Industrial Relations

Industrial Relations Governance Questions to ask as A School Representative Body Member

Q: Do we have a membership with the Chamber of Commerce?                                                  If not – who does the Principal seek advice from in relation to employee relations, contracts of employment, performance management, terminations, leave queries etc.  Is the Body a reputable body with knowledge of the nuances of how the school operates and the industrial instruments that apply to the school?  

Q: How many School Representative Body employees do we have?
This will help identify if you are a small or large employer. 
Large employers (15 or more employees) have greater responsibilities in relation to workplace relations, greater costs involved when considering redundancies and greater risk with termination of employment matters.

Q: What are the Employment Types (Part-Time, Casual etc)?
This will help you identify if you have a highly casualised workforce. This also gives you greater understanding if you have permanent employees in your workplace or not. Permanent employee conditions are very different from casuals.  Permanent employee – does not mean forever employed. It means employed until they leave or until such time that the employee is no longer performing to the schools expectations.  It is important that your Principal and leaders in the school understand how to performance manage an employee effectively to reduce risk of claims arising – such as unfair dismissal claims.

Q: Do we have long term Casual employees?
Now is the time to understand where your risks are at.  
Long term casual employees present high risk.  This is because in the employment law space, long term casuals that have regular hours that are generally predictable and have been ongoing for 12 months or more are no longer deemed true casual employees.  
This presents varied risks, particularly when it comes time to terminate a casual employee.

Q: Have we met our Casual Conversion requirements?
In late 2018 the modern Award that applies to School Representative Body employees was updated with requirements on the Employer.  Lots of information has been presented to schools from the Chamber of Commerce NT and NT COGSO.   Do you know what your obligations are as a legal employer?

Q: Do our School Representative Body employees all have appropriate contracts in line with legislation and who prepared these contracts?
Contracts are the documentation which provides clarity on the agreement between the school and the employee. When these are silent, or not in place, this can cause dispute into the future and uncertainty about what the employee is entitled to, leading the school to possibly do the wrong thing.

Q: When was the last time the contract contents were reviewed?
As employment law changes all the time, it is best to have these reviewed annually. 
Ensure you ask your Principal.

Q: Do we have a Caretaker? If yes, are the arrangements for the Caretaker appropriate? Has the Principal sought advice about these arrangements? 
It is important that schools reduce the risk associated with employing a Caretaker.  
This can only be done if you implement the correct provisions for the Caretaker.  
Caretakers cannot be responsible for undertaking work (locking up) at a specific time or required to perform the duties on specific days, required to apply for leave, attend to incidents during the night - and not get paid.  
This is not a voluntary position. 
If your school has a caretaker, seek Industrial Relations advice.

Q: Do we outsource any roles that should be filled by an employee?  If so, why? Is it actually saving the school money?
Some schools outsource the cleaning or gardening or other roles.  
This is perfectly acceptable, however, have you recently checked to see that it is actually saving the school money? 
Is it more financially viable to employ someone to undertake the duties or not?

Q: Will the School Representative Body be told if a School Representative Body employee is facing termination? If not, why not?
Terminating an employee is a big deal.  There are so many risks involved.  
Advice should always be sought before termination occurs.  The School Representative Body should be aware when there is such a risk, and should ensure that the school is taking all action necessary to avoid claims against the school.


The information provided in this memo is current as of 1/05/2019. Employment Law framework and obligations are continually changing and there for you should always seek advice for specific situations as they arise.