Concluding Employment Relationships

This section contains general information on how to handle resignation, exit interviews, notice periods, bereavement, medical retirement and dismissal. Specific information is included in the relevant collective agreement and advice can be sought from NZSTA’s Advisory and Support Centre.




Resignation

Resignation may be given at any time by a permanent employee or long-term reliever. When employees intend to resign they should first notify their direct manager in writing of their resignation. The resignation letter should include an end date which complies with the notice required in the relevant employment agreement.

When an employee resigns in haste following conflict or in a swift, unexpected manner it is a recommended to allow for a ‘cooling off period’ before formally accepting a resignation. NZSTA suggests waiting for 2-3 days then checking, in writing, the intention to resign with the employee and following up with an acceptance of resignation. This template resignation acceptance can be used. 

The board may provide the employee with a reference for future employers which sets out the dates the employee was employed at the school, their position, and their employment performance.

When an employee resigns, it is a good opportunity to obtain feedback on their views of the school through an exit interview. 

Exit interview

Why should a school consider an exit interview or survey?

An exit interview is an interview or survey conducted with employees when they choose to leave the school. Exit interviews can identify both positive and negative reasons behind an employee’s departure and are a useful way to gain insight into employee views. It is important that the exit interview be part of a good transition process for both the departing employee and the school. Exit interviews should be voluntary. These can either be done electronically via a questionnaire or face to face as an interview.

What should be considered in the design of an exit interview?

The exit interview should be designed to find out more than just why the person is leaving. A useful exit interview should seek to gain employees’ views on the working conditions, leadership and general environment of the school in addition to asking for some suggestions for improvement. Besides the time and monetary costs involved, losing employees can be very costly in terms of losing their experience, skill set and the relationship they have built with school staff, students and the community. Therefore, it is very important that the feedback gained from exit interviews be taken seriously and appropriate follow-up action be taken on that feedback if any areas of improvement are identified.

The board and the principal should agree on the process of exit interviews and who has the authority to conduct these. We recommend a process being agreed at board level before commencing an exit interview process at your school or kura.

How do I explain this to staff?

Be sure to explain that the purpose of the interview or survey is to gain insight into the employee’s motivation for leaving. Assure employees that no matter what they say, they will not prejudice themselves and that the purpose is to understand employee perceptions of the workplace and identify any areas for improvement.

See examples of questions in our Exit Interview template

If you need further information, please contact our Employment Advisory & Support Centre on 0800 782 435 (Option 2).

Notice period

If it is mutually convenient, the board may agree with the employee on a shorter or longer notice period than the one required by the relevant Collective agreement or IEA. Nothing prevents an employee from giving more than the minimum amount of notice. Please see below the notice required under each of the collective agreements:

  • Teachers and Principals: two months’ notice.
  • Support Staff: one month notice.
  • School Caretakers’ and Cleaners’ (Including Canteen workers): two weeks’ notice.
  • Kaiarahi i te Reo, Therapists’ ATSSD and Special Education Assistants’: one month notice.
  • Secondary and Area School Groundstaff: two weeks’ notice.

Further information can be found here.

Bereavement

When an employee passes away, grants may be payable to the next of kin, any entitlements will be contained in the appropriate employment agreement. A support plan can be put in place, for further details see Preparing for and dealing with emergencies and traumatic incidents.

Action should be taken to safeguard the employee's possessions and transfer these to their next of kin once their identity has been verified.

Other considerations include: swift payments of grants, and leniency in use of employment-related accommodation for a set period.

Medical retirement

Medical retirement can be considered for Secondary Teachers, Secondary Principals, Area School Teachers, Area School Principals and Primary Principals who have a terminal or serious illness. To meet the threshold for consideration of a medical retirement the employee may have a terminal or serious illness which is impacting on their ability to carry out their current duties.

To determine eligibility for medical retirement there is information available in several collective agreements. Please click here for the centralised information on the application process provided by the Ministry of Education.

We also recommend when dealing with a potential medical retirement situation to seek early advice from NZSTA Employment Adviser to assist with managing the process. To arrange this please contact our helpdesk on 0800 782 435 (option 2) or eradvice@nzsta.org.nz.

Dismissal

The procedure of dismissing an employee is complex, and making a mistake can mean serious and costly litigation. It is strongly recommended that the board should contact an NZSTA employment adviser before taking any action that could lead to dismissal. Policies around dismissal are further discussed in the complaints and disciplinary policy section.

There must be a good reason for a dismissal, and the dismissal must be procedurally in order. There are no hard and fast statutory requirements on how employers should handle matters of dismissal, but the concepts of what constitutes fair, equitable, and acceptable treatment have been progressively defined by case law. Dismissal is the most common reason for an employee to raise a personal grievance. It is also an area where the employer may have to defend their actions leading up to the dismissal.

If dismissal occurs, this will generally be at the end of a series of disciplinary procedures, and obviously only where these procedures have failed to remedy the problem. Notice periods contained in employment agreements must be complied with. Exceptions will exist where summary dismissal can be justified. However, in general, a dismissal action would be preceded by oral and written warnings.

Constructive dismissal

Constructive dismissal is also known as forced resignation, and occurs when an employer puts pressure (directly or indirectly) on an employee to resign. Also, when the employer makes the situation at work intolerable for the employee they may feel forced to resign. An employee who considers they have been forced to resign may raise a personal grievance.

Retirement

There is no set age that an employee must retire from work. Employees can’t be made to retire because of their age.

The notice period for intending retirement is the same as for resignation.

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