Information for Australian Government public servants about COVID-19
- Connecting Us Edition 15 | 26 February 2021
- Circular 2021/01: COVID-19 vaccinations | 08 February 2021
- Connecting Us Edition 14 | 27 January 2021
- Connecting Us Edition 13 | 17 December 2020
- Connecting Us Edition 12 | 26 November 2020
- Connecting Us Edition 11 | 5 November 2020
- Connecting Us Edition 10 | 15 October 2020
- Circular 2020/9: Returning to Usual Workplaces
Key messages to the APS
- Open Letter to the Australian Public Service from PM&C Secretary Philip Gaetjens and APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott | 22 March 2021
- Open Letter to the Australian Public Service from PM&C Secretary Philip Gaetjens and APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott | 04 September 2020
- Open Letter to the APS - PM&C Secretary Philip Gaetjens and APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott AO | 01 May 2020
- Open Letter to the APS from PM&C Secretary Philip Gaetjens and APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott AO | 09 April 2020
- Open Letter to the APS on the APS Workforce Management Taskforce from APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott AO | 26 March 2020
Read the latest news from The Department of Health. Watch out for current health warnings.
Information about the COVIDSafe App is also available on the Department of Health website.
Information for APS employees
Returning to usual workplaces
The Australian Public Service Commissioner, Peter Woolcott AO, on September 2020 released new guidance for public servants in returning to their usual (pre-COVID) workplaces.
The following information is currently available to assist APS employees
Mobility arrangements during COVID-19
The Prime Minister has asked APS Agency Heads to identify their most critical functions and the work that can be slowed or paused for a short time. The purpose is to identify APS staff who can mobilise across government functions to maintain our most critical functions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Frequently Asked Questions for employees - Returning to Usual Workplaces
How is the APS returning to usual workplaces?
The Australian Government and state and territory governments are gradually relaxing COVID-19 restrictions, in line with the Roadmap to a COVID-safe Australia agreed by National Cabinet.
As the number of COVID-19 cases stabilises and remains low in most communities, agencies are making arrangements to facilitate employees returning to their usual workplaces, where it is safe to do so.
A single approach for the whole of the APS is not practicable, given the diversity of working environments.
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has published Circular 2020/9: Returning to Usual Workplaces for agencies about employees returning to their usual workplaces.
Should I be working from my usual workplace?
Each agency will communicate directly with their employees. Specific decisions affecting each agency are the responsibility of agency heads.
As per Circular 2020/9: Returning to Usual Workplaces published by the APSC, where there is limited or no community transmission of COVID-19, employees should return to their usual workplaces, where it is safe to do so. Agencies will need to assess their workplaces to ensure they are COVID-safe and can accommodate the return of employees. This may include needing to modify workplace attendance arrangements to maintain physical distancing or where public transport risk mitigation may affect employees travel.
The returning of employees to usual workplaces must be in line with government policy and public health advice issued by the Australian Government and State and Territory governments. This includes physical distancing requirements and the National COVID-19 Safe Workplaces Principles. Safe Work Australia has specific information available on physical distancing within workplace facilities and lifts.
If I am at higher risk, do I need to return to my usual workplace?
The latest public health advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee states even those at higher risk of more severe illness, may return to work and other settings with appropriate precautions in place.
It is important to speak with your supervisor if you are at higher risk of more severe illness prior to returning to the workplace. APS agency heads will consider the individual circumstances and the epidemiological environment to ensure the health and safety of their employees. This will include undertaking a risk assessment and where necessary putting appropriate controls put in place prior to the employee returning to their usual workplace.
Can I still work flexibly?
The use of flexible work arrangements in the APS pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic. While there is no longer a COVID-related reason for employees to be working from home full time, agencies are still able to agree to flexible work arrangements that meet their needs and those of employees, as per usual practice.
What if there is an outbreak?
As outlined in the Circular 2020/9: Returning to Usual Workplaces advice, agencies should have a formal plan in place to respond to any future localised outbreaks.
Where there is a localised outbreak, agency heads should facilitate employees in the location to work from home where practical to do so.
If my child’s school closes because of an outbreak, what leave would I need to take to look after them?
This will be depend on your agency, their workplace arrangements and supporting policies. Initially, you should speak to your supervisor to see whether you can work flexibly while providing care for your children. Circular 2020/9: Returning to Usual Workplaces advises agencies that where there is a localised outbreak, agency heads should facilitate employees in the location of the outbreak working from home, where it is appropriate and practicable to do so.
Agencies should use the maximum flexibility provided by their workplace arrangements, while ensuring that operational requirements are met and services continue to be delivered.
