COVID-19 UPDATE

Federal Government JobKeeper Factsheets

Fact Sheet for employees
Fact Sheet Supporting Business
Fact Sheet For Employers


30/3/2020 Government unveil new $130B stimulus package, including wages subsidy, expansion of welfare, ban on evictions due to Coronavirus and other initiatives in an attempt to stimulate economy and support workers/employers  ABC Overview 30032020ACTU Response 30032020
Government launches new Coronavirus APP follow the link to download https://www.australia.gov.au/
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-29/federal-government-launches-coronavirus-australia-app/12100680

27/03/2020
Calls for Wage Subsidy gain momentum - sign the petition here 
https://www.megaphone.org.au/petitions/coronavirus-wage-subsidies-now


26/03/2020
QLD schools go pupil free from Monday - but remain open for those that need them
https://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/qld-premier-flags-more-covid19-shutdowns/news-story/02dbd656f4cb718239fa714e46c5405d


25/03/2020
QLD State Government announces border closure for non-essential travel. 
http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2020/3/24/border-control-slows-virus-spread


24/03/2020
Queensland State Government Announces $4B COVID-19 Response Package 
http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2020/3/24/palaszczuk-government-unveils-4-billion-package-to-support-health-jobs-households-and-queensland-businesses

INDUSTRIAL

Coronavirus and you: Know Your Rights at Work (ACTU)

The following link to the ACTU website will provide you with information about your rights and entitlements in relation to the current Covid-19 pandemic. This is being updated as more information becomes available.
https://www.actu.org.au/coronavirus/your-rights-at-work-faq and https://www.actu.org.au/coronavirus

Fair Work Ombudsmen

This link to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website provides information about your rights and entitlements.  If you have any further questions, please ring your Organiser in the first instance.
https://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/news-and-media-releases/website-news/coronavirus-and-australian-workplace-laws

WorksafeQLD

This link provides a contact in the event that a workers contracts Coronavirus during the course of carrying out their duties at work and other info on safety at work in relation to Coronavirus
https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/news/2020/coronavirus-covid-19-workplace-risk-management

Handy Guide to stopping the spread of COVID-19 for essential service workers 
Office of Industrial Relations

 


LEGAL


Hall Payne Information re: Workers Comp 
https://www.hallpayne.com.au/blog/2020/march/covid-and-workers-comp/

STATE GOVERNMENT AND GOVT OWNED CORPORATIONS (QLD)
Please find below the link to the gazette copy of the new Directive 01/20: Employment Arrangements in the Event of a Health Pandemic (Directive). The Directive has been approved by the Minister for Industrial Relations and the Public Service Commission Chief Executive.

It is a joint Directive replacing Directive 06/18 [Employment Arrangements in the Event of a Human Influenza Pandemic]. The Directive is effective from 16 March 2020. 

Should you have any questions in relation to the new Directive, please do not hesitate to contact your organiser.

https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/dataset/extraordinary-gazettes-march-2020/resource/139f4051-79b1-4403-95ef-9b4ee7038534

MEMBERS IN OTHER AREAS

This will be a moving feast, while some EBA’s have provisions for some forms of paid Special Leave, Discretionary Leave, Personal Leave etc, we also know that some companies have advised they will provide paid leave for people affected by the virus. For Members who are required to self - isolate or quarantine or where Members are stood down or are required for family responsibilities (looking after children etc), or face reduced hours or shifts, please contact your Organiser.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PAYMENTS

The Federal Government has announced a variety of stimulus measures including an increase to jobseeker allowance and relaxation of mutual obligations and access protocols.  But unfortunately, the new payments will not be implemented until the 27th of April and there are some exclusions please go to the following link to see if you are entitled to payment and what steps you are required to take to access them. https://www.dss.gov.au/about-the-department/coronavirus-covid-19-information-and-support

HEALTH AND SAFETY

WHAT IS COVID -19 - Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a group of viruses which normally cause mild illness, with symptoms similar to a common cold. A new strain, COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Hubei Province, China. 

It is very different from and more serious than, the usual seasonal influenza outbreaks that happen every year.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can include a fever, fatigue, dry cough, difficulty breathing and will be accompanied by a fever. Symptoms take an average of 5 days to begin – this differs to flu viruses which tend to incubate very quickly. The virus is transmitted by breathing in droplets that go into the air during coughing and sneezing. The virus needs to be in living beings to survive however, it will survive on surfaces and appropriate cleaning and disinfectant should be applied.

Over 80% of people infected with COVID 19 will experience mild symptoms similar to the common cold and may not be aware that they have the virus – this is one of the reasons it spreads easily. A smaller group [15%] will experience more severe symptoms with a minority [5%] suffering from pneumonia. 

At-risk people?

The illness is more severe in older people [over 65 years] or people who chronic diseases such as heart and lung conditions. About 5% of infected people will have a “flu” like illness. It appears that children get very mild symptoms.

As this is a new virus the health information is continually being updated. 

 

HOW DOES IT SPREAD?

