Boards of trustees are the legislated employer in state and integrated schools in New Zealand. However, boards can delegate the power of the employer to the principal or any other employee of the board. This delegation must be by board resolution and written notice to the person to who the delegated power is being passed. The person delegated the power of employer by the board may only further delegate the power if they do so in the same way with the prior written consent of the board.
Who is the employer?
What is an ‘automatic translation’ and how does it work?
An automatic translation is the mechanism generally used when changing from one remuneration system to another, within a collective agreement. It means that positions ‘translate’ from where they sit on the current pay scale to a designated point on the new pay scale. The decision for where positions translate to is made by agreement between the parties to the collective agreement.
In line with the method explained above all support staff positions covered by the terms and conditions of the current SSSCA will translate to a new grade and stepon 29 June 2015. What grade and step a support staff employee’s position translates to was agreed as part of the terms of settlement of the SSSCA 2014-16.
There is no need for support staff employees or employers to take any action for the translation to take place. Further information about the exact nature of this process can be found here.
Are the changes meant to provide for a general ‘regrading’ of positions?
No. These changes are about having a remuneration system that better meets the needs of both employers and employees, and one that allows for decisions to be taken on a more consistent basis. The change is meant, as much as possible, to be a neutral change in terms of grading and pay rates for current support staff employees.
There is a one off process (see question directly below) which addresses the circumstances of one group of employees. However there is no intention that the changes mean that employers will necessarily decide to regrade any more positions in the future than they currently decide to but where employers believe regrading may be justified they have better guidance around how to make their decisions.
What do I do about the one off process for certain employees to raise concerns about the impact of the automatic translation?
As has been widely publicised the automatic translation is not intended to be an opportunity for widespread regrading of support staff positions.
However, as agreed in the SSSCA 2014-16 Terms of Settlement, support staff in new grades B and C do have the right to raise any concerns about their placement on the new pay scale within 15 working days from the translation date (by 20 July 2015). Employers should make a decision about the employee’s concern within 7 weeks of the date of translation to the new scale (by 17 August 2015).
The basic process for how an employer should address a concern that has been raised is detailed on page 16 of the Best Practice Guidance. It simply states that;
Employer to follow grading process as per clause 3.6 of the SSSCA (which is supplemented by pages 10 and 11 of this guidance) and notify employee of its decision within 7 weeks of the date of translation to the new scale (i.e. by 17 August 2015).
Employers should remember that in relation to this process;
- Many of the employees who translate to new grades B and C will have not incurred much, if any, potential future disadvantage through the translation process (check Appendix 1 in the Best Practice Guidance to confirm this) and so, as this is primarily intended to be a neutral translation process, would appear unlikely to have a justifiable claim to be regraded as part of this process.
- The ultimate decision about any employee’s concern lies with the employer and so there is no obligation on an employer to regrade the position of any employee who raises a concern.
- As with any action the employer should be able to justify/explain the process they have gone through in making their decision.
- There may be a level of uncertainty about how the new remuneration system will operate in practice within the internal relativities of each school. This uncertainty may justify employers deciding not to amend the result of the automatic translation as, unless absolutely certain about the risks and consequences of any amendment (i.e. resentment caused by certain employees being regraded and others not), it may be inappropriate to do this.
What is the best way to go about the grading new positions after 29 June 2015?
Employers will note that the changes afford them a lot of flexibility when making grading decisions. This is shown by;
1. The two stages of the decision making process (i.e. level assessment for each position element and actual grade) are both fully at the employer’s discretion;
2. The level descriptors within the position elements table are open to subjective interpretation; and
3. When all the position elements are not assessed by the employer as being the same level then the employer needs to decide for themselves as to how they will determine the grade of the position (see clause 3.6.8 of the new SSSCA and also page 8 of the Best Practice Guidance).
Important points for employers to remember
It is important for employers to remember that in order to minimise risk of dispute, get the most efficient result and also have more effective relationships with their staff that they;
1. Follow consistent processes; and
2. Act in a consistent manner.
A simple way to effectively undertake this process
In order to do all this a employer may find it most effective to take as simple an approach as possible when determining the grade of a new position.
Two ways in which an employer may look to do this are;
A) Apply an approach to your interpretation of the level descriptors within the position elements table based on internal workplace relativity. In this way it should be easy to identify why one support staff position in your school, in comparison to another, is both assessed as a certain level for a position element as well as a certain grade.
note: Internal grade relativity may be skewed (and so may not need to be accounted for) between positions that were created prior to 29 June 2015 andpositions that were created after 29 June 2015. This is because the former positions were graded under the old grading system.
B) Where all position elements are not assessed at the same level for a position that the determination of the position’s grade is made by the employer by determining;
i) how each of the different requirements of the position would themselves be graded; and
ii) and how much time is spent on each of these requirements as a proportion of the whole position.
This is one of the approaches suggested on page 8 of the Best Practice Guidance and will give each requirement of the position a proportional impact, based on the percentage of hours of work per week spent on the respective requirements, on the overall grading determination. For example, if;
- A position has 16 out of a total of 20 hours of work per week which is determined by the employer to be grade A work as it mostly meets the requirements of level one in terms of the different position elements; and
- The position’s other 4 hours of work per week is determined by the employer to be grade B work as it mostly meets the requirements of level two in terms of the different position elements;
then the employer would likely determine this position to be grade A as 80% of the hours of work per week is spent on Grade A requirements.
