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Managing Pandemic Leave & Changes to Awards for the Aged Care Sector

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact workers and workplaces around the country, Humanforce is here to help you manage a number of new and complex leave types, including pandemic leave, and awards.

01/27/2020
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Restriction levels vary from state to state, so we recommend you consult your local health department to ensure compliance with state regulations.

With continuing outbreaks, clusters, and levels of community transmission – COVID-19 really has cemented itself for the time being and bought about a new normal. In a number of states, restriction levels have been relaxed to allow businesses to re-open, with strict guidelines in regards to social distancing and hygiene.  The Aged Care sector which is caring for the most vulnerable in our society is facing daily challenges not only from residents and their families but also state agencies and federal government departments in trying to protect our elderly.

Testing for COVID-19 is recommended for anyone with even the mildest of cold or flu-like symptoms; as well as for anyone who has:

  • Returned from overseas in the last 14 days
  • Traveled on a cruise ship in the last 14 days
  • Been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days
  • Health care, aged care or residential care worker or staff member with direct patient contact
  • You live in or have traveled through an area where there is a higher risk of community transmission as defined by the local public health unit – often referred to as Hot Spots

After testing, it may take several days for test results to come back. While waiting for test results, people are directed to isolate at home and distance from others – it is crucial that people do not go to work.

This poses a new challenge for employers – managing staff who are not unwell, but who are unable to work.

COVID-19 Test Isolation Leave Periods

Government Health Agencies in all states are stating that it is critical that people who have had a COVID-19 test remain at home until their test results come back, and any cold or flu-like symptoms resolve, in line with state requirements.  Some states have financial support available to those who do not have access to paid sick leave.

If you are a manager and you need to manage any of the following then use technology to make these simple, fast and easy tasks with outcomes that are better for your business, better for your staff and will ultimately help the flight against COVID-19.

• Create shift offers to take the stress out of replacing isolating staff at short notice
• Use Kiosks and Noticeboards to communicate important messages
• Clean Finger Vein Scanner
• Send messages to your team
• Send alerts to your team
• Communicate one on one to team members that may be affected

Award Changes for Aged Care

On the 29th of July, 2020, the Fair Work Commission announced amendments to the Aged Care Award, Nurses Award, and Health Professionals Award with regards to the requirement of providing Paid Pandemic Leave.

Under Schedule Y, employees are entitled to up to 2 weeks of paid pandemic leave if they can’t work (including from home) because:

  • their employer, or government or medical authorities, require them to self-isolate or quarantine
  • they have to self-isolate or quarantine while waiting for a coronavirus test result
  • they are showing symptoms of coronavirus and have been advised by a medical practitioner to self-isolate or quarantine
  • they have come into contact with a person suspected of having contracted coronavirus, or
  • of government or medical authority measures taken in response to coronavirus (including, for example, closing a facility).

Employees who want to take paid pandemic leave need to have already been tested for coronavirus for each occasion of leave or agree to get tested as soon as possible. If they don’t, they aren’t entitled to take the leave.

The leave is available in full immediately to full-time, part-time, and casual (where regular and systematic) employees.  The entitlement does not accrue, each time an employee meets the criteria, they can take up to 2 weeks’ paid pandemic leave.

Full-time employees who take paid pandemic leave need to be paid their base pay rate for their ordinary hours of work, the same as taking normal sick leave.

Part-time employees who take paid pandemic leave need to be paid the higher of either:

  • their agreed ordinary hours of work
  • an average of their weekly ordinary hours of work for the previous 6 weeks.

Casual employees who take paid pandemic leave need to be paid an amount based on an average of their weekly pay over the previous 6 weeks. If they’ve been employed for less than 6 weeks, the pay needs to be based on an average of their weekly pay for the time they’ve been employed.

When assessing Paid Pandemic Leave for your workforce, it is important to consult legal services to understand your specific situation.

However, Humanforce identifies four situations whereby an aged care employee is not entitled to Paid Pandemic Leave:

  •  If the employee is not covered by the Aged Care Award, the Nurses Award or the Health Professionals Award then they do not currently have an entitlement to Paid Pandemic Leave.
  • If the employee is entitled to take Paid Personal Leave (sick leave) then the employee is not entitled to Paid Pandemic Leave.
  • If the employee is entitled to worker’s compensation benefits as a result of contracting COVID-19 then the employee is not entitled to Paid Pandemic Leave.
  • If the employee is a casual but is not engaged on a regular and systematic basis then the employee is not entitled to Paid Pandemic Leave.
  • If you would like to know more about solutions to assist you with the changes that came into effect 28 July, 2020 or any other workforce management challenge you may be facing click here and a WFM Specialist will be in contact.

Current Flu Vaccination Requirements

Managing Federal and State directions on entering Residential Aged Care facilities regarding current flu vaccination.  Learn more about how you can manage this with Humanforce.  Read here.

Using Humanforce in case of an outbreak

In the event of illness, accurate records of attendance for everyone, not just staff, means the effectiveness of Humanforce’s Contact Trace reports and features are enhanced. It extends the traceable pool to all concurrent attendees of a facility – all in one report. Click here.

If you are not a Humanforce Customer, please see our instructions on how to access and use the Employee Trace Tool. It’s easy, and completely free of charge. It works using a free, downloadable version of Microsoft Power BI. Click here.

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