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  Guidelines on the Employment of
Casual Academic and VET Teaching Staff

Introduction

Casual academics serve a vital role in the University and play an important part in the quality of its teaching. Therefore, the University is committed to ensuring that it employs the most suitably qualified and experienced people and that they are provided with adequate information, development and support.

Circumstances vary widely across the University and RMIT needs to maintain flexibility whilst ensuring that sound practices are in place. These guidelines aim to assist you in attracting quality casual staff and in the management of their employment. For the purposes of this document the term "casual academic" shall refer to both casual HE academics and VET teachers unless otherwise stated.

These Guidelines should be read in conjunction with RMIT’s HR Policy No. 109 – Employment and Payment of Casual Staff.

Recruitment and Selection

In order to select a suitable person for a job it is necessary to have a clear idea of the work that is required to be performed as well as the relevant skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications required to do it. The position criteria should be explicit, commonly known and agreed by the people making the selection.

Recruitment

Once the position criteria has been determined, a decision has to be made about the best way to reach the pool of people suitable for the job. Casual staff may be recruited from a range of sources. Appointment by invitation is often through industry links or knowledge of previous teaching experience. In these cases it is important that staff are assessed as having the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to undertake the duties and are provided with adequate support. Every effort should be made to ensure that a reasonable pool of applicants from which to draw has been made. This pool of applicants can be captured in varying ways, dependent upon circumstances such as the lead-time available to fill the job, the likely availability of potential applicants’ etc. Recruitment options may include:

public advertisement in the media

advertisement through professional associations, internally to students etc.

job seekers approaching the faculty

approaching business organisations/industry links

post graduate students

by invitation.

In disciplines where applicants are plentiful, eligibility lists for casual positions can be created so that a suitable applicant can be called upon at short notice.

Selection

Once an applicant list is established their knowledge, skills and experience need to be assessed against the pre-determined job criteria. How you capture this information about applicants may vary. You might ask applicants to provide a CV or fill in an application form. But all applicants should be asked to provide a summary of relevant experience, skills (especially in areas where they may be supervising/using equipment and or chemicals) and qualifications. For casuals who are going to teach on a regular basis, qualifications should be verified and references checked.

The selection process must be systematic, fair and documented to ensure that the best person for the job is chosen. It is not necessary to form a selection committee for all casual appointments, but wherever possible there should be more than one person making the selection. The selection should be based on a systematic assessment of each applicant’s experience, skills and qualifications using information gathered from the application/CV, interview, skills testing (if applicable) and references.

Authorisation and monitoring of the appointment process, may be done by either the Head of Department/School, Dean or Associate Dean as designated by the Faculty. However, the person(s) selecting the academic should not do the authorising.

Appointment

In relation to pay the minimum award/enterprise agreement rate must apply unless a higher rate has been agreed. The rate of pay for the position should be based on the appropriate rate as described in Schedule 4 of the Enterprise Agreement for General and Academic Staff or Schedule 1 TAFE Teachers’ Conditions of Employment (Interim Award 1994). The rate of pay must be agreed with the academic before the academic commences employment. The academic should also understand how the rate was determined and that it includes casual and preparation/marking loadings. Where an ‘Agreed Rate’ is paid written justification needs to be kept in the department for future use.

A casual academic employee is required to deliver a lecture (or equivalent delivery through other than face to face teaching mode) of a specified duration, and in addition is also required to provide directly associated non contact duties. The casual lecturing and tutoring rates will include:

Payment for lectures/tutorials

Preparation of lectures/tutorials

Reasonably contemporary marking

Administration of student records

Student consultation

Duties required to be performed outside those above, should be paid separately at the appropriate rate. The rates also incorporate a casual loading in lieu of leave. There are also rates specified for repeat lectures/tutorials. These rates are the minimum rates required to be paid by law. Please contact HRS if you require assistance.

HE Academics

An Instrument of Appointment for casual lecturers/tutors/demonstrators should be completed and signed prior to employment. If it is appropriate, casuals may be offered work covering both semesters, rather than just one. Prompt and realistic payment for tasks is important. The employee should be given a copy of the Instrument of Appointment.

It should be remembered that the academic enterprise agreement restricts the employment of casual academics to 60% of the teaching contact hours expected of a full-time employee of similar designation. As the University is the employer, all casual employment entered into by the employee, regardless of Faculty, are aggregated to determine the employee’s load. Therefore, you should determine a casual academic’s commitments with other areas of the University prior to appointment.

