COVID-19 and Schools: getting prepared and staying safe - Public Service Association

COVID-19 and Schools: getting prepared and staying safe

The PSA has been in touch with many members and delegates over the last few weeks to check in with how you are going. We have heard many stories of school communities helping each other during extremely difficult circumstances.

Unfortunately, we have also heard a few concerning stories from schools that have not been protecting staff adequately or have not been implementing the Department of Education (DoE) protocols.

Provided below is some guidance from your union on the steps to take in a number of different situations:

Your safety

The Principal is responsible for the safety for all staff and students on site. If you have concerns for your health and safety, please raise them immediately with your Principal.

If the concerns are not addressed, please lodge an incident with the WHS line. Contact the PSA if no action is taken to address your concerns.

We know that there are some difficult situations to manage while social distancing and we can provide guidance and assistance where necessary. As a general rule you should:

  1. Follow all social distancing and hygiene measures outlined by NSW Health.
  2. Print out signs and posters to display so that clear information is being communicated throughout the school about social distancing, hygiene and local and DoE protocols.
  3. Work from different rooms where possible to assist in social distancing. In most schools there has been a significant decrease in student attendance which may open up opportunities to work in different spaces within the school.

Working from home – all classifications can get ready

All staff in a school should be prepared to work from home in the event of total lockdown or can work from home now if necessary. The PSA advises all members to:

  1. Think about what work you can do from home, this could include review and redrafting processes or documentation, assisting teachers to implement individual educational programs or behaviour plans or assisting the classroom teacher in organising and preparing resources.
  2. Think about what online training and upskilling you may be able to do when working from home.
  3. Assess your readiness to work from home. Do you have the necessary resources? If not, raise this with your supervisor and discuss with them what options there are for being provided what is required.
  4. Ensure that you have been granted remote access to programs or systems required to undertake your work from home. For an SLSO who is supporting students in a classroom this may mean getting access to Zoom or other platforms that teachers are using to deliver classes.

How does the special leave apply?

The PSA advises all members to discuss your personal circumstances with your Principal as soon as possible so that they can be taken into account. Arrangements should be in place so that staff can continue to work safely and gainfully for as long as possible whether this be at the school, another safe location or from home.

We are not sure when the current situation will change or how long it will go on for. In the current situation, where all schools are not closed, you can access special leave and avoid using other forms of leave in the following circumstances after contacting your Principal:

  • Paid special leave of up to 20 days for people who need to be excluded from workplace/placed in quarantine
  • Paid special leave of up to 20 days for people with caring responsibilities for family members due to closure of schools and caring facilities or who have transport disruptions (without needing to exhaust other forms of leave first)
  • For people who are sick – they apply for sick leave as usual, if they exhaust sick leave they can apply for special leave
  • Provision to work flexibly/remotely/at other locations where at all possible.
  • In the event of school shutdown there is no requirement to apply for any form of leave.

Temporary staff protected

As the PSA has previously reported, the Department of Education has confirmed that all current contracts will be honoured throughout the crisis including both short-term and long-term temporary employees.

Regrettably some Principals have taken this opportunity to advise temporary staff they will be no longer required as of next term. This should not be happening and is in direct conflict with what the Department of Education is putting into place to protect staff.

If you are in this situation contact the PSA Member Support Centre on 1300 772 679.

Short-term temporary and long-term temporary definitions

Long-term temporary (LTT) staff

Long-term temporary staff are employed in schools and work a regular pattern of hours, either full-time or part-time for a period in excess of one school term.

LTT staff have the same conditions of employment and rates of pay as permanent staff.

Short-term temporary (STTs) staff

Short-term temporary staff are employed in schools, either on a full-time or part-time basis, for a period of one school term or less.

Once a STT staff member is employed for more than 10 consecutive weeks (not counting schools holiday period) they should be converted to a Long Term Temporary (LTT). This is a requirement of the award and cannot be avoided.

You should ask your Manager if you are not converted to LTT after completing one term’s employment with the DoE.

Casual employees

There is no casual employment under your Award. Those referred to as casuals will most likely be employed as a STT. You should check with your Principal or Manager.

See Award definitions and DoE Handbook for Non-Teaching Staff for full details on employment contracts.

Help your colleagues stay safe, protected and supported with the PSA!

Do you know someone who is not a member? Or do you have any new starters at your school? You can assist the work of the PSA and delegates so we can get better outcomes for everyone just by asking your colleagues to JOIN.




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