The non-payment of 30% sick leave entitlement of teachers has a huge affect on the teachers’ performance.
Members of Parliament heard this from the Social Sector Committee during Parliament this week.
According to the report from the Committee. there is a need for M.E.S.C to thoroughly reconsider their decision on the non-payment of 30% sick leave entitlement of teachers as it affects their performance.
Due to the nature of their work, teachers need to attend every day but removing such benefits will cause other problems.
The Minister of Education, Sports and Culture Loau Keneti Sio, noted the payment of 30% unused sick leave upon retirement, resignation or moving to a contract position was removed by Public Service Commission.
The changes were reviewed for all public servants and it was approved by Cabinet in December 2015.
“Unutilized sick leave rolled over to the next year, hence the accumulation of sick leave balances over the years and some have leave balances in excess of 200 up to 300 days.
“Staff members can utilize this when they take prolonged sick leave and have exhausted all other leave avenues.
“The change means only 20 days can be carried forward to the next year, and anything in excess of 20, is forfeited.
“In a teachers case, those who have been teachers all their lives and served for more than 20 or 30 years have accumulated up to 200 and 300 unused sick leave.
“When the change took effect, all this amount of 200 and 300 sick leaves were forfeited and a new balance of 20 sick leaves was granted to everyone.”
The Minister further indicated the impact of this is that all teachers tried to utilise their sick leave throughout the year. “Meaning each teacher will take 20 extra days off the school calendar (4weeks) on top of other leave.
“This adds more stress to the already severe teacher shortage we are currently facing.
“This at the end of the day, will impact negatively on the students.”
Member of Parliament, Salausa Dr John Ah Ching supported the recommendation by the Committee to reconsider the 30% sick leave entitlements for teachers.
He noted this can be one of the incentives for this profession, which continues to face problems of teacher shortage.
“As teachers get older, they are more prone to illness, and the sick leave would come in handy for them,” stated Salausa.
The Prime Minister added that the issues raised by the member for Faleata East were not new and the sick leave days were intended to recuperate and recharge an individual’s strength in mind, body and spirit to enable individuals to carry out the various tasks at hand.
However it can also be seen as a performance measure for employees, to identify who is working efficiently and effectively and who is considered a ‘loss’ to the Ministry.
The PM noted that recommendations do not necessarily mean immediate approval and action, regardless of it being mentioned in the Government’s response.
There is a formal process whereby the recommendation is open for discussion, proper planning and prediction before enforcement of a new policy.
The process is lengthy and it requires adequate consideration by relevant ministries, personnel and the like.