(1) The Special Studies Leave Policy sets down the framework and principles relating to the University's special studies leave provisions, including the requirements and responsibilities of academic employees involved in the process.
(2) The purpose of special studies leave is to strengthen the University by fostering the intellectual and professional development of its academic employees consistent with the University's strategic objectives and commitment to equal opportunity.
(3) This policy applies to fixed term or continuing academic employees.
(4) Special studies leave is granted as a privilege and not as a right. The University regards this leave as a means by which academic employees can engage in a period of continuous scholarship and/or a period of professional practice appropriate to the employee's employment responsibilities in order to enhance their research productivity, teaching practice, professional practice, artistic developments and/or qualifications. This leave is regarded by the University as an investment in the future and not a reward for past performance.
(5) Within the broad parameters set by this policy, special studies proposals will be considered in relation to the scholarly performance and development needs of the individual, the requirements of the University's academic programs, and the University's strategic priorities. The range of approved programs is therefore expected to reflect the breadth and diversity of the University's objectives and take account of the target groups identified in the University's Equity and Diversity Plan.
(6) An employee will not be granted special studies leave until a minimum of two years service has been completed at Southern Cross University.
(7) Academic employees appointed on a continuing basis, or on a fixed-term basis of four years or more at the commencement of a period of special studies leave, may make application for paid leave and financial assistance in accordance with this Policy. Where an employee has been employed on consecutive fixed-term contracts, aggregated service will be calculated to establish the four year requirement, provided no breaks in service of more than two months occur between contracts.
(8) An employee must also be able to return to the University's service for at least a 12 month period, within the terms of their appointment, following completion of the period of special studies leave. Service for this purpose does not include long service leave unless specifically authorised by the Vice Chancellor.
(9) Special studies leave eligibility accrues at the rate of one month for every six months of service, up to a maximum of 12 months eligibility after six years of service. The total period of qualifying service will be calculated up to the date when the period of leave begins.
(10) Special studies leave eligibility does not accrue while on special studies leave.
(11) The taking of any period of special studies leave, no matter how long, will reduce to zero all accrued eligibility for special studies leave. Accrual will recommence at the rate of one month for every six months of service upon recommencement of normal University service following completion of a period of special studies leave.
(12) In determining qualifying service for special studies leave purposes, the University may recognise prior continuous paid full-time or fractional service with other Australian higher education institutions provided that the employee was eligible to apply for participation in a study leave or similar program in their former institution(s).
(13) Recognition of prior service is dependent upon there being not more than two months break between cessation of employment with the releasing institution and commencement with Southern Cross University. The period between cessation and commencement shall not count as qualifying service for special studies leave purposes. Where there has been a break of more than two months, no period of prior service will be recognised.
(14) The extent of any previous relevant service will be established by HR Services at the time the employee commences employment with this University.
(15) Absences on long service leave, special studies leave and leave without pay will not count as service in determining eligibility for special studies leave.
(16) The period of leave granted will be determined by the length of eligible service, the needs of the employee's program, and will not be less than two months. Ordinarily, periods of special studies leave will not exceed six months. Only in very exceptional circumstances will periods of more than six months leave be approved by the Vice Chancellor.
(17) The commencement date for special studies leave is to be negotiated with and agreed to by the Head of Work Unit.
(18) Periods of special studies leave are inclusive of annual leave accruing during the absence.
(19) Sick leave of more than two weeks that is supported by a medical certificate and fully overlaps with a period of special studies leave will, subject to the University's sick leave provisions, be re-credited to the employee. The period of re-credited special studies leave may be taken at a time to be negotiated and agreed to by the Head of Work Unit.
(20) Normally, special studies leave will only be approved if a minimum of six weeks of the leave is undertaken at another location at least 400 kms from the employee's base workplace.
(21) Applications will be considered by a Special Studies Leave Committee, comprising:
(22) Four Special Studies Leave Committee members, including at least one female and one male, are required for a Committee quorum. If necessary, the Vice Chancellor or nominee may appoint an additional member to address these requirements.
(23) The SSLC will make recommendations, including a priority listing, to the Vice Chancellor.
Applications will be called at an appropriate time to be notified by the Director, Human Resources. Such applications are to be made on the 'Special Studies Leave Application' available from HR Services website. Applicants are required to consult with their supervisor, Head of Work Unit, and the Executive Member or Vice Chancellor (as appropriate) before submitting their application.
(24) Applications must include the following information:
(25) Applications for special studies leave will be considered on the basis of the quality and merit of the proposed program. The onus is on the applicant to present a clear and comprehensive description and rationale for all parts of the program, including all visits undertaken and other activities pursued. Applications must clearly:
(26) The SSLC will assess applications in the context of the value to the employee and to the University of the proposed program and the appropriateness of the place or places where it is to be pursued.
(27) In assessing applications, the SSLC will look for evidence of the employee's productivity and achievements (since the last special studies leave, where applicable), which must be detailed sufficiently in the application to enable an assessment to be made.
(28) For second and subsequent periods of special studies leave, the SSLC will look at the value to the employee and the University of the previous period of special studies leave.
