Plan early for return from maternity/parental leave

Women In Education: Education Quarterly, Issue 7 2023

Given the complexities of coordinating childcare availability and a school timetable, teachers planning to return from maternity/parental leave should begin negotiations with their principal as early as possible. Many of the calls Federation receives for Professional Support about maternity/parental leave ask what to do when their request to work part-time, or the days requested, have been declined. Other questions arise when teachers are informed they have been removed from the timetable to do some form of inbuilt relief or fill gaps in timetables, teach out of their subject area or they are not able to job share on a class when they return.

The administration of maternity/parental leave for permanent and temporary teachers in schools is prescribed by Determination No. 7 of 2016. Casual teachers are covered by a separate Determination as they cannot lodge “maternity leave” on SAP but may be eligible for a maternity payment in lieu.

Permanent teachers have a right to return to their substantive position after maternity/parental leave.

Temporary teachers have a right to return to their position when they return to work before the end of the temporary engagement from which they took leave.

Permanent teachers have the “right to request” to return to work on a part-time basis until the child reaches school age. Temporary teachers can request part-time for the remainder of their engagement. The Determination states that the Department “shall consider the request having regard to the teacher’s circumstances” and may only refuse the request on “reasonable grounds” related to the effect on the workplace such as cost, lack of replacement staff or loss of efficiency.

Teachers who plan to continue breastfeeding when they return to work should also begin discussions about lactation breaks before returning.

Carer discrimination unlawful
Anti-Discrimination NSW explains how carer discrimination is unlawful at work. It is when you have been treated unfairly because of your responsibilities as a carer. Indirect discrimination is also against the law. This is when there is a rule or requirement that is the same for everyone but unfairly affects people who have responsibilities as a carer, and is not reasonable in the circumstances.

While a principal has the responsibility for the allocation of duties and classes to meet the learning needs of students, schools cannot have a policy where any teacher requesting part-time will be removed from the timetable or directed to teach outside their subject area without consultation or be denied the opportunity to job share. In addition, teachers have the right to be supported in their professional learning, including relieving in higher duties. A teacher’s caring responsibilities and requests to work part-time to meet those responsibilities should not be used as a reason to deny access to opportunities that would affect the teacher’s professional growth, as this would be discriminatory. Each request should be considered in accordance with the relevant Determination and the teacher’s circumstances.