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Home > News > 2020 > May > Advice for members needing continued alternative working arrangements

Advice for members needing continued alternative working arrangements

PPL_web_qual.pngAs students return to on-site schooling next week, employers have indicated that all teachers and school staff are also to return to on-site face-to-face working arrangements. 

However, some members will still classify as “vulnerable”, or as living with or caring for a vulnerable person, and may therefore need to continue some form of alternative work arrangement. 

Our union will provide support to members in such a situation.  

In the first instance, we would encourage members to consult or reconsult their doctor prior to approaching their leadership team about the continuation of alternative work arrangements.

Importance of updated medical advice

We understand that it can be frustrating to reconsult with your treating doctor or specialist when they have already given advice for safer working arrangements. 

However, it is important to ensure you have updated medical advice given the evolving nature of the pandemic situation and associated risks, so that you can confirm to your employer that the alternative work arrangements are needed ‘now’. 

It demonstrates to your employer that your doctor has reviewed their medical advice in light of: 

  • recent developments in the COVID-19 pandemic; 
  • the current or proposed schooling arrangements; and
  • the current public health advice for specific communities, for example regional Queensland vs Metropolitan Brisbane. 

There are some very general criteria being relied on by employers to determine who is likely to be “vulnerable”.  

However, even where you may not fit those criteria, should your doctor have a view that your medical circumstance gives rise to an unacceptable risk from carrying out your duties as you normally do, then this must be taken into consideration by your employer.  

What to prepare for your doctor

Prior to your medical appointment, prepare some key information that your doctor will need to consider. 

This includes:

  • a copy of your position description with any additional duties you undertake in the ordinary course of your work noted;
  • an outline of your usual work environment, for example class size, school size, classroom and capacity to implement social distancing as well as cleaning and hygiene measures being implemented by the school;
  • a list of possible work which you could usefully undertake either at home or in a safer workspace at school, for example curriculum planning.  

Discuss these factors together with your individual health circumstances and the current public health situation in your community with your doctor. 

Then discuss what they recommend in terms of work.

What’s needed in a medical certificate?

Ask your doctor to outline their recommendations for safe work in a medical certificate or letter. 

It would be helpful for the doctor to confirm the aspects of your role that you are fit and able to perform, the period of time the doctor is recommending any adjustments to work arrangements be made and the risks that will be minimised or avoided through the alternative arrangements, or the potential risks if you (or the person you live with or care for) were to contract COVID-19. 

Pregnant members

Pregnant members are still able to utilise the “safe job” and “no safe job leave” provisions under the Fair Work Act. 

In the first instance, pregnant members should also consult with their doctor – ideally their obstetrician – for a medical certificate and then make a request for a “safe job” based on their doctor’s recommendations. 

If their employer cannot provide a “safe job” then the member will be entitled to paid “no safe job” leave.  

However, if the member was planning to commence their parental leave less than six weeks prior to their due date, and if the member is unable to safely work during those last 6 weeks, the employer could require them to commence their maternity leave early. 

Union support

Members can send a copy of their medical certificate to our union’s Industrial Services Team to review before sending to their employer. 

Our union can also check any draft correspondence to be sent with the medical certificate outlining the alternative arrangements being sought. 

If a member’s request has been denied after following these steps, our union can review and consider if there are grounds to escalate the matter further. 

No matter what the circumstance, members should not be required to access paid leave and continue to undertake any work; it is one or the other. 

Members are encouraged to contact our Industrial Services Team if they need further advice or assistance in requesting alternative work arrangements due to COVID-19. 

FREECALL 1800 177 937 (QLD)

FREECALL 1800 351 996 (NT)

Email: industrial@qieu.asn.au 

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