Updated COVID-19 guidance for early childhood members
Health and safety of employees
A number of members have sought advice regarding the health and safety of employees during the Coronavirus pandemic, particularly given that social distancing is not practical between adults and young children.
The IEU’s position is that early childhood providers should follow the advice of the Department of Education:
Their guidelines for social distancing are as follows:
Social distancing measures
The more space between people, the harder it is for the virus to spread, so another way to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, is to implement physical distancing measures, such as:
- Encourage staff to keep their distance from others wherever possible
- Cease non-essential activities (like excursions) that involve close personal contact
- Implement controls to reduce direct contact with others
Additional simple and effective ways for educators and other staff to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 are detailed in Prevent the spread of COVID-19: A guide for early childhood education and care services (PDF, 438KB).
Provision of service
In regard to funding, The Department of Education has stated that preschools are expected to offer 15 hours of preschool education to children and their Start Strong funding will be maintained. If parents choose to keep their children at home preschools will continue to have lower numbers. However, if parents choose to send their children they must be able to do so.
It is the IEU’s position that vulnerable employees should be allowed to work from home. Vulnerable employees are “people 70 years of age and older, those 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions, people with weakened immune systems and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with a chronic medical condition" in addition to those who are pregnant with medical risk.
If the preschool is in receipt of JobKeeper, vulnerable employees may be employed for the number of hours of work they can perform at home (providing they are paid $1500 per fortnight or for the number of hours worked at the normal rate of pay - whichever is the greater amount). If there is minimal work a vulnerable employee can perform at home and they are only paid the $1500 per fortnight, this amount is fully funded by JobKeeper.
If an employee was to develop Coronavirus due to an outbreak at a centre they would be covered by Workers Compensation.
The IEU is concerned about the Health and Safety of our members and we recognise that social distancing between adults and children (or children and children) is not always possible in early childhood settings. However, it is recommended that early childhood services put a number of measures in place to decrease the likelihood of workplace illness/transmission. For example:
1. Encourage families to complete temperature checks of their child on arrival (employees must clean the thermometer after each use) - children (or employees) with a temperature above 38 degrees are not to attend the service, nor are children whose families have given them any fever reducing medication such as paracetamol. Children (or employees) with breathing difficulties, coughs, fevers, and/ or sore throats will not be allowed to attend.
2. Family interactions with employees are limited to less than 15 minutes to minimise transmission risk.
3. Only one family member drops off / picks up children at a time.
4. Employees should consider signing in children themselves whilst parents remain outside the gate - if families sign in children pens or iPads must be cleaned after each use.
5. Families must maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from employees and other families.
6. Soap, disposable gloves, thermometers, cleaning detergent, disinfectant, mops, buckets, paper hand towels, tissues and toilet paper must be kept at the centre in adequate supply.
7. Employees and children must wash their hands upon arrival and departure, before and after preparing and/or consuming food/ drink, after playing with equipment/ playing outside, after going to the toilet, after wiping a nose, before and after giving medication, after removing gloves.
8. High traffic areas are to be cleaned every 2 hours including doorknobs, hand rails, exit buttons.
9. Equipment and all surfaces must be cleaned at least once per day.
10. Limit group sizes to less than minimum ratios to limit cross-infection.
11. Ensure the number of children and employees in each room is limited to provide have adequate space to move around freely without the need to be in close contact.
11. Staff and families must comply with mandated isolation requirements.
12. Risk minimisation strategies must be implemented for staff defined as vulnerable - those with chronic medical/ autoimmune conditions, those over 70 years of age and pregnant women with medical risk.
13. Ensure the number of children and employees in each area is limited to ensure adults and children have adequate space to move around freely without the need to be in close contact.
14. The AHPPC has recommended the influenza vaccination for children, parents and staff. We note that this is not mandatory unless it is specifically mandated in a centre policy.