(29) In making its recommendations to the Vice Chancellor, the SSLC will take into account the type and extent of other forms of support the employee has previously received to undertake developmental activities. Normally, no more than one period of special studies leave of six months duration will be considered to support progress toward completion of a postgraduate award.
(30) Approval of an application will at all times be subject to Work Unit and University convenience. Accordingly, special studies leave is to be organised so it causes minimum disruption to normal teaching and research programs. Approval is therefore conditional upon:
(31) Approval for special studies leave will be contingent on the completion of Section D in the Special Studies Leave Application: 'To Be Completed by the Head of Work Unit. The relevant Head of Work Unit will:
(32) Applicants will be informed of the reasons for rejection or amendment of an application by the relevant Executive Member following the decision of the Vice Chancellor.
(33) Once the Vice Chancellor has approved an application for special studies leave, minor changes may be made to the proposed leave program, but the changes are subject to the relevant Head of Work Unit and Executive Member's approval prior to commencement of the leave. Proposed significant changes will require the approval of the Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor on the recommendations of the relevant Head of Work Unit and Executive Member.
(34) Where consultancies and paid employment or other income-earning activity, including teaching, are proposed in conjunction with special studies leave, the employee will submit details of the work to be undertaken (with comment on its relevance to the agreed Academic Staff Portfolio), and the salary, fee, grant or other assistance to be received by the applicant and the proportion of the leave to be taken up in such activity. This information shall be included in the application for special studies leave, or provided without delay should such a proposal develop after the application has been submitted or approved.
(35) The University's Outside Work Policy applies to activities undertaken and income received (whether in cash or kind) while on special studies leave.
(36) Employees proceeding on special studies leave shall be paid at their normal salary rate. However, up to half their normal salary may be paid in advance as a lump sum up to six weeks before departure date, if the leave is to be undertaken overseas.
(37) Subject to receipt of a PAYG Withholding Variation from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), the advance payment may be paid tax free or at a reduced tax rate. Employees must comply with ATO requirements when applying for a variation. Employees receiving salary in advance under the provisions of a PAYG Withholding Variation must observe University and ATO requirements for the documentation and recording of activities and expenses.
(38) Within the relevant budget allocation, employees proceeding on special studies leave will be granted financial assistance on the following basis. Staff on fractional appointments may apply for assistance on a pro-rata basis.
(39) Notwithstanding the provisions of clause (39)b, all requests for waiving reimbursement to the University of additional earnings while on leave will be treated sympathetically, provided that a reasonable case can be made for such a waiver.
(40) The financial assistance, as provided in clauses (36) - (39), may be claimed by arrangement with HR Services prior to departure subject to the following:
(41) An employee on special studies leave is covered by insurance for the duration of the absence as per the Travel and Entertainment Policy . To ensure protection, the employee must complete an electronic Travel Approval in E-Trans detailing their itinerary. When the Travel Approval is fully authorised, the employee will be informed by email and directed to download and complete a 'travel insurance application and information' pack detailing emergency assistance, claim and other procedures before their leave commences.
(42) Should the length of travel exceed six months the application form included in the information pack is to be completed, as additional fees apply which are payable by the work unit concerned. Equipment or personal effects valued in excess of $2,500 per item are to be declared well before departure to enable the insurer to make a ruling. In some cases, an additional cost may apply.
(43) Employees taking University equipment off campus must obtain prior approval from the relevant Head of Work Unit or Executive Member and report this approval to the Director, Financial and Business Services to enable the Asset Register to be maintained and to ensure insurance cover is adequate.
(44) Within two months of return from special studies leave, the employee shall submit a written report on the work undertaken to their Supervisor who will forward the report with comment to the relevant Executive Member or Vice Chancellor, as appropriate. The report should normally be between 1,500 and 2,000 words in length, and must include:
(45) Before forwarding the report to the Vice Chancellor, the relevant Executive Member will add evaluative comments on the outcomes from the period of special studies leave.
(46) If a report is not received from the employee within two months of their return to the University, eligibility towards a further period of leave will not recommence until and from the time that the report is received.
(47) The report and abstract will be made available to the University Council on request and a copy must be forwarded to HR Services.
(48) At the conclusion of the special studies leave the employee is required to provide the relevant Executive Member a written statement either:
(49) Staff on special studies leave are reminded that in order to comply with the Taxation Commissioner's requirements they must keep a record of their activities which clearly demonstrates, consistent with Australian Taxation regulations, when they were engaged in University work and when on personal leave.
(50) Any additional liability arising from the employee's failing to keep adequate records will be seen as the personal responsibility of the employee.
(51) Where an employee resigns or retires within one year of returning to duty after a period of special studies leave, they will be liable to repay, on a pro-rata basis, either all or a portion of any financial assistance provided by the University. In special circumstances, this requirement may be waived by the Vice Chancellor.
(52) All documentation relating to an employee's special studies leave shall be placed on or copied to their personnel file in HR Services.
(53) The Vice Chancellor has the delegation to approve special studies leave applications for academic staff.
(54) The Nominated HR Manager has the delegation to approve payment in advance for travel grants associated with approved special studies leave applications.