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School staff get 'long overdue' backpay after Holidays Act mistake

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Thu, 15 Jun 2023, 1:26PM

School staff get 'long overdue' backpay after Holidays Act mistake

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Thu, 15 Jun 2023, 1:26PM

By RNZ

Thousands of school staff are about to share more than $38 million in partial compensation for underpaid holiday entitlements.

The Ministry of Education told schools this week it would make the first tranche of payments later this month.

But it told RNZ full settlement of the problem would take several years, and $408m had been set aside for it.

The ministry said this month’s payments would go to about 75 per cent of current school employees, 82,300 people, with 27 per cent receiving more than $500. The highest sum paid would be about $20,000.

Half the recipients would receive less than $200, and a quarter would get less than $50, with a median payment of $208.

Staff were more likely to be owed Holidays Act remediation if their hours were determined by a roster or shift arrangement, they were casual employees, received allowances, worked additional hours or overtime, or changed their work patterns - for example, from fulltime to part-time - the ministry said.

The payments followed years of negotiation and calculation after a review in 2016 confirmed school staff were underpaid due to misinterpretation of the Holidays Act.

The ministry said this month’s payments were interim payments covering sick leave, public holidays, bereavement leave and family violence leave for current school employees and public holidays on days that would otherwise be working days for short-term relief teachers.

The payments covered the period from September 4, 2013 to January 27, 2022, but the problem dated back to March 1, 2010.

“While the Holidays Act remediation calculator is under development, we have adapted an existing estimation tool to complete calculations based on a reduced set of data conforming and remediation rules. This allows us to make payments to most current school employees now,” the ministry told schools.

It said staff might receive further payments, and it would not recover overpayments in “the unlikely event” that the ministry paid people more than they were owed.

Former school staff would be included in future payments.

“We continue to explore options to get money to the people who are owed it as soon as possible and this includes options for further interim payments,” the ministry told RNZ.

“While significant progress has been made on the full calculation, the size and the complexity of the schools payroll means this work will be ongoing over the next several years.”

 ‘Long overdue’

Educational Institute Te Riu Roa president Mark Potter said he was pleased the payments had finally started.

“Many people have not always been paid correctly for the different types of leave that they were meant to be taking, so it’s a good thing that that’s finally going to be put right. It’s just taking a long time to work out how to do that.”

Potter said the union understood the problem was extremely difficult to resolve correctly.

“You’re talking a very large workforce that has had a lot of non-compliant payments around the Holidays Act... But we are pleased it’s finally happening, it’s been long overdue and teachers have had to wait a long time for this happen.”

 

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