If you have a particular query or issue that arises about this process then please contact an regional adviser employment (ER)
What should I do when the requirements of a position do not actually meet of the requirements of the new grade that the position has translated into (i.e. a position that was previously placed on Administration Grade B steps 10-14 that translates to new Grade C)?
As way of background to this question employers should remember that the point of the changes is to transition to a fairer remuneration system (for both employers and employees) and that, as with any major change, it will likely take some time for all the benefits to be realised.
A major issue within the old remuneration system is that progression through the steps mostly relied upon time in the position rather than actual performance or development of the requirements of the position. This was shown by;
- A general lack of robust HR requirements (i.e. appraisals based on accurate job descriptions) meant positions tended to progress up the scale each year with little, if any, regard to an employee’s actual performance in a position; and
- Grade B on the Administration Scale containing 14 steps meaning an employee placed in this grade was able to progress from step 1 to step 14 without the requirements of their position ever changing at all;
The progression issue has been addressed in the new system through;
- There now being four grades that a position can be placed within as opposed to three;
- Grades contain a much more reasonable amount of steps (i.e. none contain more than 6);
- Requirements for more robust HR practices within the SSSCA (i.e. accurate job descriptions and annual appraisals) which should mean that it is only employees that are performing actually incrementally progress up the steps.
One issue that employers may face
Employers may have some confusion about what to do about positions (i.e. those that were within Administration Grade B steps 10-14 at the time of translation) which translate to a new grade whose requirements the position may not actually meet. The key points to remember in this situation are;
- That these positions have only ended up in that grade as a consequence of where they were placed in the old system at the time of translation and notbecause their position actually meets the requirements of the new grade that it has translated to.
- This issue is a one off consequence of the automatic translation, meaning that it should not arise for any support staff positions created after 29 June 2015.
- At least in the case of positions currently in Admin Grade B steps 1-10, that that pay progression expected for these employees through the translation has changed very little (i.e. $0.03) from what they could of expected under the old system.
- Upon translation there is very little, if any, cost to employers because of this issue and costs to employers should actually be reduced in the mid to long term because there is no longer a 14 step grade.
- That in relation to the actual requirements of the position the employer now has the choice of;
a) Changing the requirements of the position to meet the new requirements of the grade that position has translated into; or
b) Not changing the requirements of the position to meet the new requirements of the grade that position has translated into on the basis that this change was simply a notional change that was not based on the actual requirements of the position.
An employer’s decision in relation to this choice should be determined by the needs within the school, the capabilities of the employee in the position and other internal relativities.
If you have any doubts or queries about this issue then please contact the regional adviser employment (ER) 0800 782 435 – Option 3.
How does the automatic translation effect employees paid ‘above the minimum rate’?
The SSSCA is and will remain a minimum rates document. The changes therefore will only have an immediate effect upon translation on the pay rates of employees whose current actual pay rate is below the minimum pay rate for the step to which their position translates to in the new SSSCA pay scale. In other words any employee who is currently paid above what the new minimum rate for the step upon which their position will translate to will not receive any change in actual pay rate after the translation.
How do these changes effect Support Staff employees employed on Individual Employment Agreements (IEAs)?
NZSTA’s understanding is that any support staff employee employed on the terms and conditions of the most current Support Staff IEA that was promulgated by the Secretary for Education on 6 June 2014 (see here) will automatically translate onto the new remuneration system along with all support staff employees who are union members and so employed on the SSSCA itself.
However any support staff employee whose terms and conditions of employment are based on an IEA that was promulgated before the most recently promulgated IEA will not automatically translate to the new system because their IEA does not provide for this change. The SSSCA remuneration system changes will therefore have no effect on these employees unless the board reviews their position and determines that they will offer the employee the new IEA (please feel free to contact NZSTA if you have queries about this process).
How should I go about updating our school’s HR practices to meet the requirements (i.e. job descriptions/written requirements and annual appraisals) of the changes?
As with any other change process (i.e. a reorganization/restructuring of work) employers should ensure that they approach these processes carefully.
You will note that a large focus of the changes is directed towards the importance of employers engaging in good HR practices. The most specific example of this is employers having accurate and up to date job descriptions and/or written requirements for support staff positions. Guidance about the process for creating/updating a job description is contained within the best practice guidance. Careful consideration of this process should mean that benefits are maximised and risks are mitigated.
In terms of risk mitigation it is important, when updating or creating job descriptions and/or written requirements, that employers are aware that the contents of job descriptions and/or written requirements inform the new grading process. This is so that unintended consequences are less likely to occur.
An example of an unintended consequence could be a regrading claim being made by an employee because their position’s job description unintentionally aligns with the wording of different level descriptors, within the elements of the position table, than those of the level that the employer has assessed the position as being.
When looking to update your school’s HR practices you should look to make the most of the support of regional adviser employment (HR).
What does DCAS mean?
Date Collective Agreement Signed. It is a heading in the scales as part of the terms of settlement.