Here's how meal allowances work, as per STCA clause 7.2.
The STCA provides a collective and individual entitlement to payment of a meal allowance (7.2). It is a legal entitlement. Here's the relevant section of the STCA:
7.2.1 Any teacher is entitled to the meal allowance at the rate specified in Appendix D ($15) when:
(a) Absence from the teacher’s school over the lunch-break is not a common occurrence, and warning was not given on the previous working day that the teacher would be required to be absent from the school over the lunch-break
(b) The teacher finds it necessary (while absent from school) to lunch with a school business associate
(c) By reason of attention to official duties, a teacher’s return to the school at the end of the day is delayed unduly
(d) A teacher’s attendance at the school or elsewhere at the request of the principal prevents the teacher returning home for an evening meal
The entitlement to 7.2.1 (d) is triggered if staff are prevented from returning home for an evening meal because of the employer’s request (e.g. that they attend the parent-teacher evening).
The STCA does not specify a length of time for the delay in returning home before the allowance can be claimed, and there is also no discretionary provision for the employer to determine their own.
The payment is an allowance, not a reimbursement for actual and reasonable expenses, and receipts are not required. For accounting purposes, the school debits the number of meal allowance claims paid.
Exchanging the entitlement for a provided meal
There is nothing preventing a teacher from agreeing to exchange their meal allowance for an actual meal provided by the school.
However, misunderstandings will be avoided if the following are understood:
- There is no provision that requires the employer to provide a teacher with a meal instead of the allowance.
- There is no provision that requires the employer to provide a teacher with both a meal and the allowance.
- The default entitlement is payment of $15, but the employer and each teacher individually may agree that the teacher will exchange the allowance for the meal.
- The employer cannot assume that providing a meal without prior agreement cancels out the right of any teacher to receive the payment.
- The employer cannot assume that silence constitutes consent.
- The employer can assume if they have made clear beforehand that the meal is in lieu of the entitlement, and that eating the meal constitutes agreement to the arrangement.
- The employer cannot assume that general agreement to a meal cancels out the payment for individuals who did not specifically agree to the arrangement
Good practice for schools wishing to offer an evening meal is:
- The employer, after consulting staff, provides the opportunity for an appropriate evening meal, taking into account the value of the meal allowance
- A sign-up system is used to identify those opting for the meal
- For catering purposes, a reasonable time is given for staff to sign up for the meal
- Staff who do not have the meal are paid the allowance