NSW public health nurses and midwives: Know your Special Leave rights
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to grow, it’s important you know your rights and entitlements when it comes to special leave, sick leave and workers’ compensation. The following information applies to nurses and midwives working the NSW public health system.
Check out our Public Health Sector Webinar- COVID-19 and Leave Entitlements Webinar below.
Paid Special Leave provisions for employees (pandemic leave)
With respect to COVID-19, paid special leave of up to 20 days in total may be granted to employees who are unable to work because they are:
- Self-isolating in line with public health advice due to being a COVID-19 contact (if not symptomatic and not COVID-19 positive)
- 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-isolation.
- COVID-19 Vaccination in the particular circumstances described below
Special leave is paid at the base rate (excluding allowances and penalty rates) and should be made available to you before other forms of leave.
After the 20 days total paid special leave has been used, your employer may grant additional NSW Health special leave on a case-by-case basis. If you’ve exhausted your 20 days special leave and you require further special leave, please apply through your employer in the first instance.
Paid Special Leave for casuals
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:
- length of the casual engagement and
- Whether the casual has regular and systemic shifts
Paid special leave may be appropriate for shifts which are already rostered during the self-isolation period.
Paid Special Leave for Vaccination for COVID-19
Health agencies will continue to make arrangements to support employees to access the COVID-19 vaccination whilst on duty, where it is possible to do this and with the need to ensure service delivery is maintained.
If an employee receives the vaccine and experiences an adverse reaction, they may access paid sick leave entitlements. Where sick leave is exhausted, Agency heads may grant special sick leave on a case by case basis.
Employees that receive a COVID-19 Booster vaccination on or after 7 December 2021 are eligible for a special leave payment of two hours per COVID-19 Booster vaccination if unable to be undertaken in work time.
Leave due to COVID-19 positive test
If an employee is sick due to COVID-19 or any other reason, current sick leave entitlements and conditions apply. This includes situations where an employee is:
- Self-isolating on paid special leave and becomes sick for any reason; at that point the employee should transition onto sick leave.
- Symptomatic (including a temperature with/ without other symptoms) and requires testing for COVID-19. Sick leave is applicable for the period from where the staff member becomes symptomatic; through to testing and until a negative COVID-19 test result is received by the staff member, regardless of whether the staff member becomes asymptomatic during the period.
Where sick leave is exhausted, your employer may grant additional sick leave on a case-by-case basis. If you’ve exhausted your sick leave due to COVID-19 and you require further sick leave, please apply through your employer in the first instance.
Please read on in case workers compensation rights are applicable to you.
If you have contracted COVID-19 and transmission is likely to have occurred in the workplace, you are entitled to make a claim for workers compensation. There is currently a law in place that health workers are presumed to have contracted the virus at work or while working (something the NSW Government is trying to overturn), it should be workers compensation. Whilst you may be placed on sick leave initially, this should be recredited when your workers compensation claim is accepted.
For advice on what steps to take if you believe you are eligible for workers’ compensation, please read the Workers Compensation section found on this page.
The isolation exemption signed by the NSW Health Minister is to be followed as per the below description from NSW Health:
An exemption is in place for staff of public health organisations and licensed private health facilities whose absence from the workplace has been identified by their employer as a critical risk to safe service delivery to patients and who has been identified by the employer as being unable to work from home.
The exemption permits the worker to leave self-isolation subject to certain conditions, including wearing a mask, travelling directly to and from work and complying with any risk mitigation strategies put in place by the employer.
If the worker has any symptoms of COVID-19, they must immediately seek a PCR test and not attend work until they have a negative result.
If you are currently isolating as a close contact; are asymptomatic; and are directed by your employer to attend work in full compliance with the above, you must attend work. However, if you believe your employer is directing you to work in breach of the above conditions, please contact the Association immediately.