Education Ministry clarifies leave days

By Anish Chand

Government says teachers are given more paid holiday days as opposed to other civil servants and workers employed in the private sector in Fiji.

And Permanent Secretary for Education Alison Burchell says school teachers have been wrongly giving themselves three extra days of compassionate leave in contrary to what they are entitled to under the civil servants General Orders of 2011.

Burchell made no mention of an Islands Business story on bereavement leave for teachers early this week, which was based on a newsletter that was issued to teachers by her ministry’s human resources department.

We had quoted from the newsletter that stated that teachers would no longer be entitled to three days of compassionate leave annually, as has been the practice for ages.

Now, Burchell is stating that the practice of giving compassionate leave was wrong.

“Contrary to the General Orders, it is noted that MOE officials have been erroneously providing all teachers with 3 working days of paid compassionate leave in addition to the 3 working days of paid bereavement leave,” says Burchell in a statement.

All teachers now only qualify for 3 working days of paid bereavement leave, just like all other workers in the public and private sectors.

Burchell argues teachers are entitled to many more paid holiday days as opposed to other civil servants and workers employed in the private sector due to the school term breaks.

“The General Orders provide that teachers are entitled to holidays during the school holidays, which amounts to 11 weeks (or a total of 55 working days) of paid holiday,” Burchell says.

This compares to civil servants getting 18 or 21 working days of paid annual leave and Government wage earners, such as drivers and messengers entitled to 12 to 15 days of annual leave.

Teachers, with all other civil servants get 3 working days of bereavement leave.

“While some nations call their respective bereavement policies by other names (Australia, for example, requires all employers to provide 2 total days of what it calls “compassionate and bereavement leave”), Fiji’s General Orders label its 3 paid leave days only as bereavement,” says Burchell.

She adds the General Orders do not require that employers provide separate compassionate leave days to any civil servant, including any teacher.

“MOE wishes to assure all teachers that they will be provided with their proper leave entitlements as set out in the General Orders,” says Burchell.