Circular 2024/01: Managing COVID-19 in the Commonwealth Employment Sector
- The purpose of this circular is to provide agencies with updated guidance on managing the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace. This advice applies to all Commonwealth employment.
Keeping up to date
- Commonwealth employees should act to minimise the transmission of COVID-19 and continue to comply with any public health requirements set by the Australian and state and territory governments.
- Up to date health guidance is available from the following sites:
- the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care website - Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care
- state and territory health department news and advice - https://www.health.gov.au/about-us/contact-us/local-state-and-territory-health-departments.
COVID-19 safe workplaces
- Agencies should undertake ongoing assessments of their workplaces to ensure they remain COVID-19 safe, taking into account public health and other relevant advice issued by the Australian Government and state and territory governments, such as Safe Work Australia.
COVID-19 leave arrangements
- Employees should access personal/carer’s leave if they are unwell or if they are required to care for a family or household member who is unwell.
- The provision of personal/carer’s leave should be consistent with the employee’s ordinary personal leave conditions under the applicable workplace instrument.
- Employees seeking to access personal or carer’s leave must provide evidence in line with the requirements of the applicable workplace instrument.
- Agencies are no longer required to provide paid discretionary leave in circumstances where an employee is unwell with COVID-19 or is required to care for a family or household member who is unwell with COVID-19.
- Where appropriate, agencies may provide employees with additional paid or unpaid discretionary leave in accordance with the miscellaneous leave (or equivalent) provisions in their applicable workplace instrument. Agencies are responsible for determining the circumstances under which additional discretionary leave will be provided.
Flexible working arrangements, including working from home
- Agency heads are responsible for making decisions about the availability of workplace flexibility, including working from home arrangements, in accordance with relevant workplace instruments and policies.
- In relation to flexible working arrangements, agency heads should consider the individual circumstances of employees and the epidemiological environment. This should include an assessment of risk and controls.
- An employee may self-isolate because they have tested positive for COVID-19 or a member of their household has tested positive for COVID-19. Where the employee is fit for work, the agency should support temporary flexible working arrangements for the employee where appropriate. Where flexible working is not practical, or there is no facility for working remotely, the employee is able to use existing leave credits in accordance with the applicable workplace instrument.
- Where appropriate, flexible working arrangements should also be afforded to labour hire employees (in consultation with the relevant labour-hire employer) and casual employees. For labour hire workers, leave and pay conditions remain a matter for the labour hire company.
- Australians are encouraged to maintain their full recommended vaccination status, particularly those who are most at risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
- Agencies should support employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, including booster vaccinations. Appropriate support measures may include paid time to receive vaccinations, including reasonable travel time.
- Decisions to require vaccination within particular workplaces or job roles is a matter for individual Agency Heads. Guidance for employers and employees is available from Safe Work Australia and the Fair Work Ombudsman. Agencies are obliged to ensure that any direction requiring an employee to be vaccinated is lawful and reasonable.
Travel to remote communities
- COVID-19 presents a higher risk to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including an increased risk of disease transmission. Employees should take extra care when travelling to remote communities, including using COVID-19 safe practices to protect themselves and others.
Many international destinations continue to have fluctuating COVID-19 case numbers and may be at greater risk of community transmission. Some countries, airlines and vessel operators may have COVID-19 travel requirements in place.
Employees required to undertake work-related overseas travel should familiarise themselves with the most recent guidance from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/.
Given the continued risk of COVID-19 exposure, overseas travellers are encouraged to keep up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations and take appropriate hygiene and infectious disease control steps, such as wearing a mask. Agencies may have policies concerning overseas travel and vaccination.
- Agencies seeking further information should contact WorkplaceRelations@apsc.gov.au.