Know Your Rights

A collection of links and resources for English language teachers in Australia to know what their rights are as employees, including

Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award 2010

The Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award 2010 is the general award which applies to:

  • ELICOS teachers wherever they work
  • All TAFE employees
  • Employees in the Adult Education sector
  • Employee of private providers of higher education and post compulsory education, including university companies.

However, note that many institutions, colleges, etc. will have an ‘enterprise award’, which should offer better conditions than the award (the ‘Better Off Overall Test’ ).  For employees not covered by an Enterprise Agreement, this award applies.

Organisations that ELTs can contact for support – unions that represent ELTs in Australia, and other relevant links:

  • Unicasual
    A workplace information portal for Australian casual and sessional academic staff produced by the NTEU and the CAPA
  • Fair Work Commission
    Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal. It is an independent body with power to carry out a range of functions including:

    • providing a safety net of minimum conditions, including minimum wages in awards
    • facilitating good faith bargaining and making enterprise agreements
    • dealing with applications in relation to unfair dismissal
    • regulating how industrial action is taken
    • resolving a range of collective and individual workplace disputes through conciliation, mediation and in some cases public tribunal hearings
    • functions in connection with workplace determinations, equal remuneration, transfer of business, general workplace protections, right of entry and stand down.
  • Fair Work Ombudsman
    Helps employers and employees understand and follow Australian workplace laws, by:

    • providing information and education
    • providing tools, templates and guides
    • helping you resolve workplace issues.

PAPERS and ARTICLES on working conditions for ELTs in Australia

(ordered chronologically, most recent first):

Stanley, Phiona (2016). Economy class? Lived experiences and career trajectories of private-sector English-language school teachers in Australia. In P. Haworth and C. Craig (Eds), The career trajectories of English language teachers. Oxford: Symposium Book,   (pp.185-199).

Abstract: “‘If I worked in a nice restaurant I’d make more money than I do here … But I love my job’, says a teacher interviewed for this research project. This chapter asks: ‘what does it feel like to work in a teaching job that pays less than waitressing? What kinds of teachers are drawn to, and stick around in, commercial English Language Teaching (ELT)? What are the effects on teaching, and on students?’ The study was conducted among teachers, students, and directors of studies in 11 language schools in four cities in Australia. This chapter considers the various ‘types’ of teachers in this sector and their different career trajectories. Also discussed are the effects of teachers’ lived experiences in the sector on the ELT profession more widely, in particular on the well-documented low status of the profession. This chapter therefore has relevance for all English language teachers, regardless of the sector in which they work. Might all teachers’ professionalism be tainted by association, and if so, how might a case be made for ‘upgrading’ ELT from ‘economy class’?”
Also the slides from Phiona’s plenary session at the 2016 English Australia Conference are available here: The industry responds: Teachers’ professional identities in Australian English language schools

O’Connor, B.G. (2012). Life after CELTA: A precarious transition into English Language Teaching (PhD manuscript)

Abstract: “This thesis examines the transition process of newly graduated trainees with a Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) into diverse English Language Teaching sites around the world.”
“CELTA is seen by many prospective teachers as a key into the TESOL profession. However, this thesis asks: how do graduates with this predominantly skills-based pre-service award fare in their transition into English Language Teaching?”
“This study focuses on the stories of eleven new CELTA-qualified teachers from one Melbourne education institute in their first year of teaching in Australia or overseas.”

Wishart, John (2009). Being a TAFE Casual. The Australian TAFE Teacher, Vol. 43, No. 2, Winter 2009: p. 6-7

Abstract: “The uncertain employment situation of TAFE casual teachers [ELTs] who are discarded and reinstated between terms is discussed. It is pointed out that TAFE casual teachers are in reality long-term part-time workers paid as per the class hours they teach, but are denied the benefits of a government job.”
(Posted with the permission of the Australian Education Union (AEU). Access more recent issues of The Australian TAFE Teacher here:

Carosi, Penny (2005). Contracting Out. The Australian TAFE Teacher, Vol. 39, No. 3, Spring 2005: p. 19.

Abstract: “Examines what has happened to New South Wales (NSW) Adult Migrant Education Service since 1998 when the Federal government decided to contract out the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP).”
(Posted with the permission of the Australian Education Union (AEU). Access more recent issues of The Australian TAFE Teacher here:

Bertone, Santina (2000). Casualisation of the ESL Workforce in Australia. ACTA Background Paper No. 5. TESOL in Context, Vol. 10 Iss. 1 (June 2000).

Abstract: “This paper focuses on casual and temporary employment in the ESL (English as a Second Language) profession. It investigates the implications for the quality, range and accessibility of services when a significant proportion of teachers are employed and casual or temporary contracts.”

In May 2017, #AusELT held a Twitter chat on the topic Work & Rights in Australian ELT. Click on these links for details: chat description | chat transcript

Links of interest for those heading overseas:

  • Teachers as Workers Special Interest Group (TaWSIG)
    TaWSIG was founded in 2015 to address the working conditions of English language teachers.
  • TEFL Guild
    TEFL Guild aims to improve the working conditions of TEFL teachers by providing information about workplace rights and promoting union membership and collective bargaining among TEFL teachers.
  • ELT Advocacy Ireland
    Working to improve the working conditions and professional lives of English language teachers in Ireland through organisation and communication.