Updated 27th March 2020
FAQ for OSHC & COVID-19
Operational Issues for Queensland OSHC services
What services can OSHC operate in the coming weeks and months?
OSHC can operate before and after school care as normal for the final week of term 1 (week beginning 30 March).
Vacation care can be operated as normal during the school holidays.
No announcements have been made which would impact a service being able to operate before and after school care in term 2. However, with schools moving to cater to distance/online learning and being restricted to supervising children whose parents are essential workers, it is anticipated there will be a significant decrease in utilisation.
Can only children of essential workers attend OSHC?
Schools have remained open for the children of essential workers or vulnerable children; by extension, these will be families accessing your service on school days. There has been no decision to limit access to education and care services, per se. Families who are not working may choose to enrol children for vacation care. Services are not being asked to limit attendance to only children of essential workers, however, the messaging to families has strongly encouraged them to keep children at home.
If there are school closures in the future, will the service be able to operate?
There is a strong government position to maintain schools being open. While schools are open, services will be able to operate as they usually would. If governments change their position on schools in the future (somewhat unlikely at this stage, but a possibility), then services will have to respond to the decisions at this time.
While we do not anticipate wide-spread closures in the near future, there is real possibility temporary closures might be forced in the event of an outbreak at a particular service. Where the Health Department direct a service to close, then services will be entitled to receive CCS. Please note, this payment will only be passed on to a service where the closure relates to this scenario (not wide-spread closures).
Do services have to operate?
No. An Approved Provider may choose to close the service – either due to concerns of safety or viability. However, there can be implications for this decision, including but not limited to: the entitlements of employees to still be paid and access to financial support.
What are the things services should be doing or thinking about?
There are many things employers should be considering at this time. Some items will relate to your specific circumstance and context. Broadly, services should be considering:
The practices of the service to keep children, families and employees safe – ensuring advice (social distancing, hand washing and hygiene) are adopted and embedded.
Ensuring any person (children, families and educators) who are ill, high-risk or symptomatic are aware of their requirements to isolate and not attend the service.
Contingency planning – the future implications are still uncertain. You should have plans in place to manage the viability and temporary closure of a service. Ideally, services can optimise the amount of staff employed throughout the crisis.
Contributing to the mental health of families, employees and the community – there is a significant increase in stress being experienced as the livelihoods of individuals and being impacted or threatened. Where services can be intentional in their approach to mitigate these effects. There is a range of resources available to support children and adults, including:
Be You – Supporting Early Learning Communities https://beyou.edu.au/resources/news/covid-19-supporting-early-learning-communities
Beyond Blue – Mindfulness and Coronavirus - https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/wellbeing/how-mindfulness-can-help-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak
Beyond Blue – Looking after yourself during coronavirus outbreak - https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak
What financial supports are available?
Australian Government’s cash flow assistance for businesses will provide a minimum of $20, 000 to for and not-for-profit services. This funding is up to $100, 000 and will be 100% of the PAYG amount withheld for employees. (https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Cash_flow_assistance_for_businesses_0.pdf)
Child Care Community Fund (CCCF) - Grants are available through the CCCF Special Circumstances Grant for child care providers experiencing financial viability issues as a result of COVID-19, for example, withdrawals, reduced enrolments or service closures. (https://www.education.gov.au/cccfspecialcircs)
Who gets paid if we are forced to close?
Ultimately employers must oblige by employment law and industrial instruments in navigating employment relations issues. At times, these can be nuanced. If you are unsure of the ruling for your circumstance, then seek appropriate advice.
Broadly, the entitlement to be paid if an employee cannot work will relate to the factors as to why the employee cannot be engaged. The Fair Work Ombudsman outlines circumstances for employment entitlements and employer duties https://coronavirus.fairwork.gov.au/. While the Fair Work Act does not apply to P&C employees, the interpretations are (generally) consistent and compatible with the Industrial Relations Act and the Award.
What happens if employees are sick?
Sick employees should not attend the service. You should have policies and procedures already guiding this condition. Where employees are entitled to sick leave (full-time and part-time), then they can access this. Casual employees are not entitled to sick leave.
What are my obligations for standing down employees?
Where employees cannot be productively employed due to factors outside the employer’s control and where they cannot be held responsible, i.e. the stoppage of work relates to COVID-19 and families being directed to educate children from home unless they are an essential worker. A partial stand down is also a possibility for employers to consider – a stand down might reduce the days (or hours) an employee works.
Employers should be cautious and ensure any stand down is lawful in their specific circumstance. Employees may be able to recover lost wages if they have been unlawfully stood down. Additionally, where there is significant workplace change, employers have a duty to consult with employees about this change.
Employees accrue leave as normal during the duration of the stand down.
(See s333. Industrial Relations Act (Qld) / s524. Fair Work Act (Cth))
How can we support our employees?
The current circumstance is challenging for everyone. Employers are positioned to be able to alleviate some of the stress through an understanding and consultative approach. While inevitably difficult discussions will need to be made, employers can offer proactive communication and flexibility to support their workers.
Where employees are presenting with significant distress, employers can guide these individuals to a range of social, health and community supports, including their GP, local counselling services, Beyond Blue/Lifeline. Financial support is available for employees that have been financially impacted by COVID-19. Jobseeker/Youth Allowance can be accessed via Centrelink and MyGov.