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Home > News > 2020 > March > IEUA-QNT MEMBER ADVISORY #2: COVID-19

IEUA-QNT MEMBER ADVISORY #2: COVID-19

Topics : COVID-19

IEUA-QNT members have a range of questions regarding what this unfolding COVID-19 health emergency means for them in the course of their work.  

All employers have a responsibility to ensure:

  • a safe workplace 
  • observe industrial provisions

Additionally, in these special circumstances, we believe that employers should provide additional paid leave of at least a minimum of 10 days in the case of self-quarantine, directed quarantine or school closure.

Many employers in our sector are developing responsible and practical responses designed to inform and advise both staff and community. 

Strong leadership on this issue is required to ensure the effectiveness of measures taken.  

In line with recommendations from the Queensland Department of Education, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and Australian Department of Health, there are minimum obligations and  best-practice practice examples being demonstrated by many employers in the following areas.

ENSURING A SAFE WORKPLACE

Cleaning and hygiene

The success of isolation and containment of infectious diseases relies on an effective cleaning and hygiene regime.  

This means employers must take all steps necessary to ensure that cleaning staff are adequately resourced and have access to all appropriate equipment to carry out the additional tasks necessary such as:

  • Increasing the regularity of cleaning surfaces that are frequently touched such as handrails, door handles, tabletops, light switches etc.
  • Increasing the regularity of disinfecting floors, basins, sinks and toilet areas.
  • Increasing general cleaning in high traffic areas throughout the course of the day, as well as ensuring thorough cleaning of these areas at the end of each work day.

Where cleaning staff are contracted, it is incumbent on employers to extend existing contract arrangements to accommodate these tasks. Staff not engaged as cleaners cannot be required to carry out tasks ordinarily undertaken by cleaners.

All employees and community members should be provided with clear instructions about managing general and personal hygiene.  

Employers should:

  • Offer clear instructions on effective hand-washing and general personal hygiene advice.
  • Provide staff, students, parents and visitors to the community with ready access to hand-washing facilities and effective hand sanitisers.
  • Issue positive and practical health and safety messaging in relation to personal hygiene to encourage compliance.

For more information on environmental cleaning and disinfection principles for COVID-19 please read the Department of Health handout. 

Managing illness identified in the workplace

Given the very broad symptoms of this virus, staff are likely to identify colleagues and students who present with flu-like symptoms and will want to know what they should do and what their rights are to protect their own health and safety. 

Staff should be advised how best to handle the identification of illness in the workplace.  Employers should:

  • Prepare a reasonable and sensitive reporting protocol for managing the identification of staff and students who may present with flu-like symptoms.
  • Ensure staff and students are fully supported in any report acted on and that action taken is not personally or financially disadvantageous.
  • Consider measures that may minimise the potential spread of infectious disease at this time, including the cancellation of tours and study groups.
  • Reconsider the necessity of all mass gatherings in workplaces, including sporting events, assemblies and church services.

SCHOOL CLOSURES AND QUARANTINE 

The IEUA-QNT has written to all employers requesting confirmation that special paid leave be available to employees in certain circumstances. 

What leave should I be able to access if I am exposed to COVID-19 and have to self-quarantine?

In cases where an employee must self-quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure our union would expect employers to provide special paid leave of at least a minimum of 10 days for the employee’s normal hours of duty during that time.

What leave can I access if I need to care for someone that has been directed to self-quarantine or is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19?

Our union would expect that an employee who has responsibility to care for immediate family members directed to self-quarantine or is caring for a person exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 that the employee is able to access relevant family leave provisions under their collective agreement.

What if my school is shutdown in response to COVID-19?

In the event of an outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia, where workplaces are shut down for quarantine purposes, we would expect that employers:

(a) provide special paid leave for the duration of the closedown; and

(b) offer a range of alternative working arrangements for staff including working from home; and

(c) provide the special paid leave to casual employees. 

Preparation for on-line learning and conduct of on-line learning.

Such work must be done in full consideration of the existing hours of duty arrangements and other industrial entitlements.

Any necessary training and appropriate release time to prepare for on-line instruction should be consistent with the hours of duty arrangements in the employee’s collective agreement.

Where alternate working from home arrangements are not viable (i.e. for some non-teaching staff), our union expects employers should provide special paid leave to staff to accommodate the period of quarantine or closure, paying particularly attention to:

  • casual employees who are unable to work in any capacity due to a workplace closure; and 
  • non-teaching staff who may not have access to viable work opportunities during school closures and ensuring these staff are not financially disadvantaged by being forced to access their own leave accruals or taking unpaid leave.

Employees advised against all non-essential international travel

The federal government has now issued a Level 3 travel alert for all Australians advising against any non-essential travel overseas.

All members are advised against non-essential travel until otherwise advised by the federal government.

Employees should also take into account that those returning from overseas will now have to undertake mandatory two-week self-quarantine. An employee considering overseas travel in these circumstances should establish with their employer the nature of the leave that they would access for this period of two weeks of quarantine. 

For more on the latest travel advisories as issued by the government through the Smart Traveller website.

Communication and consultation with staff

While employers clearly have an obligation to communicate effectively with their communities, the most important thing for employers to do as this emergency unfolds, is to remain in regular communication with its employees, ensuring full consultation on all measures that need to be considered, particularly those that could impact on employees financially. 

Employees are the conduit to communication with others in the community and it is vital they are fully aware of, and have input into, the employer’s position and decisions in relation to this emergency.

UNION SUPPORT & FURTHER ADVICE

We encourage all members to contact our union for further advice and information on 1800 177 937 (QLD), 1800 351 996 (NT) or email memberalert@qieu.asn.au 

Other member advisories: 

  1. Member advisory #1: 10 March 2020
  2. Member advisory #3: 19 March 2020

Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.