COVID-19 advice and resources
Stringent health and safety precautions remain paramount for all schools throughout Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The inherent unpredictability and volatility of this health emergency reinforces the need for comprehensive precautions in all schools.
Now is not the time for any employer to become complacent.
Read details of our latest advice (30 July 2020) to sector employers in order to ensure adequate protections are in place for staff and students here.
Having a COVID-19 response plan in place is a critical matter for all school employers and this was communicated to them by our union very early in Term 3.
When it comes to COVID-19 response plans, all employers must ensure they have good working relationships with their local health officer well ahead of any situation arising at their school or school sites.
This is essential so they can collaborate immediately in the event of any school closure and the implementation of associated cleaning and contact tracing processes.
Protocols and protections critical
There must be clearly established protocols for suspected infections within school sites.
Schools must be prepared to enact an emergency response plan in cases of suspected infections within a school community including protocols for decontamination and paid leave for employees during any closure.
A critical element is ensuring wage protections and support for casual staff.
Casual employees have generally been ignored in the various pandemic leave policies developed by employers.
The very nature of insecure casual work has proven to have potentially disastrous consequences interstate, and pandemic leave must be extended to include casual staff who are required to self-quarantine or in cases where a school closes.
Meeting with Chief Health Officer
Our union has met with Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, to consider member concerns about the current advice for the operation of Queensland schools.
These concerns included:
- the current medical advice for the operation of schools and its possible revision;
- the capacity of schools to practice social distancing;
- the best practice operational steps for a school in the event of a COVID-19 closure; and
- the process for engagement with stakeholders for updates/revision of medical advisories.
Maintaining our dialogue with employers and government as we face the challenges of COVID-19 is paramount and our union is always here for members when it comes to providing support and action to enforce safety measures.
Complying with COVID tests should not disadvantage members
The scope and frequency of COVID tests has escalated dramatically in recent days in accordance with the Queensland Government’s latest health advice.
School employers are also requiring employees to stay at home if they have any COVID-19 like symptoms.
In many cases, members are experiencing delays in being able to obtain COVID-19 tests as well as lengthy waiting periods for their results.
Employees should not suffer any financial disadvantage as a result of their compliance with health advice or employer directions.
Many of the current employer policies fail to address this specific situation of COVID-19 tests.
Employers should confirm the following where an employee is taking a COVID-19 test or awaiting their results for a return to work clearance:
- If otherwise fit for duty, the employee should be able to work from home.
- If work from home is not viable and the employee is otherwise fit for duty, they should be provided additional special paid leave to cover their absence.
A generous and compassionate approach by employers in these circumstances is essential to help minimise the potential spread of the virus.
Should school staff be wearing masks?
Queensland Health has advised that face masks might be suitable in several circumstances including public transport, attending a medical appointment or if someone is unwell.
At this stage there is no medical advice that masks should be worn in schools; however, any request by a member seeking to wear a mask should be supported in their workplace.
While no one is currently required to wear a mask, neither should any member be prohibited from doing so.
Our union is here to support any member who is denied an opportunity to take reasonable safety precautions.
Further information and advice regarding face masks is available from Queensland Health.
National Work Safe Month highlights psychological safety
The pandemic’s psychological effects must also be considered and addressed by employers.
As part of National Safe Work Month in October, our members will be using this year’s theme of WHS Through COVID-19 and reiterating to employers that their workplace health and safety responsibilities are to both the physical and psychological wellbeing of staff.
Teachers and schools support staff have become frontline workers in this pandemic but they like everyone else are dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 in their personal lives too.
Employee access to mental and wellbeing support services is another essential pillar in any response plan to this crisis and must be a priority for employers.
Keeping members updated
Current advisories and resources for members are available below.
Read our Health & Safety in Education Workplaces factsheet here.
Contact us for support
Industrial Fact Sheets & Member Advice
- Health and safety in education workplaces >> here
- Virtual Chapter Meeting Guidelines >> here
- Advice for post-secondary education members on JobKeeper and JobSeeker >> here
- Alternative work duties for school officers and services staff >> here
- Working from home: your rights and responsibitlies >> here
- Standing Down Employees >> here
- COVID-19 Support Resources >> here
- Developing a growth mindset > > here
- Behaviour Management podcast by Teacher magazine >> here
- Corona-anxiety: recognising warning signs in children >> here
- Engaging with students: where to draw the line >> here
- Microsoft Education Centre >> here
- QCAA Open Educational Resources Database >> here
- eSafety.gov.au >>here
- aistl: What works in online distance teaching and learning? >> here
- Teach Starter >> here
- Behind The News (BTN) >> here
- ABC Reading Eggs >> here
- The Girls in STEM Toolkit >> here
- Digital Teachnologies Hub: Online Ideas >> here
Latest member advisories
Latest early childhood education member advisories
Member Advisory – Thursday, 16 April 2020 >>Read now
- COVID-Aware Kit
- Australian Unions Coronavirus Updates – Workers’ Rights, Tools & Resources for dealing with COVID-19 (webpage)
- Cleaning and disinfection alert
- Privacy at work
- JobSeeker payments and Coronavirus supplements
- Key points on the JobKeeper payment
- JobKeeper and Superannuation
- JobKeeper: Changes to Fair Work Act – quick guide
- Briefing note: JobKeeper Scheme – changes to the Fair Work Act 2009
- Temporary early access to superannuation fact sheet
- Coronavirus Alert WHS
- COVID-19 Update (4 March 2020)
- Instrumental music program guidelines for managing hazards associated with COVID-19 (source: Queensland Department of Education)
- Advice to support children and young people (source: Queensland Department of Education)
- Cleaning principles for COVID-19 (source: Australian Government Department of Health)
- COVID-19 Working from Home (source: Australian Taxation Office)
- Working from home (source: Australian Taxation Office)
- Home office expenses (source: Australian Taxation Office)
- Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws (source: Fair Work Ombudsman)
- AMA Lastest information on COVID-19 (source: Australian Medical Association)
Mental health support
The COVID-19 pandemic is understandably causing stress and anxiety for many people.
In addition to the support available through our union, we encourage members to seek additional support if they are in need.
Avenues for mental health support:
- Queensland Mental Health Week 2020 | www.qldmentalhealthweek.org.au
- Employer Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
- Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636 | www.beyondblue.org.au
- Lifeline – 13 11 14 | www.lifeline.org.au
- MindSpot – 1800 614 434 | www.mindspot.org.au
- Mensline – 1300 78 99 78 | www.mensline.org.au
- Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800 | www.kidshelpline.com.au
Members should ensure they seek health advice from reputable sources such as the Department of Health.
If you require medical assistance, call your GP, medical clinic or the national COVID-19 helpline (1800 020 080) for advice.