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A COVID-Safe transition for APS workplaces

How is the APS safely transitioning to usual workplaces?

The Australian Government and state and territory governments are gradually relaxing COVID-19 restrictions across the economy.

A single approach for the whole of the APS is not practicable, given the diversity of working environments.

With the easing of some restrictions, APS agency heads will develop and start to implement plans that facilitate a gradual transition back to usual workplaces, taking into consideration the agency’s business and operational circumstances. Transition plans will need to focus on the wellbeing of staff, continued provision of safe work environments and the delivery of critical services to the public.

The Australian Public Service Commission has published advice for agency heads to consider in creating a COVID-Safe transition plan for their agency.

Should I be working from home or from my usual workplace?

The decision of whether APS employees work in their usual work environment, a different work environment, or from home, is and always has been, the responsibility of the Head of each APS agency.

The Commission has published advice urging APS agency heads to implement the National COVID-19 Safe Workplaces Principles, to ensure staff are adhering to physical distancing principles and are following the latest health advice from the Department of Health and the Chief Medical Officer. Safe Work Australia also has specific information available on physical distancing within workplace facilities and lifts.

Agency heads should consider whether some employees have a greater need to be in their usual workplaces than others when developing their transition plan.

If I am a vulnerable person, or I have a vulnerable family member at home, can I continue to work from home despite the gradual transition to usual workplaces?

It is important to speak with your supervisor if you are a vulnerable person, or have a vulnerable family member at home. APS agency heads will consider the health and safety of their employees, including whether an employee is considered vulnerable or has regular contact with a vulnerable person, in developing and implementing their agency transition plans.

What should I do to prepare for a return to the usual workplace and when can I expect this?

As per the announcement on 8 May 2020 by the Prime Minister the Hon Scott Morrison MP, the gradual relaxing of restrictions will be reviewed every three weeks, with the aim to have all workers back in the workplace across the economy by July.

Agency heads will develop and implement a transition plan for each agency to facilitate the transition of employees to their usual workplace, which will be flexible and adaptable to change in Government advice. You should engage with your agency’s transition plan and speak to your supervisor if you have any concerns about the transition arrangements.

School closures

Where schools remain open for essential workers, can I access paid leave to care for my children?

There are jurisdictional differences between school operations within Australia. However, as all APS employees are essential workers, most employees should be able to access supervision for their children.

If you choose not to send your children to school or are unable to make use of school facilities while they remain open, you should speak with your supervisor about the potential to work flexibly while providing care for your children.

If you choose not to send your children to school, and subsequently make yourself unavailable for work, including flexible work arrangements, you will need to use available leave credits (as per your agency’s workplace arrangements). Where credits are exhausted, there is no entitlement to additional paid leave.

If my child’s school closes, what kind of leave would I need to take to look after them?

You should speak to your supervisor to see whether you can work flexibly while providing care for your children. Agencies should use the maximum flexibility provided by their employment framework and 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 an explanation of the leave that could be used where a facility (such as a school) is closed.

Pay and conditions

Is it mandatory for me to work from my usual workplace?

The decision of whether employees work in their usual work environment, a different work environment, or from home, is and always has been, the responsibility of the Head of each APS agency.

With the easing of some restrictions, APS agency heads will develop and start to implement plans that facilitate a gradual transition back to usual workplaces, taking into consideration the agency’s business and operational circumstances. Transition plans will need to focus on the wellbeing of staff, continued provision of safe work environments and the delivery of critical services to the public.

Agency heads will be developing and implementing transition plans to facilitate the transition of employees to usual workplaces. This approach is in line with the Australian Government and state and territory governments’ gradual relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions across the economy and institutions to create a COVID safe environment. You may be required to transition back to your usual workplace depending on your agency’s operational requirements.

The Commission has published advice urging APS agency heads to implement the National COVID-19 Safe Workplaces Principles, ensure staff are adhering to physical distancing principles and are following the latest health advice from the Department of Health and the Chief Medical Officer.

Will my pay and conditions change if I continue to work from home?

In most cases, your pay and conditions will stay the same.

If you are in receipt of an allowance, you will need to speak to your agency to discuss whether this will continue during your working from home period. Agencies will make decisions about different allowances on a case-by-case basis. Generally, agencies should not commence payment of new allowances in this period.

If I’m working part time at home and part time in the office, can I continue to use my work station equipment at home?

Each agency will have procedures regarding working from home. You should speak to your supervisor to understand your agency’s procedures.

What if I can’t work my usual hours, or need to change my start and finish times because of working from home?

You should speak to your supervisor about what flexible working arrangements are available to you in your specific role and situation. Agencies should use the maximum flexibility provided by their employment framework and workplace arrangement, while ensuring that operational requirements are met and services continue to be delivered.

I work in a front of house position, and my workplace has temporarily closed. When will it reopen and what happens to my role?

As announced by the Prime Minister of 8 May 2020, the gradual easing of restrictions across the economy will take place in a step wise fashion, with a review every three weeks. You will need to speak to your supervisor to find out what the transition back to usual workplaces means for you and your agency.  

Work health safety and wellbeing

What kind of physical distancing measures are being taken in workplaces?

The Commission has published a list of useful resources for individuals and agencies to consider to reduce transmission and slow the outbreak. Agencies must ensure employees working in office environments are adhering to social distancing principles, and following the latest health and hygiene advice from the Department of Health, and the Chief Medical Officer.

My co-worker who sits next to me is coughing a lot. I am worried they might have COVID-19. What should I do?

If you are concerned a co-worker is unwell, you should speak with your supervisor about these concerns.

I am feeling anxious as a result of everything that is happening. 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 stay connected and support each other through times of uncertainty. Some practical tips for looking after your mental health during CODVID-19 are available on the Commission’s website

I am working from home and have sustained an injury. What do I do?

In the first instance, you should speak to your supervisor. You will need to follow your agency’s internal procedures for reporting an injury.

Leave

I am stuck overseas due to COVID-19. What kind of leave do I need to take?

This needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis by each agency. Speak to your supervisor about the most appropriate leave type for your situation.

I am required to self-isolate due to contact with someone with COVID-19. What kind of leave do I take?

If you are advised to self-isolate but have not tested positive for COVID-19, your agency should facilitate you to work from home while you monitor your health. If this is not practical or there is no facility for working remotely, paid discretionary leave (or equivalent) for the required isolation period should be provided. Circular 2020/1: COVID-19 leave arrangements refers.

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 14 days 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 registered healthcare professional and an APS employee. I would like to volunteer at a hospital during this time. What kind of leave am I eligible for?

In general, healthcare professionals who volunteer to work on an unpaid basis should receive paid discretionary leave (or equivalent) from their agencies. Employees who get paid by the hospital/medical facility, would not be eligible for paid leave, and would need to access leave without pay.

You will need to ask your agency to confirm the exact leave type you would be eligible for.

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).

Casual employees

I am a casual employee and have tested positive to COVID-19. 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 have tested positive to COVID-19. This is to minimise any incentive for employees to attend the workplace against medical advice and to minimise exposure to the public. APSC Circular 2020/1: COVID-19 leave arrangements refers.

I am a casual employee who has to self-isolate. Do I get access to paid arrangements?

Yes.  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 APSC 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. APSC 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.  APSC 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.

 

Last reviewed: 
2 June 2020