Private health employee information for COVID-19
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association is providing support and advice to any members seeking information regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Ensure you’re covered at work by joining the NSWNMA.
The Commonwealth Department of Health website contains detailed guidance for health sector workers and is updated regularly.
If members are concerned their employer is not following these guidelines, the NSWNMA can provide assistance to ensure appropriate measures are in place. Contact us.
Employers offering leave assistance for COVID-19
Elective surgery restart
The selection of patients to undergo elective surgery will be guided by the following principles, recommended by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and endorsed by National Cabinet:
- Procedures representing low risk, high value care as determined by specialist societies
- Selection of patients who are at low risk of post-operative deterioration
- Children whose procedures have exceeded clinical wait times
- Assisted reproduction (IVF)
- Endoscopic procedures
- Screening programs
- Critical dental procedures.
This first stage of reinstating elective surgeries requires health administrators to monitor supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), ICU and bed capacity, while preparing for the next phase.
On the advice of AHPPC, in addition to Category 1 elective surgeries, hospitals will initially recommence one in four closed operating lists, with a focus on Category 2 and some important Category 3.
A review for additional support will be undertaken at two weeks and at four weeks based on:
- The number of positive cases, in both healthcare workers and patients, linked to increased activity
- PPE use and availability
- The volume of procedures and hospital/system capacity.
Disability workers seek $5-an-hour pandemic allowance
Unions and an employer group have applied to introduce a temporary hourly allowance of almost $5 an hour for disability workers to compensate the sector’s low-paid workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
FWC President, Justice Iain Ross, yesterday issued directions for the application to vary the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010, setting a hearing date of Monday, May 4.
Objectors have until 4pm Friday to lodge a submission.
It seeks to insert a new clause in the award covering social and community services employees undertaking disability services work.
The clause relates to employees who are required to work with a client who has to self-isolate due to COVID-19, or a client who is suspected of having the virus or has been confirmed as having it.
The variation seeks for employees to be paid an hourly allowance of 0.5% of the standard rate for a social and community services employee level 3 at pay point 3 in clause 15.3 of the Award, which is currently $988.80 for a 38-hour week.
This hourly COVID-19 allowance would be $4.94 an hour for all disability workers, translating to $187.72 for a 38-hour week.
Government guarantee to private hospital sector
Thanks to ongoing pressure from unions and employers, on 31 March, the Australian Government announced a partnership with the private health sector to secure 30,000 hospital beds and 105,000 nurses and staff.
The federal government has agreed to contribute 50% towards activity funding, provided private providers retain their workforce. For further detail on the guarantee, refer to this document.
The Commonwealth will offer agreements to all 657 private and not-for-profit hospitals to ensure their viability, in return for maintenance and capacity during the COVID-19 response.
State and territory governments will also complete private hospital COVID-19 partnership agreements in the coming days.
In the first instance, enquire with your employer whether it has published a policy in relation to COVID-19 and self-isolation. You may also be able to access such a policy on your employer’s intranet if it has one.
If you’re directed not to attend work because you have COVID-19, are sick and/or exhibiting flu-like symptoms, then generally you will be required to take personal leave or sick leave. If you’ve run out of personal leave or sick leave then you should be able to access your other paid leave entitlements.
Leave entitlements during self-isolation
The Commonwealth Government requires people to self-isolate for 14 days if they have come into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or have returned from overseas travel from any country from midnight 16 March 2020. If you’ve been directed not to attend work due to these requirements then your employee entitlements will depend on your employer’s policy and the provisions of your award or enterprise agreement (see links to Industrial Instruments below).
Most private hospital nurses and midwives are covered by an enterprise agreement. Check it for relevant leave provisions, including personal/carer’s leave, and whether there are any stand down provisions that apply. If you require assistance identifying or interpreting your enterprise agreement then we’re here to help. You can contact us using this web form.
If you’re employed under the Nurses Award 2010 (only those without an enterprise agreement) and are required to self-isolate then it is reasonable for your employer to direct you onto personal/carer’s leave because you’re not able to work. If you’ve run out of personal/carer’s leave then you should be able to access other forms of paid leave that you have accrued.
Casual employees generally do not have the leave entitlements available to them that permanent employees have. If you’re a casual employee and required to self-isolate then your employer should consider standing you down on pay for any rostered shifts, although you are unlikely to have a legal right to the payment of wages for this time. Particular regard should be given by your employer to the length of your employment and whether you work on a regular and systematic basis.
If your employer has directed you not to attend work for reasons related to COVID-19 and you have not been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or returned from overseas travel, then please contact NSWNMA/ANMF-NSW for assistance.
Unfortunately employees in the private sector are not automatically entitled to the 20 days special leave made available by the NSW Government to its employees. We assure you NSWNMA/ANMF-NSW is in a range of discussions with multiple private sector and aged care employers regarding COVID-19 and we’re encouraging them to adopt strategies and frameworks similar to the public sector with regards to isolation. The Association will continue making representations on behalf of members on a case by case basis.
The above is intended as general information only and the advice in relation to each case will depend on its particular circumstances.
Current Industrial Instruments
The NSWNMA will continue to provide further updates for members as we receive them. Information contained on this page is current as of 19 March 2020. Contact us here.