COVID-19 WFH and Special Leave Provisions by State
CPSU has collated the working from home arrangements and adapted provisions across each State. Casual and fixed term employees have been protected and paid special leave for up to 20 days is available in NSW, Western Australia, and Victoria, with 15 days in South Australia. This also includes an overview of information available from other unions. Information is changing rapidly as more services are put on pause so we're hoping the information here is as relevant as it can be.
- NEW SOUTH WALES
Exclusion from the workplace
Where an employee is not sick but is directed not to attend the workplace due to isolation requirements, agencies should identify options for employees to work from home during the quarantine period. Where work is unable to be provided to these employees, they are to be paid as normal and are placed on paid special leave for up to 20 days.
Unable to work
Up to 20 days paid special leave will be provided, before other leave entitlements need to be accessed, to employees who are unable to work because they are:
caring for sick family members;
caring for family members due to closure of schools and caring facilities; or
unable to attend work due to transport disruptions.
After the 20 days of special leave has been used, employees may access accrued leave entitlements (sick, annual, family and community services, extended/long service leave).
Workplace is closed
Where the workplace is closed, flexible work arrangements should be considered either at home or from another office location. Where work is unable to be provided to these employees, they are to be paid as normal and are placed on paid special leave.
- WESTERN AUSTRALIA
COVID-19 leave - information for West Australian public sector employees
Each employee may be granted up to 20 days of COVID-19 leave in the circumstances described in this Circular.
COVID-19 leave: is paid leave, with pay calculated in the same way as for annual leave, excluding loading; does not affect existing annual leave or long service leave accruals; is not accruable; and is available to all public sector employees including casuals.
Paid leave for a casual employee is to be calculated according to the preceding four-week average of shifts worked or the employee’s rostered future shifts.
Each ‘day’ of COVID-19 leave is to be calculated according to the rostered or ordinary hours an employee would have worked on that day.
Employers are to keep records of COVID-19 leave granted for reporting purposes.
- SOUTH AUSTRALIA
The Commissioner for Public Sector Employment has issued a new 'Determination 3.1: Employment Conditions – Hours of Work, Overtime and Leave: Supplementary Provisions for COVID-19'.
While the determination provides some further clarity for employees about their working entitlements in the current COVID-19 environment, there are some fundamental issues the PSA strongly believes need addressing.
The PSA welcomes the introduction of Special Leave With Pay for COVID-19. However, the PSA’s position remains that Special Leave With Pay for COVID-19 needs to be the primary form of leave for any absence associated with COVID-19.
This leave should not be limited to 15 days.
Directions to take Annual/Recreation Leave
The new provisions state that employees with in excess of 12 month’s accrual may be directed to take annual leave with three day’s notice. This is inconsistent with the minimum standard for annual leave contained in the Fair Work Act 1994.
The PSA advises any member who is issued a direction to take annual leave under these terms to contact the PSA Members’ Rights Hotline on 8205 3227 immediately. The PSA will advocate for members and challenge any such breaches of your employment rights.Supplementary provisions in place. New provision for 15 days of special leave with pay. Medical certificate not required in for COVID-19 purposes
No cap on accessing Carers leave entitlements
PAYMENT IN LIEU OF ACCRUED LEAVE
Members will have received a whole of government email announcing that employees could request to cash out both Long Service Leave and Recreation Leave if they had a family member who had lost their job and who was now on Commonwealth benefits.
The PSA does not support the cashing out of leave – even in these unprecedented time. The Government does not have a legal basis to offer cashing out of Recreation Leave which is a minimum employment standard for all Australians, and did not contact the PSA before making the announcement. Of course we all want to do what we can to support our families in whatever way we can through this crisis. And of course we all want to support our community get through this emergency.
But members need to understand the potential serious risks that may arise from cashing out their leave.
Think about some implications
There are many possible implications attached to cashing out leave and members need to inform themselves of those.
Cashed out leave forms part of the income declaration for Centrelink benefits.
This could lead to:
- reduced entitlements to government support – including the recently announced measures
- delays in the availability of a Centrelink payment for a partner who has lost their job
- an impact on receipt of the $750 stimulus payment
- reductions in Family Tax Benefit payments, or
- an impact on when a concession card becomes available to a family.
This could especially impact any family earning less than $79,000 per annum.
The government has committed to paying regular weekly earnings for all public service workers, including fixed term contracts and casuals.
If it is not reasonable, appropriate or practical for the employee to work from home, the employer may require the employee to perform alternative duties within the scope of their skills, classification and experience (subject to the operation of the relevant enterprise agreement),
For ongoing and fixed term employees: salary maintenance for up to four weeks,
For casual employees who are working on a regular and systematic basis paid special leave for either:
- a two-week period reflective of the likely work pattern of the employee had they been at work, or
- in accordance with already rostered shifts for up to a four-week period.
For casual employees who are not currently employed on a regular and systematic basis: employers should use their discretion in assessing appropriate paid special leave or other financial assistance on a case by case basis.
Where the employee does not have enough accrued personal leave to cover a period of absence associated with a coronavirus infection, either other paid and unpaid leave entitlements can be used (such as Annual Leave), or access to further paid Special Leave will be considered appropriately by employers on a case-by-case basis.
Access to paid special leave is available for
- those who need to quarantine due to potential exposure
- for carers leave
- where working from home is not reasonable, practical or appropriate
Where the employee has contracted an illness in the course of their duties, the employee might be able to make a WorkCover claim.
Victorian Public Service - Department of Premier and Cabinet WFH arrangements.
Workers rights, tools and resources and tools for dealing with COVID-19
- Australia Services Union
Provides a factsheet
- Health and safety
- Leave entitlements
- Access to special leave
- Professional Australia
Provides “Tips and tricks for working from home”.
- United Workers Union
Notes that Australia’s largest Aged Care providers has agreed to pay staff two weeks of special “Covid19 leave” if they or their close family have to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus.
Advocating for spread of this
It has released a 6-point plan to provide clear and strong rules for early childhood education and care (ECEC)
- Adequate PPE
- Adequate cleaning
- Adequate staffing
- Staggered time
- Australian Education Union
Provides an FAQ for schools page on its website: https://www.aeuvic.asn.au/coronavirus-faqs-schools
In terms of leave it notes:
If I have been told I must be excluded from school, what leave arrangements apply?
There are several possible scenarios.
If the virus was contracted in the community and not when undertaking duties as an employee, then personal (sick) leave applies.
If the virus was contracted while undertaking duties as an employee, then you will be provided with up to three months leave with full pay without deduction from your personal leave credits for the period that you are unfit for duty.
If you have been in close contact with a person who has a confirmed case, then you are eligible to access up to 10 days paid special leave (pro rata) to cover the isolation period, as recommended by the DHHS and the Victorian Chief Health Officer. This leave is in addition to any other leave credits that you may have accrued such as personal (sick/carers) leave. Staff who are granted the special leave will not be required to undertake duties from home.
- National Tertiary Education Union
Has a dedicated website http://www.nteu.org.au/covid-19
Includes a useful resource “Tips for working from home”- concise and well written without being detailed.