Education Support Personnel (ESP) Day

ESP Day is celebrated on 16 May each year.

A day to honour and recognise the extraordinary contribution education support staff make to public education and to our union. 

Working with their AEU colleagues, ES members have already won huge improvements to their working lives, including: 

  • laptops
  • significant pay rises
  • updated Work Dimensions (job descriptions) resulting in many salary increases through range reviews, and
  • more than 90% of ES in ongoing positions. 

Now it’s time to consider the extra improvements we need at work and start planning to win!

Sub-branches are encouraged to celebrate ESP Day and recognise the extraordinary contribution ES staff make to their schools and their union. 

The AEU believes the best way to recognise the hard work of your ES is to ensure they have access to their entitlements all year round. Make sure you have ESP Day and webinars on your school’s calendar!

How do sub-branches celebrate ESP Day? 

ESP Day is more than a morning tea – it’s time to empower ES staff to access their entitlements. How can you help us do this?

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  • Ensure ES staff understand their entitlements.
  • Encourage ES to take part in ES Entitlement Spotlight webinars.
  • Elect an ES rep to the sub-branch executive.
  • Encourage ES to join an ES reference group.
  • Ask all ES staff to join our union.
  • Organise an ES recognition activity, a morning tea, a special lunch, etc.

ES entitlement spotlights

Knowing your entitlements is the first step to improving your working conditions, protecting your rights at work and seeking wages to reflect the true value of your work. Here are a few important entitlement spotlights.

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Pay between contracts 

The VGSA allows ES who work a full year to accrue 50 days annual leave, which is enough to cover the school holidays.

If you’re employed on a 12-month contract that starts and ends at the beginning of Term 1, this will be paid over December and January.

If your contract starts at the beginning of Term 1 and ends on the last day of Term 4, you don’t get paid over the December and January period. 

If this is the case in your school, speak with your Sub-branch Rep. They can bring it up at the consultative committee and push for a different contract structure.

Lunch time and recess breaks 

ES and teachers are entitled to a minimum of 30 minutes lunch break free from assigned duties between 11.30 am and 2.30pm. The lunch break is paid for teachers, but unpaid for ES.

Recess is paid time for teachers and ES and both teachers and ES can be assigned duties during this time. [VGSA Clause 24(6)]

ES cannot be required to work more than five hours without a lunch break.

Sick leave during annual leave 

When ES staff are ill or injured during school holidays/annual leave and can provide a medical certificate, they can be granted personal leave for the period covered by the certificate.

This means their annual leave credits are restored to use at another time.

The leave can be taken during the school year (with the agreement of the principal),used during future school vacation periods or be paid out when ES retire or resign. [DET Leave Policy]. 

Time fraction changes 

ES staff cannot be compelled to change time fraction against their will.

Changes to time fractions can only occur via consultation and then agreement by individual ES and the principal.

Schools should document time fraction changes indicating the start and end of the changed times. The time fraction an ES works through a school term should be what is paid through the following school holidays. [VGSA Clause24(5)(b)]

Time in lieu (TIL)

Did you know ES staff receive time in lieu (TIL) if required to attend work outside normal working hours? This includes camps, meetings and preparing resources. 

All work ES are required to do outside normal working hours must be approved and documented by the Employer. The best way to manage TIL is to develop a school policy which outlines what is considered time in lieu, how it is approved, recorded and repaid. [VGSA 2017 Clause 24(9)]

Does your school have a time in lieu policy?  

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The facts about ES annual leave

The annual leave entitlement

Annual leave is outlined in Clause 26(1) of the VGSA.

A full-time ES employee, who works a full year, will accrue 50 days or 10 weeks of annual leave.

Annual leave accrues progressively from the start of the school year according to the employee’s ordinary hours of work.

ES who work less than full-time or less than a full year do not accrue the full entitlement of annual leave.

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Two types of annual leave on the pay slip

The 50 days accrued annual leave has two parts:

  • 4 weeks/20 days annual leave - the Australian standard
  • 6 weeks/30 days additional leave – provided by the VGSA

The two types of annual leave are used in the same way.

How term dates and public holidays impact annual leave

Term dates and the public holidays vary from year to year.

On average, there are 55 days or 11 weeks of school holidays, with 5 public holidays usually falling in the school holidays.

The 5 Public holidays are Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day,  Good Friday, Easter Monday and Grand Final Parade Day.

ES don’t use annual leave on public holidays.

The 50 days covers most of school holidays most years. 

ES return to work when their annual leave is exhausted

ES use annual leave during school holidays, but not on public holidays.

Most ES exhaust their accrued annual leave in January each year, and are then required to attend for work.

In 2020/21 school year there are 52 days of school holidays.   
ES annual leave (for most) was exhausted on 21 January 2021.   
ES were required to attend work on 22 and 25 January 2021.

