- How do you qualify for Special Paid Leave? Does it apply to casuals?
NSW Health employees have access to 20 days of paid special leave (for COVID-19) prior to a accessing their own accrued leave. This will be granted to employees who are unable to work because they are:
- Self-isolating due to travel or close contact COVID-19 exposure (exclusions apply)
- Caring for family members sick with COVID-19
- Caring for family members due to closure of school/daycare
- Unable to attend work due to transport disruptions or workplace closure
- A vulnerable health worker who, following completion of a risk assessment, is unable to be redeployed to a lower COVID-19 risk environment and is unable to work from home or self-isolate
After the 20 days total paid special leave has been used, employees may access accrued leave entitlements (in accordance with normal processes).
The 20 days special leave will be provided on a pro-rata basis for part time staff.
Where an employee is self-isolating on special leave and becomes sick for any reason; at that point the employee should transition onto sick leave. Where sick leave is exhausted, Health Agencies may grant additional sick leave on a case by case basis.
Casual employees are generally not entitled to paid special leave. If a casual is required to self-isolate due to close contact COVID-19 exposure in the workplace, each situation should be considered by the Health Agency on a case by case basis, including such things as the length of the casual engagement and whether the casual has regular and systematic shifts; however special paid leave may be appropriate for shifts which are already rostered during the self-isolation period.
- Will I be paid to be tested for COVID-19?
Wherever possible, NSW Health agencies will facilitate the opportunity for affected NSW Health staff to undertake the required COVID-19 testing during normal working hours.
- Where the COVID-19 test is available at the site where the staff member usually works, NSW Health agencies will facilitate the opportunity for employed staff to undertake the required testing during a rostered shift or normal working day wherever possible.
- Where the COVID-19 test is only available at a site that is not the staff member’s usual work location, NSW Health agencies will facilitate wherever possible the release of staff for part of their rostered shift or working day to undertake the required COVID-19 testing at a site where it is available.
- Where the NSW Health agency determines that neither option listed above is possible, employed staff who attend for the required testing outside of normal working hours will need to be paid for such attendance.
- What is the required PPE when caring for a confirmed COVID-19 case?
Updated guidance from the Clinical Excellence Commission in July 2021, directs workers to wear a P2/N95 when providing care to a patient who is suspected/confirmed COVID-19 positive, and also when providing care for patients with symptoms of acute respiratory illness in certain circumstances (when the transmission risk is higher).
Airborne Precautions (includes the use of P2/N95 respirator and eye protection) is required in the following circumstances:
- Confirmed COVID-19 cases
- Suspected cases (a person who meets clinical AND epidemiological criteria or a person identified as a close contact by the NSW Public Health Unit, regardless of symptoms)
- If I am required to isolate can I access accommodation?
Provisions for temporary paid accommodation for health workers providing frontline health services (including hospital and ambulance staff) were announced in April, 2020.
Due to the changing nature of the pandemic, Public Health Organisations (PHOs) will be required to use a risk-based approach when approving access to temporary accommodation. The immediate focus will be on:
Health workers providing frontline health services including permanent, temporary, casual (with booked shifts), hospital, ambulance and community staff. This includes Visiting Medical Officers (while working for NSW Health).
Temporary accommodation can be utilised in the following circumstances:
- Staff who have contracted COVID-19;
- Staff awaiting COVID-19 test results and/ or in self-isolation due to close contact with a positive COVID-19 case;
- Frontline staff living with vulnerable high-risk family members; and
- Frontline staff working extended hours, short shift changes, extensive overtime due to COVID-19 workload.
- Use of the accommodation option is voluntary and is not mandated by the employer.
- Different arrangements will be provided for COVID-19 and non COVID-19 affected staff. For example, if someone has COVID-19 they will be required to isolate.
- Hotels near hospitals have been identified and will be used for health worker accommodation wherever possible.
- Meals will be included.
- Booking will be undertaken by the PHO using government approved processes and not by the individual health worker.
- We have not been fit tested in our department. How do we get it done?
It is very concerning to hear that some management have not arranged fit testing for staff in theatres. Theatres staff fall within category 1B of NSW Health’s fit testing roll out, which has largely been completed.
Given the increased incidence of COVID-19 infection in the community, the need for fit testing of theatres staff is now urgent.
We encourage you to submit an incident report in IMS+ around the delay in fit testing and to raise it with your manager in writing as a matter of urgency.
It appears that the reason for the delays in the roll out of fit testing relate to insufficient numbers of portacount machines or staff trained properly to use them. If this is the case, your LHD should contract this work to external fit testing providers in order to get staff fit tested as soon as reasonably possible, (as has been done in other LHDs).
If management refuse to hire third party contractors and/or otherwise fail to expedite the roll out of fit testing, you should contact your organiser or the NSWNMA office for assistance to progress the matter, which may include a referral to the NSW Safety regulator, SafeWork NSW.
In the meantime, if asked to provide care to a known or suspected case of COVID-19, you should bear in mind that under s84 of the Work Health and Safety Act, you have the right to refuse unsafe work where you have a reasonable belief that carrying out that work will expose you to a serious and imminent risk to your health. If exercising this right, you need to report to your manager and remain available to undertake alternate duties.