The court found the department took money for the laptops unlawfully. (Anne-Christine Pouloulat, file photo: AFP)
Victoria’s Education Department will have to repay $37 million to teachers and principals who were forced to lease laptops.
Last month the Federal Court ruled the department unlawfully deducted their salaries to pay for the computers under the State Government’s Notebooks for Teachers and Principals program.
As a result of orders in the landmark case, 46,000 teachers will be reimbursed by Christmas, including a 5 per cent interest payment.
Former employees will be reimbursed by March 2016.
Most teachers can expect to receive several hundred dollars.
The Australian Education Union sued the department in 2013, arguing it was unreasonable for teachers to have to lease computers that were an essential part of their job.
Victorian branch president Meredith Peace said teachers would get the recompense they deserved.
“Laptop computers are essential equipment for teachers and principals,” she said.
“Expecting teachers and principals to pay out of their own pockets for a computer that they use to write school reports, communicate with parents and other teachers and plan lessons is absolutely unfair.”
From July 2009 to November 2013 the department took fortnightly deductions of between $4 and $17 from teachers’ salaries, totalling $20 million.
The court found the teachers’ contributions were made in the absence of a genuine choice to participate in the program, the cost was set at an excessive rate, the deductions were not principally for the benefit of teachers, and the value of the benefits teachers received through personal use was not enough to justify the payments.
Education Minister James Merlino said the department would not appeal against the decision.
“The Andrews Labor Government understands that laptops have become an essential professional tool for many of our state’s teachers,” he said.
The department denied the deductions were unauthorised but stopped making them on November 13.