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Relieving Work – What you need to know if you are a reliever or thinking of doing this

Rachel Pratt
© ChildForum


relieving at an early childhood centre - ChildForumMost permanent early childhood teachers will have experienced relievers within their services, either from an agency or permanent relievers employed by their service and they may be interested in pursuing relieving themselves. If you are a reliever and for teachers who are considering moving from a permanent role to a relieving role there are many things you may not have thought about. This article also answers some questions and concerns that permanent staff members may have to ensure that they are making an informed decision about their career direction.


  1. Reasons for becoming a reliever
  2. How to sign up for external relieving agencies
  3. Other ways to become a reliever
  4. What is it like being a reliever?
  5. Can you still do assessments and other documentation?
  6. Can you maintain full teacher certification if you are a reliever?


1. Reasons for becoming a reliever

There are many reasons that people choose to be relievers in early childhood education, whether they are qualified or unqualified. Relieving is a flexible and varied working situation and this can suit many people in different ways, such as:

  • Working parents may find relieving easier, especially if they have shared custody or are able to work on a part-time basis
  • Students may choose to relieve to supplement their income whilst allowing them time to focus on their studies
  • Travellers on working VISAs may choose to work as a reliever as it gives them the flexibility to travel
  • Teachers who have been in one role for a long period of time may choose to relieve so that they can experience a wider range of ECE services and add to their skills and knowledge
  • Teachers who have recently graduated sometimes decide to relieve until they find permanent work
  • Sometimes teachers can feel a little burnt-out due to the pressures of a busy work environment and decide to relieve so that they can re-focus and come back refreshed
  • Relieving may be used as an ‘in-between’ job before returning to the workforce after some time away from early childhood education

The wide range of reasons that teachers choose to be relievers means that early childhood education services will often be able to choose a teacher who suits their service. If you find an early childhood service that aligns with your philosophy and teaching practice, they may give you preference over other available relievers.

2. How to sign up for external relieving agencies

Which agency you choose is entirely up to you however it is important that you review the contract carefully when you sign up.

On initial contact with the relieving agency, they are likely to take the following steps:

  • Ask you to email your CV through and, if you are qualified, a copy of a verified qualification and current practising certificate
  • Send you a police vetting form to fill out and return; this can take two weeks or more sometimes so it’s important to get it in as quickly as possible for a faster turnaround.
  • Arrange a brief interview and/or induction with you to get to know you and see if you are suitable for relieving
  • Provide you with a relieving contract, tax declaration and any other relevant paperwork to complete

After this process is complete, you will be ready to work. You will specify your availability and the relieving agency will call you any time from now on.


3. Other ways to become a reliever

Some services prefer to build up a pool of internal relievers and will call relievers directly rather than through an agency. You may wish to approach a service directly with your CV, or email them, and ask if they need any relievers.

Many services will prefer to do this as it cuts out the middleman and costs them a little less. It also benefits the children to have a familiar face, rather than a number of different strangers coming in and out of the service.


4. What is it like being a reliever?

One of the main advantages of being a reliever is being able to have flexibility in your schedule. You can work as many days as you like, giving you the freedom to attend to other commitments. Some other advantages include:

  • Seeing a wide range of services and gaining many different perspectives of the industry
  • Qualified relievers may receive a slightly higher rate of pay than that of a permanent staff member
  • Being able to spend more time with the children as relievers are often not required to do nappy changes and some centres prefer to use permanent staff members in the sleep room
  • Less administration work, no need to attend staff meetings

The lack of regular working hours however, can also have its disadvantages. Sometimes, particularly over the Christmas holiday period, relievers may struggle to get enough work, which can be very stressful. Some other disadvantages include:

  • Not being able to develop close relationships with the children due to the short period of time with them
  • The requirement to pay for and arrange your own professional development
  • No paid sick leave or annual leave
  • Sometimes relievers can be left to do the jobs that permanent teachers do not want to do such as cleaning, or being outside on cold days.
  • Having to adjust quickly to new environments, always learning new systems
  • Sometimes permanent staff members can be not very welcoming to relievers
  • Not having the ability to contribute to group decisions means that you only work under other teacher’s rules

While relieving has its disadvantages, some teachers find it suits their lifestyles very well, or enjoy the challenge of a new situation – it certainly opens you up to many different experiences.


5. Can you still do assessments and other documentation?

Relievers are very unlikely to be asked to do any work with assessment or documentation. As a reliever you will often be in and out of a service and you may visit for only one day. Occasionally, if you are relieving for a long period of time, you may be involved in a minor way however the individual and group planning is typical left to permanent teachers.

If you want to share some information about a child to one of the permanent teachers however, it’s a good idea to share this information. For example, if you see a child engaged in a specific learning moment, share this with a teacher as it could very well fit into the individual learning plan for that child.

And even though you are not working for a particular service, you can reflect on or write teaching stories about an experience with a child for your own records and teacher certification; it is important however that you do not use photos, names or any other confidential information about the child or the service you are relieving at.


6. Can you maintain full teacher certification if you are a reliever?

The Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand states that, to renew a practising certificate, teachers need to have completed satisfactory recent teaching experience. In the case of provisionally certificated teachers this can include “80 days of teaching employment (including day relief): meaning that to maintain provisional certification you may work as a reliever for 80 days.

To maintain full certification however, satisfactory recent teaching experience must either be “two years of uninterrupted employment in a teaching position within the last five years” or “one year of uninterrupted employment in a teaching position within the last three years”.

Therefore, as a provisionally certificated or fully certificated teacher, it is important that you are aware of the requirements to maintain full or provisional certification. It is a good idea to contact the Education Council to clarify what is expected of you before you begin relieving. If you do not complete satisfactory teaching experience, you may not be able to gain or maintain full certification.


Some helpful resources

Go the Teach NZ’s website for recommended relieving agencies

See the Education Council of Aotearoa NZ's website for more information on recent teaching experience requirements for teachers renewing a practising certificate

See information for employers on finding and using relievers, click here

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