VET Teachers

Casual VET teachers are regulated by the RMIT TAFE teaching Staff Enterprise Agreement 2000 (Clause 14) and the relevant provisions of the letter headed "TAFE Enterprise Agreement 2000" from the Vice-Chancellor to the AEU.  Casual employment is available for the performance of non teaching duties as well as teaching duties.  Teaching duties, defined as duties that require preparation, correction and student consultation are paid with a 50% loading.

Casual VET teachers are restricted to a maximum of 320 hours of teaching per annum, and a maximum of 84 hours over a 4 weekly cycle.  The total maximum annual load for casual employment is 640 hours with each hour of teaching duty counted as the equivalent of 1.5 hours.  There is also a minimum payment of 2 hours for each period of casual engagement whether or not the time for which she/he is employed is less than 2 hours.  

As the University is the employer, all casual employment entered into by the employee, regardless of Faculty, are aggregated to determine the employee’s load. Therefore, you should determine a casual teacher’s commitments with other areas of the University prior to appointment.

Employee Records

The University's central payroll system records the casual academic's name, address, staff number, rate of pay, hours taught and organisation unit. It is recommended that each Department/School maintain their own database containing details such as work experience, qualifications, subjects taught and effectiveness on each casual academic, this will assist them in monitoring the quality of their staff and programs. Such information should be kept at least 6 months following the commencement of the staff member and for the duration of the academic's employment.

Download an example of a database for recording details on casual academic staff.

Induction

Induction is an important process for new casual staff. A number of Faculties have designed a local induction process and booklet to assist in this process. All casual academics should be assigned to an academic who takes on the responsibilities of supervising the academic including induction, development and the monitoring of performance.

Induction may be done on an individual basis or in a group. Casual academics should be advised of

their conditions of employment,

notice required,

access to training activities,

information on core University policies such as student administration, Code of Ethics, Equal opportunity and occupational health and safety issues.

They should also be advised of any specific policies/procedures followed by the Faculty, particularly in relation to student assessment, safety and emergency procedures in laboratories. and what is expected of them in their role as a casual academic.

Further information on the Induction of Staff can be obtained in HRS’s A Guide to Induction.

Development

Faculties are encouraged, where appropriate to provide training/development activities for their casual academics. The designated person responsible for each casual academic should discuss suitable development activities with the academic. This might include workshops, internal activities run by the Faculty or sponsored attendance at conferences/seminars. Opportunities should be provided for casual academics to meet other staff, to discuss issues and raise problems. The academic should feel involved and be given appropriate recognition. Casual academics view the University in the light of their experience and relationship with their supervisor.

Monitoring Performance

The designated person responsible for the casual academic should maintain contact and provide feedback to the academic on how he/she is performing. The amount of contact will vary according to the academic’s length of employment and how much teaching experience he/she has had. Where the academic is newly employed contact should be regular and feedback and advice given frequently.

For all casual academics, student feedback should be monitored and processes put in place to ensure fair and consistent marking standards. Other forms of feedback on performance might include peer evaluations and observation of the academic in class. The feedback should be consistent with the University’s Student Feedback Policy.

It is appropriate to consult with the employer on such monitoring procedures at the start of the semester. Group processes for gaining student feedback and problem solving are also encouraged.

Termination of Employment

If there are any unusual circumstances around a termination these situations should be discussed with the Employee Relations Branch, HRS on 9925 7768 prior to the termination occurring.

Long term casual engagements are not advised. Depending on the circumstances, long term casual employees may develop an expectation of regular and constant assignments. In such instances the termination of the casual engagement may present problems. In such circumstances, it is recommended that you discuss your situation with the Employee Relations Branch, HRS on 9925 7768 at the earliest opportunity.

Quality Assurance Mechanisms

As part of the University’s quality assurance processes the employment of casual academics should be reviewed through a Faculty Review process. Therefore, it is important that areas ensure that their employment practices follow these guidelines.

Building Relationships

Research shows that casual academics value good co-ordination, interaction and support from and with the faculty. Intrinsic satisfaction and enjoyment are given as more important reasons for teaching than money. Therefore, building and maintaining relationships with casual academic staff will be critical to the effectiveness of the relationship. Two way exchanges of information; giving and receiving feedback and advice; the development of a team atmosphere; invitations to casual academics to attend staff functions, orientation sessions/briefings can all contribute to the feeling of belonging by the casual academic. It should be remembered that casual academics are all individuals and their motivation for teaching may vary. It is important to be aware of their aspirations, particularly if they wish to pursue an academic career.

 


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Last Modified January 2001 by Jacquie Ball

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