, as is the direction to undertake all marking arising from the period of leave (without an agreed corresponding reduction in teaching time or other duties).

If you work in a Victorian Catholic School. The CECV Industrial Relations Unit is still defending the indefensible current arrangements for payment during LSL. The many problems include: employees taking a pay-cut when they go on leave; part-time staff being paid much more than their normal wage when they go on leave (along with an oversized deduction from their accrued LSL entitlement), and those on short periods of LSL being paid different amounts for each day.

The IEU is continuing to press for a solution to all these problems. Stay tuned!