Covid-19 update for early childhood members
Information for everyone is changing rapidly and the IEU will update as often and accurately as we can.
At this stage, both early education and care centres and community-based preschools will continue to remain open. As with the closure of schools, this matter is under review constantly. We understand that it will be discussed again at the COAG meeting on Friday.
We understand that Starting Strong funding will be maintained for this year irrespective of the number of weeks preschools are open in 2020.
If schools close it is expected that all early childhood services will close as well. Many services report a significant decrease in enrolments of children in preschools and early childhood centres, as well as substantial drop in the number of enrolled children actually attending services. We are aware that centres are facing substantial financial challenges as a result which is not only affecting the viability of services but the future employment of teachers and other employees. We as well as a number of other early childhood advocacy groups are continually raising the issue with state and federal governments.
What is currently on offer for early childhood services?
Financial Support for State Funded Services
Preschools should be eligible for assistance under the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measures announced here. No further details are available as yet.
Financial Support for Services in receipt of CSS
Legislation has gone through Parliament to allow services to continue receiving CCS if they are directed to close and to allow families more allowable absences. Read more here.
Services may be eligible for assistance under the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measures announced here.
Services can apply for funding under the Community Child Care Fund to cover reduced attendances, withdrawals etc. The IEU recommends services prioritise getting these applications in. You can apply for up to $10,000 without a budget or up to $50,000with one. The application form is here. All services are considered disadvantaged or vulnerable because of COVID-19.
What should employees do?
You discuss with your employer to need to develop an action plan in case your centre is required to close or there is a need to downsize the number of employees. Employers should ensure the welfare of their staff in the first instance including the payment of wages.
Your action plan should include provisions for working from home. There are many things that teachers and directors can do at home. For example – update the QIP, newsletters to families with suggested activities they can do at home with their child and any updated information about centre closures, professional development, research, mentoring colleagues, updating policies.
Your action plan should also include access to the types of leave available to staff:
Leave with Pay -– can the service offer any form of leave with pay – if so, for how
long is this possible? The IEU suggest two weeks in line with teachers in schools.
Long Service Leave – this is usually not accessed until you reach 10 years of service (some enterprise agreements allow access after seven years). However, your employer can grant you early access to long service leave.
Annual Leave – accessing annual leave in long day care should not be a problem. However, for preschool teachers and directors, your annual leave usually occurs during the end of year closedown. You need to be aware that if the preschool is closed for more than 10 days during term time (Award) or 20 days (some enterprise agreements) this will decrease the amount of paid leave you have during end of year shutdown.
Personal Leave – the IEU has received many queries regarding this. If you are ill or need to care for household members due to their illness or an emergency situation or you are excluded from the service due to the virus, you can access your accrued personal leave. In other circumstances where you are not ill or caring for a member of your household or excluded from the service due to the virus, you may not be able to access personal leave as this fall outside the definition in the NES. We suggest you phone or email the IEU to discuss. Pregnant employees should be able to access their personal leave as they are considered at risk.
Workers Compensation – if you contract the COVID-19 as a result of a contact at work, you would be entitled to workers compensation.
Do you have employees classified as vulnerable?
That is over 65, those with pre-existing health conditions such as auto-immune diseases and diabetes. Vulnerable employees should be able to access their personal leave to self-isolate providing their medical practitioner recommends they do so.
Do you have pregnant members of your staff?
Pregnant women are considered a vulnerable or at-risk group and as such they should be able to access their personal leave to self-isolate.
This is the latest update from The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
Detailed information regarding the impact of COVID-19 infection on pregnant women and their babies is limited by the recency of the disease emergence. Therefore, our pregnancy advice is based on learnings from influenza infection, and also the medical response to the SARS epidemic in 2003. Influenza is a potentially serious disease for pregnant women, the foetus and newborn babies. A number of changes occur to a woman’s body during pregnancy. These changes include reduced lung function, increased cardiac output, increased oxygen consumption, and changes to the immune system. Due to these changes, pregnant women have an increased risk of severe complications from influenza.
Pregnant women should be considered a vulnerable or at risk-group. However, at this time, pregnant women do not appear to be more severely unwell if they develop COVID-19 infection than the general population. It is expected the large majority of pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold/flu like symptoms.
The above advice (dated 23 March 2020) is from the NSW Government Health website.
Earlier this month we wrote to number of employers asking that they advise the union of what steps they have taken at this time. We have received the following responses:
Goodstart - 10 days paid leave will be provided to employees after exhaustion of personal and other leave.
KU Children’s Services - employees will use personal leave until all accrued leave is exhausted. KU will then review leave on a case by case basis with a possibility of additional paid leave.
United Early Learning - employees to use TIL, RDO, two days of special leave, annual leave, long service leave and then leave without pay. Personal leave can only be used for illness of employee or family member they are caring for.
Big Fat Smile - employees can use any accrued leave - annual, long service and personal.
SDN Children’s Services - employees will be paid for 10 days if excluded due to the virus. If the centre closes, employees will need to use any accrued leave – annual leave, long service leave, RDO or leave without pay. Personal leave can only be used for illness of employee or family member they are caring for.
If you have further questions or concerns, please contact the IEU by phone (8202 8900) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although we certainly do not have all of the answers right now, we can assure you that we are actively seeking further information from the State and Federal Governments in addition to actively lobbying to ensure that your service remains viable.