In early June, in response to members reporting that they had run out of sick leave due to the pandemic, we launched a survey of member to find the extent of the problem. In the first 24 hours, 1538 members responded to the survey. In total, there have been over 1800 responses.
Nearly 400 of the members responding had exhausted their sick leave entitlements because they contracted COVID or have had to care for family members who had. Many of these were early career educators.
Another 750 have stated that their sick leave entitlements have been affected by COVID with over a third reporting they had fewer than 10 days of sick leave left.
While this problem is not exclusive to education, classroom environments are conducive to the spread of illness in any case, let alone during a pandemic.
Your union has taken positive steps to address your concerns.
We had been negotiating with the previous government for improvements in the provision of sick leave during the pandemic. Members then raised this with the new Minister and Chief Executive when they attended June Branch Council, and secured a commitment to look at solutions. Subsequently, the AEU met with the Minister to discuss these concerns.
While conversations are ongoing, several members have had their sick leave returned to them because of the AEU’s advocacy.
However, if the Department insists on managing this situation on a case-by-case basis, the number of cases will exceed its capacity to respond in a timely and fair manner.
As represented by comments in your responses, this situation has created at best frustration and at worst conflict at the site level as staff seek other types of leave to manage their circumstances. Some members have reported being supported by site leadership, whose decisions have then been rebuffed by the Department. Others encountered an unsupportive, unempathetic leadership.
By demonstrating this problem is felt right across the sector, we can secure their commitment to address sick leave at a system level, as it should be.
Thank you for taking the time to complete the survey.