Fixed term and non-permanent appointments in schools (tenure)

New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) field officers commonly become involved in disputes over the tenure of the jobs of individual teachers. Many of these could be avoided if schools followed the provisions of the relevant collective agreement.

Teacher employment agreements negotiated by PPTA contain teacher appointment provisions.

The employer must have a genuine reason, based on reasonable grounds for fixed term agreements

Fixed term teachers should have a letter of appointment setting out their terms of appointment. The letter must indicate a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds for specifying why the employment will end.

The employee must understand and agree to the reason why the appointment should end at a particular time or at the end of an event or project. This agreement should be put in writing.

The collective agreements set out the expectations for part-time and fixed-term teachers.

Link to PPTA webpage Part 3 of the Secondary Teachers' Collective Agreement (STCA)

Link to PPTA webpage Part 2 of the Area School Teachers' Collective Agreement (ASTCA)

The law where a fixed-term appointment is not genuine or for genuine reasons

Link to PPTA webpage The New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) Secondary Teachers' Collective Agreement states

3.2.3 Fixed-term (non-permanent) employment

(a) Full-time and part-time teachers may be employed on fixed-term (non-permanent) basis where the employer and employee agree that the employee's employment will end:

(i) At the close of a specified date or period; or
(ii) On the occurrence of a specified event; or
(iii) At the conclusion of a specified project.

(b) Before an employee and employer agree that the employment of the employee will end in a way specified in 3.2.3(a), the employer must have genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds for specifying that the employment of the employee is to end in that way.

3.2.3 Fixed-term (non-permanent) employment

(c) The following reasons are not genuine reasons for the purposes of 3.2.3(b):

(i) To exclude or limit the rights of the employee under the Employment Relations Act 2000;
(ii) To establish the suitability of the employee for permanent employment

An employer may not employ someone on a fixed-term agreement where the job is really a permanent one and the employer really wants to avoid having to go through a fair disciplinary or dismissal procedure later on if there are problems.

Connect to external website Section 66 of the Employment Relations Act covers Fixed term agreements

Connect to external website Department of Labour guidance

Advice from PPTA field officers on fixed term appointments

Principal advises fixed-term appointment will not be renewed (Case 1)

Monica had been employed at her current school for five years. At the end of last year her principal advised her that her fixed-term appointment would not be renewed. She approached her field officer.

Monica's original letter of appointment could not be found. Neither could the original job advertisement. However the field officer was able to have Payroll confirm that for five years the school had been coding information supplied to Payroll regarding Monica as if she was permanently employed.

When this advice was drawn to the school's attention, the school agreed that Monica was permanently employed.

Principal seeks to remove fixed term management unit (Case 2)

Robert held three management units. When he was originally employed his letter of appointment indicated that two were permanent and one was fixed-term. Two years later the principal wrote advising that the fixed-term unit was to be made permanent.

Several years, and a change of principal, later the school sought to remove Robert's third unit. Robert sought the advice of his field officer. Although the school had no copy of the earlier principal's letter making his third unit permanent, Robert had kept his copy.

When this was produced, Robert's unit was retained.

Get it in writing from the outset

An employer must provide a written letter of appointment. It is good practice in such circumstances for the teacher to keep a copy of the original job advertisement and the letters of offer and acceptance. Where a teacher is subsequently promoted within his or her existing school, or when a teacher's job description is significantly altered, letters should be exchanged between the principal and the teacher confirming the nature of these changes.

Part-time teachers should have their hours confirmed in writing and subsequent changes to their hours of work should also be confirmed in writing.

Any additional hours that apply for a period of four weeks or more should also be confirmed in writing.

Written advice relating to part-time hours should indicate clearly whether there is any payment for non-contact time and whether the hours being offered are exclusive or inclusive of such non-contact time.

Fixed term teachers should have a letter of appointment setting out their terms of appointment. The letter must indicate a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds for specifying when and why the employment will end.

Field officers are available to offer advice to job applicants to ensure that the nature of the job being accepted is properly documented.

Link to PPTA webpage Read PPTA advice on appointments to teaching positions in secondary schools

 

(Case studies published in the PPTA News April 2010 (Get it in writing from the outset p.10) (pdf download)

Tussles over tenure



Case one

oanna returned to her school after 18 months' leave. At the time she returned to work there was a dispute over her employment status. The school claimed that she was 0.5 permanent part-time. Joanna claimed that she was 0.8 permanent part-time. Neither the school nor Joanna could provide any documents to support their claim.

The field officer tracked down the original advertisement in the Education Gazette and also obtained evidence from payroll which indicated that in the returns the school had made to payroll prior to Joanna's leave the school had coded her as 0.8 permanent part-time. The school therefore agreed to increase her hours.

Case two

John was advised by his principal that one of his units was fixed-term and that this fixed-term status was about to come to an end. John produced correspondence between him and the previous principal at the time the unit was given in which an offer of an extra unit was made and accepted. The principal's letter made no mention that the unit was fixed-term. In John's letter of acceptance he made mention that the unit was permanent.

With the assistance of the field officer, the current principal came to accept that the unit in question was a permanent one.

Field officer comment

Field officers commonly become involved in disputes over the tenure of the jobs of individual teachers. Many of these could be avoided if schools followed the provisions of the relevant collective agreement.

Part 3 of the Secondary Teachers' Collective Agreement and Part 2 of the Area School Teachers' Collective Agreement set out the procedures for making an appointment. They specify what particular jobs should be advertised. Teachers should take particular care when accepting a job offer where there has been no advertisement in the Education Gazette.

Teachers should expect to receive a written letter of appointment. It is good practice in such circumstances for the teacher to keep a copy of the original job advertisement and the letters of offer and acceptance. Where a teacher is subsequently promoted within his or her existing school, or when a teacher's job description is significantly altered, letters should be exchanged between the principal and the teacher confirming the nature of these changes.

The collective agreements set out the expectations for part-time and fixed-term teachers. In particular, the agreements require that:

* part-time teachers should have their hours confirmed in writing and subsequent changes to their hours of work should also be confirmed in writing.
* any additional hours that apply for a period of four weeks or more should also be confirmed in writing.
* written advice relating to part-time hours should indicate clearly whether there is any payment for non-contact time and whether the hours being offered are exclusive or inclusive of such non-contact time.
* fixed term teachers should have a letter of appointment setting out their terms of appointment. The letter must indicate a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds for specifying why the employment will end. Field officers are available to offer advice to job applicants to ensure that the nature of the job being accepted is properly documented.

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