COVID-19 Useful Information -> Workplace Rights
In this Section:
If you become unwell, it is important that you don’t go to work to ensure that you limit the community spread of disease. It is also important to keep on top of your rights and entitlements, which may vary between different Enterprise Agreements and Awards.
^ Leave Entitlements
If you are employed on a part time or full time basis and you become unwell, at the very minimum, you are entitled to access paid personal leave that you have accrued.
Employees who wish to stay at home as a precaution (but who are not directed to by their employer or as a result of an enforceable government order or direction) need to come to an arrangement with their employer that best suits their workplace. This may include requesting to work from home (if this is a practical option) or taking some form of paid or unpaid leave, such as annual leave or long service leave
If an employee is at risk of infection from COVID-19, employers should request that they work from home (if this is a practical option) or not work during the risk period.
Casuals are generally not entitled to paid leave; the 25% loading casuals receive on top of their hourly pay rate exists as a means to compensate for a lack of paid leave provisions – which many casual workers will tell you is inadequate. VAHPA, along with the broader union movement, have been lobbying the Federal Government to give casual workers two weeks of paid leave during these difficult and unprecedented times; however the response from the Federal Government has been to reject this call.
Some employers have however provided their casual employees with paid leave. As such, if you contract COVID-19, are forced to self-isolate, looking after a family member with COVID-19 or a family member or member of your household is required to self-isolate, you should check with your employer as to whether they will provide you with paid special leave.
^ Caring for children during school closures
An employee who needs to take time off to care for their children because of a school closure will need to use paid Carer’s Leave entitlements to cover them for their time off work.
Paid carer’s leave is available to full-time or part-time employees where the employee needs to look after a family member or a member of their household who requires care or support because of a personal illness or unexpected emergency affecting the member. This includes the short notice closure of a school or childcare centre due to concerns about COVID-19.
Casual employees are entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion. Full-time and part-time employees are also entitled to take 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion if they have no paid personal or carer’s leave remaining.
^ Pregnancy and COVID-19
On 10th May 2021, The Chief Health Officer at the Department of Health and Human Services updated and clarified their position on pregnant health workers.
It is important that all VAHPA members are aware of these guidelines and ensure their employer is allowing them to work within these rules. If not, then it is important for you to contact VAHPA immediately. The below information about healthcare workers who are pregnant is taken from the Victorian Department of Health Covid-19 Guidance Note on Employment Related Matters.
There is limited evidence at this time regarding the risk of COVID-19 in pregnant women. Based on currently- available information, pregnant women do not appear to be at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness than the general population. However, due to changes in their bodies and immune systems, we know that pregnant women can be badly affected by some respiratory infections, including influenza.
Pregnant women >28 weeks gestation should therefore be considered potentially ”higher risk” employees until further information is known.
Pregnant women should be encouraged to follow the standard advice to protect themselves against COVID-19, such as good hand hygiene and physical distancing practices. They should report possible symptoms (including fever, cough or difficulty breathing) to their healthcare provider. Pregnant women should also be encouraged to have the seasonal influenza vaccine, as this will help to prevent them and their baby from catching influenza.
Informed by public health advice, where there is high risk of exposure and/or potential infection of COVID-19, employers should assess the risks for pregnant health care workers. This includes, the measures available to mitigate risk, such as personal protective equipment; and consider alternative duties and patient allocation from 28 weeks’ gestation especially if the healthcare worker is assigned to an area where the risk is high.
^ Shut down provisions
Under workplace health and safety laws, employers must ensure the health and safety of their employees as far as reasonably practical.
Where an employer directs a full-time or part-time employee not to work due to workplace health and safety risks but the employee is ready, willing and able to work, the employee is generally entitled to be paid while the direction applies. However, if an employee cannot work because they’re subject to an enforceable government order or direction requiring them to self-quarantine, the employee isn’t ordinarily entitled to be paid (unless they use leave entitlements).
Health services are very certain to continue operating throughout the course of the pandemic. However, if an employee is to be stood down, the employer should consult the employee to allow them to access provisions such as accrued personal and/or annual leave, leave without pay, time off in lieu, long service leave, relocation of work (i.e, working remotely/from home) or voluntary redundancy before resorting to dismissal. VAHPA members needing any assistance in this respect should contact us.
^ Working from home
Working from home arrangements are usually agreed between an employer and employee. If you have the option of working from home, or you work in a role where the good majority of your work can be done remotely, it is encouraged that you take this up with your employer.
VAHPA understands, however, that a lot of Allied Health work can not possibly be done from home. As such, it is imperative that employers provide a safe workplace.
- March 2020, Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws, Fair Work Australia
COVID-19 Useful Information -> Workplace Rights