February 16, 2021

To: Teaching and Learning Assistants
Re: Working as a substitute teacher while on unpaid leave from TLA position

As many of you would be aware, due to the increase in demand for substitute teachers caused by COVID-19 restrictions, the NLTA and the school districts reached agreement to allow (in certain circumstances) permanent and term/replacement Teaching and Learning Assistants (TLAs) holding a level IV Teaching Certificate or higher to take temporary unpaid leave from their TLA position in order to work as a substitute teacher.  While it was not anticipated that this would take place too frequently, there are some considerations and subsequent actions that TLAs should consider in the event that they do take any amount of leave from their TLA position to work as a substitute teacher:

Teachers’ Pension Plan – TLAs in permanent or term positions would be contributing (via payroll deductions) to the Teachers’ Pension Plan (TPP). Paying into the TPP while on unpaid leave is not automatic, and substitute teachers and substitute TLAs do not contribute automatically to the TPP. So, if a member is on unpaid leave from their TLA position to work as a substitute teacher, they would not have paid into the TPP for that particular period of time. While they would instead be paying into the Government Money Purchase Plan (GMPP), as do all substitutes, they would not be paying TPP premiums and would therefore not be accruing pensionable service in the TPP for the period(s) of time spent working as a substitute teacher.

In such circumstances, TLAs are advised to contact the Teachers’ Pension Plan Corporation (TPPCorp) as soon as possible upon returning to their TLA position to make arrangements to purchase back the days of unpaid leave to avoid any loss of pensionable service in the TPP. Contributions made to the GMPP while substituting can be used to offset the cost.   It is also critical that members in these circumstances submit their request to purchase periods of unpaid leave to the TPPCorp within 180 days of returning to their TLA position in order to keep the cost as low as possible and be entitled to government paying its equal share of TPP premiums. After 180 days, members would have to pay full actuarial costs, with no government contribution. While it is not necessary to make a separate request for every instance of unpaid leave as a TLA to work as a substitute teacher (one request can be made to purchase multiple days/periods of unpaid leave), it is important to make such a request within 180 days of the earliest day/period of unpaid leave. Members in a term TLA position must also submit any request(s) to purchase periods of unpaid leave before the end of their contract, while they still hold a term/replacement position.

For more information, members should contact an NLTA Administrative Officer in Programs and Services or the Teachers’ Pension Plan Corporation (see contact information below).

Group Insurance – Substitute teachers and substitute TLAs are not enrolled automatically in the NLTA Group Insurance Program and do not have insurance premium payments deducted at source or cost shared with government. During a two week pay period, if a TLA were to take unpaid leave from their TLA position to work as a substitute teacher for a limited number of days, there would likely be no interruption to their Group Insurance premiums as the deductions could still be made from their regular TLA salary to cover the premium costs (of which government would pay their corresponding share).  However, if a TLA worked close to or all of an entire two week pay period as a substitute teacher (for example, they substituted for 9 or 10 days during the pay period), they should be aware that their regular TLA pay would likely not be adequate to cover their Group Insurance premiums. In such circumstances, they may be required to make alternate arrangements for payment of their Group Insurance premiums to avoid having their coverage interrupted. Members are encouraged to carefully and regularly check their pay stubs to ensure that proper premiums are being deducted. Any member with questions or concerns in this regard should contact an NLTA Administrative Officer in Programs and Services for assistance.

Summer Holdback Pay – Payroll for substitute teachers and substitute TLAs is not structured to provide for hold-back pay during the non-teaching periods. For teachers and TLAs in both continuing and term contracts, salary is, in general, paid in 26 equal installments during a school year, which provides continuity of pay during non-teaching periods, such as Christmas and Easter breaks and the summer months. Whenever a permanent or term contract teacher or TLA has a period(s) of unpaid leave during a school year, this has an impact on holdback pay, typically for July and August as payroll matters are reconciled at the end of each school year. Therefore, when a TLA chooses to take unpaid leave from their TLA position in order to work as a substitute teacher, they will see a corresponding decrease (depending on the amount of unpaid leave) in their hold-back pay during the summer. This does not necessarily mean they are being paid less during the school year overall, as they would have received their full pay as a substitute teacher up front with no allowance for holdback. However, it is important for TLAs to be aware of the potential adjustment to their regular pay amount during July and August for planning purposes.

As always, NLTA members seeking advice/assistance on specific matters related to their individual circumstances should contact the Association via mail@nlta.nl.ca.

Further questions regarding the Teachers’ Pension Plan may also be directed to the Teachers’ Pension Plan Corporation at memberservices@tppcnl.ca or by calling 709-793-8772 or toll free 1-833-345-8772.
Further questions regarding the NLTA Group Insurance Program may also be directed to Johnsons Incorporated by calling 709 737-1528 or toll free 1-800-563-1528.