In 2021/22 school year there are 53 days of school holidays.*   
ES annual leave (for most) will be exhausted on 21 January 2022.   
ES return on Monday 24 January, 3 working days before teachers.

ES Return Monday the 24 January 2022   
Public Holiday 26 January 2022   
Teachers Return Friday 28 January 2022   
Students return Monday 31 January 2022

*If the Grand Final holiday is not in school holidays there will be 54 school holidays and ES will return Friday 21 January 2022, a full week before teachers.

Some schools ignore all these facts and treat ES the same as teachers in school holidays, i.e. using eduPay code: on duty but not in attendance.

ES annual leave can go into deficit

The ES annual leave starts accruing progressively from mid-February each year.

Therefore, ES don’t accrue enough leave in term one to cover the first term holidays and begin term two with a leave deficit.

ES who work less than full-time or less than a full year may have a leave deficit at the end of January.

The amount of annual leave accrued and required by part-time ES depends on the days of the week they work and when public holidays fall in school holidays.

Part-time ES and insufficient leave

There will always be some ES who will not be able to accrue enough annual leave to cover all the school holidays.

The current ES leave system is designed for full-time employees and can disadvantages part time ES based on the days they work.

ES can check their leave accruals on eduPay at any time., but eduPay does not provide ES with a simple or accurate annual leave balance. Nor can ES cannot forecast annual leave during the year.

‘Extra’ banked annual leave can only be seen after ES exhaust accrued annual leave at the end of January each year or when they request an audit. 

ES leave audits

There is an EduPay ES leave audit in late November which forecasts annual leave for ES who have insufficient leave to cover the January holidays, but it doesn’t identify ES that have ‘extra’ annual leave.

ES have a right to know when in January will be exhausted and how much ‘extra’ annual leave they have.

Individual ES can request an annual leave audit from their business manager. The audits are done by DET HR.

ES with insufficient annual leave for January attend work when  their leave is exhausted or negotiate alternative arrangements.

Alternative arrangements could be LWOP, use accrued TIL or some schools just pay the ES any way.

Extra ES annual leave

There are two reasons why ES may have an ‘extra’ banked annual leave day.

  1. If ES have taken personal leave or WorkCover with a medical certificate during school holidays.
  2. They were employed full-time in 2017/18 and have had an extra day of annual leave because there were only 49 school holidays in that year.

The ‘extra’ ES annual leave is used at the end of January when ES exhaust their accrued annual leave Or during school terms with the permission of the principal.

Any unused ‘extra’ ES annual leave accumulated over years of service and if not used is paid out when their employment ceases.

EduPay does not provide ES with a simple or accurate annual leave balance.

ES cannot forecast annual leave during the year. ‘Extra’ banked annual leave can only be seen after ES exhaust accrued annual leave at the end of January each year.

This means that some ES could have different starting dates in January. Schools often cannot identify the extra leave, therefore cannot determine accurately when individual ES should return to work.

ES and sub branches should seek to have ES return with the teachers. Or at the very least identify ES with extra annual leave days, by asking for an audit.

ES annual leave can be raised in consultation committees.

VGSA annual leave clause

(1) (a) An employee is entitled to 152 hours (20 days for a full time employee) annual leave in respect of each twelve months of service and accrues progressively during a year of service according to the employee’s ordinary hours of work.

(b) In addition to annual leave accrued under sub clause (1)(a) an education support class employee is entitled to additional paid leave of 228 hours (30 days).  This entitlement is reduced by any leave purchased under sub clause 20(8).

(c) Employees will take annual leave at such times as the Employer determines provided that the wishes of the employee concerned will be taken into consideration as far as practicable.

(2) An employee who becomes ill or injured during a period of leave under sub clause (1), and subject to satisfying the requirements of sub clause (3), may be granted personal leave and have the relevant period re-credited to their entitlement under sub clause (1).

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Focus on ES reps 

To get the best outcomes for ES in schools, it is vital to have an ES Rep on your sub branch executive and for all ES members to actively support their Reps and the sub-branch. Our ES Reps do amazing and vital work, to learn more and be inspired read our ES Rep profiles. If you are considering becoming an ES Rep here is some more info:

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Union wins for ES

The AEU fought hard for ES staff in the latest Schools Agreement (VGSA 2022), which sees significant wage increases, improvements to allowances, and improved access to reclassification for ES through revised dimensions of work.

This comes on top of major wins the previous agreement (VGSA 2017), which saw over 7,000 ES members translated from insecure work to ongoing employment and achieve significant salary increases.

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The union’s strength at the negotiation table is directly related to our strength in numbers – the more teachers, ES staff and principals who join the AEU, the more powerfully we can advocate for members.  

Inviting your non-member colleagues to join the AEU is the most successful way to recruit new members – and to build our collective power. 

When we ask potential members why they haven't joined, most say they were never asked!