The main way the virus spreads is by contamination when someone carrying the virus coughs or sneezes. The air droplets are breathed in by another person or can be transferred to another person 

 

WORKPLACE ACTION

COVID – 19 is a health and safety risk. Employers have obligations to ensure the health and safety of workers and others. They must have a plan on what will be done to protect and support workers and health and safety representatives (HSRs) must be consulted on this plan.

We know that the best way to protect workers and the public is to make sure that employers:

  1. Identify those who are potentially infected early and support them to isolate whilst waiting for test results

  2. Minimise the potential of spread, isolate and support those who are at higher risk for COVID -19. For example, close contact of someone with COVID-19 or have returned from travel in certain locations

  3. Quarantine and support those who are infected early until they are healthy and no longer contagious (for at least 14 days).

 

WHY IS SUPPORT IMPORTANT? 

It is essential that workers are supported to take the measures necessary to help control the spread of the virus. Workers who are not supported to isolate are at great risk of not identifying themselves. All workers need access to paid special leave and be supported to identify potential exposure and isolate at home. Casual workers, and others without access to leave, are more likely to attend work whilst sick for fear of a loss of income or future shifts. 

Unions are calling for 2 weeks paid special leave to be granted to any worker impacted by COVID-19 that is required to isolate or is unable to work.

Work, Health and Safety Laws are clear [WHS Act s47-49, Victoria OHS Act s35-36, WA OHS Act s35] employers must consult with HSRs and workers.

A workplace plan for dealing with COVID-19 must include the following:

  • the information, training and support and local measures for infection control including:

o   appropriate hygiene,

o   social distancing and isolation, and

o   work from home arrangement where practicable

  • how to report any concerns in a way that encourages workers reporting and ensures they are not discriminated against or suffer any adverse consequences. Supporting workers to take the necessary precautions is essential. Misinformation or the poor or adverse treatment of workers identifying exposure will increase the risk of spread

  • arrangements for those required to be away from work, as a result of infection control measures.

o   paid special leave for confirmed cases,

o   paid special leave for self-isolation as a result of contact with confirmed cases, or whilst awaiting test results

o   paid special leave for self-isolation if returning from travel to certain locations

  • what to do if there a suspected case or person with COVID 19 has been at the workplace. In some circumstances, this will require relocating workers from the impacted area until a deep clean is undertaken

  • the contingency plans for leaving, reallocation and re-organisation of work if health authorities shut down schools, public events, worksites to ensure workers can meet requirements to care for children or other dependent family members. 

There are sectors where the Plan will need to have more precise arrangements; for example

  • Health and community sector and cleaners - All of these workplaces must practice universal infection control measures. All workers should have been trained and have access to the appropriate protective equipment and appropriate free testing.

  • Public-facing workers - Workers dealing with the public, who are at increased risk of exposure and will be likely to be very anxious, must be provided with a working environment free from harassment and bullying and must be supported at their workplace to minimise the effects of heightened anxiety and aggression from clients and customers. Employers are required to ensure health, including psychological health, and further steps may be required to ensure that psychosocial hazards are identified and controlled appropriately.

Consultation under the law is not just talking – it is having workers and HSRs views considered before a decision is made.

 

Information –to all workers and everyone who is in the workplace, 

  1. Provide information and training - clear, concise health information needs to be easily available, in many forms and languages e.g. posters, leaflets, emails, small video clips [see resources list]

  2. Work must make it easy for everyone to practice good hygiene –

    1. easy access to water and soap

    2. easy access to hand sanitisers (60% alcohol)

    3. easy access to rubbish disposal for tissues, disposable hand towels [hand dryers are not recommended]

    4. household disinfectant for hard surfaces especially where members public is involved.

  3. What to do if a “suspected or confirmed case” has been in the workplace. Contact with a confirmed or suspected case may require people to go into self-isolation and to seek medical assistance. However, casual contact, where there have been less than 15 minutes face to face contact or less than 2 hours in a shared closed space with the symptomatic person, will only require them to monitor their health.    

 

Information on what to do if people are feeling unwell 

Employers have a duty to monitor conditions at work, this includes making sure people know how to report and what to do if they are feeling unwell. 

First Aiders and First Aid Kits

First Aiders are likely to be asked for General health information and should ensure they are practising infection control measures when giving first aid.

Contingency plans

Preparedness and making information available to everyone improve infection control decreases stress and anxiety and helps everyone make plans. This will be exceptionally important if health authorities shut down schools, public events, worksites etc.

Influenza vaccines

The risk of COVID –19 will start to coincide with the flu season. There is no vaccine for COVID -19 but there is one for Influenza. Employers need to be making arrangements to provide the flu vaccine free of charge – it is likely to become available during April 2020.

Workers and HSRs have rights

If your employer does not do all of the above, then workers HSRs need to consider exercising their rights to:

  • Get information from the employer and health authorities [WHS Act s68]

  • Request review of control measures {WHS Regs 38]

  • Get outside assistance such as contacting your union [WHS Act s68]

  • HSRs may consider issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) about lack of consultation or effective measures to control COVID-19 in their workplace [WHS Act s90]

  • Cease work [WHS Act s85]

Visit the PPTEUQld

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South Brisbane 4101 Qld

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