If you are not available for work, your agency will need to consider the appropriate leave type on a case-by-case basis. Speak to your supervisor about the most appropriate leave type for your situation. Circular 2020/1: COVID-19 leave arrangements, provides guidance on the appropriate leave where a facility (such as a school) is closed at short notice.
I am feeling anxious about returning to the workplace what should I do?
There are a number of support systems available to you, including your supervisor, colleagues, HR team and Employee Assistance Program (EAP). It is important to raise any concerns you have immediately with your supervisor or HR team.
Some practical tips for looking after your mental health during COVID-19 are available on the Commission’s website.
If I am required to self-isolate what kind of leave do I take?
If you are unwell personal leave would be the appropriate leave type. If you are advised to self-isolate but feeling well, your agency should facilitate you to work from home if practical to do so, while you monitor your health. If working from home is not practical paid discretionary leave (or equivalent) for the required isolation period should be provided. Circular 2020/1: COVID-19 leave arrangements refers.
If I am required to self-isolate due to personal travel what kind of leave do I take?
If you chose to undertake personal overseas travel or personal travel to areas with known self-isolation requirements, you must use your own accrued annual or long service leave for the purposes of the self-isolation.
If accrued annual or long service leave is not available, you will need to access leave without pay. If you are unwell, personal leave may be accessed with appropriate medical evidence. Work from home arrangements may be negotiated with your supervisor, if appropriate in the circumstances. Circular 2020/1: COVID-19 leave arrangements refers.
I am a labour hire worker/contractor what kind of leave arrangements are available to me?
Labour hire workers are not Australian Government employees, and are generally the employee of labour hire companies. Any leave arrangements will need to be discussed with your employer (i.e. the labour hire company).
I am a casual employee who has to self-isolate do I get access to paid arrangements?
Yes. Due to the current extraordinary circumstances of the outbreak and the potential widespread impact, paid arrangements should be extended to casual employees who are required to isolate having had exposure to or contracted COVID-19. This is to minimise any incentive for employees to attend the workplace against medical advice and to minimise exposure to the public.
Where a casual employee is required to self‑isolate but is not unwell, work from home arrangements should be facilitated, where practicable. Where working from home is not practicable, casual employees should get paid arrangements as per Circular 2020/1: COVID-19 leave arrangements.
I am a casual employee who has to care for a sick relative or a child following a school closure. Do I get access to paid arrangements?
No. The paid arrangements do not extend to casual employees who have caring responsibilities. Work from home arrangements could be considered, where practicable. Circular 2020/1: COVID-19 leave arrangements refers.
I am a casual employee and am sick with something other than COVID-19. Do I get access to paid arrangements?
No. The paid arrangements only apply to casual employees who are required to isolate due to exposure to or testing positive for COVID-19. Circular 2020/1: COVID-19 leave arrangements refers.
I am a casual employee who has a diminished workload as a result of COVID-19. Do I get access to paid arrangements?
No. Casual employees will not get paid arrangements in situations where agencies have a diminished workload. Casuals may choose to be available for reassignment of duties in their agency or a temporary mobility opportunities in the APS. You should discuss these options with your supervisor. Casual employees are not eligible for paid stand-by.
Leave arrangements during COVID-19
Circular 2020/1: COVID-19 leave arrangements provides guidance to:
- assist in addressing employee questions about COVID-19 and what response the employer may take; and
- guide decision making around attendance at work and accessing leave provisions, if employees present with symptoms or indicate they are at risk of having been exposed to COVID-19.
APS employees who contract the coronavirus
If an employee is displaying symptoms, they should speak with their manager, go home and contact either their GP or Health Direct on 1800 022 222.
If the employee has insufficient credits to cover the medically advised period, paid Discretionary Leave (or equivalent) should be provided. Refer to Circular 2020/1: COVID-19 leave arrangements for additional information.
Safe Work Australia has current advice in relation to COVID-19 information for workplaces, including physical distancing and hygiene measures for office environments and the use of lift facilities.
Safe Work Australia also provides a useful overview of how employer and employee duties under the WHS Act relate to COVID-19.
Comcare has compiled guidance, resources and practical tips to support employers and employees.
The latest health guidance is available on the Department of Health website.
Australia.gov.au is the official Australian Government response website to provide support and updates to Australians on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Work travel advice for visiting remote communities
The guidance Information for workers from Australian Government Agencies, services and programs visiting remote communities aims to protect people in remote communities by minimising the risk of introduction of COVID-19 into those communities. The guidance provides a risk management approach designed to limit non-essential travel to remote communities and ensure stringent health protocols for Australian Government workers engaging in essential travel.
This guidance is supported by a Risk Management Plan for Australian Government Agencies for Government worker travel to remote communities.
Agencies seeking further information can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.