FAQ: Covid19 NSW Greater Sydney - United Workers Union

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Important Information

NSW Greater Sydney Lockdown FAQ

Last updated Wednesday 28 July 2021 at 5:15pm

If you have become aware of or your employer has informed you about a potential/positive COVID-19 case,  call the UWU COVID Hotline ASAP for advice:

0499 174 080 (text / call)
covidhotline@unitedworkers.org.au

NEW: From 24 July 2021, you can only leave Cumberland and Blacktown LGAs to go to work if you are an authorised worker. At this time, you do not have to undergo mandatory testing.  

Resources in multiple languages are also availableCoronavirus (COVID-19) – العربية

 

If you are not sure if you should attend work,
or you require any other assistance,
call your union on 1800 805 027.

Restrictions for Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool LGAs. New restrictions for Blacktown and Cumberland LGAs now in place. Parramatta, Georges River & Campbelltown LGAs included from midnight July 28.

In addition to the existing stay-at-home rules, the NSW Government has introduced stricter mobility rules for some workers living in specific areas:

  • Blacktown LGA
  • Canterbury-Bankstown LGA
  • Cumberland LGA
  • Fairfield LGA
  • Liverpool LGA

From midnight on Wednesday, July 28, the following LGAs will be added to the list & will be subject to the same restrictions as the LGAs above, including only authorised workers being allowed to leave their LGAs for work.

  • Parramatta LGA
  • Georges River LGA
  • Campbelltown LGA
How do I know if I live in one of these LGAS with stricter lockdown restrictions?

You can check if your suburb falls into one of these LGAS with stricter lockdown restrictions by checking this map or this list of suburbs provided by the NSW Government.

I live in one of the LGAs. Can I go to work outside these areas?

No, if you live in one of these areas you cannot leave your LGA to go to work in any other areas, except if you are an NSW Government ‘authorised worker’.

You can check to see if you are qualify as an authorised worker here.

Can I move between Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool, Cumberland and Blacktown LGAs if I work in one of these areas?

No, you cannot leave your LGA to go to work unless you are an essential authorised worker.

Mandatory surveillance testing in Greater Sydney

Do I need to undergo mandatory surveillance testing?

Yes, you will need to undergo mandatory surveillance testing if any of the following situations applies to you.

Fairfield & Cumberland LGAs

In the Fairfield and Cumberland LGAs, authorised workers in the health and aged care sectors (including support staff such as cleaners, cooks, and security providers) who leave their LGA for work must get tested every 3 days (72 hours).

If you live in Fairfield LGA and you are an essential or authorised worker who works outside the area, you are required to COVID-tested every 3 days (72 hours).

If you are an essential worker and you live and work inside Fairfield LGA then you don’t have to get tested. However, given the high rates of infection in the area you are encouraged to get tested regularly to ensure your health and safety.

You can find out if you are an authorised worker by consulting the NSW Government’s list of authorised workers.

Canterbury-Bankstown LGA

All authorised workers in Canterbury-Bankstown LGA must now get tested every 3 days (72 hours).

If you live in Canterbury-Bankstown LGA and you are a health care worker or an aged care worker who works outside the area, you are required to have a COVID-19 test once every 3 days (72 hours).

The NSW government has defined an aged care worker as a person who works in a residential aged care facility.

It has defined a health care worker as a person who:

  • Provides health services within the meaning of the Health Services Act 1997 (whether public or private sector)
  • Is a registered health practitioner
  • Works for a registered health practitioner
  • Provides ancillary services to a health practitioner, such as cleaners, cooks, and security providers at hospitals

If you are a health care worker and/or an aged care worker and you live and work inside Canterbury-Bankstown LGA then you don’t have to get tested.

Other listed LGAs with heightened restrictions:

Workers living in LGAs other than those listed above who leave their LGA for work are currently not required to be tested every 3 days (72 hours).

Greater Sydney

If you live in Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong, and Shellharbour, and if your workplace is 50km or more outside this area, then you are required to have a COVID-19 test every 7 days. From 18 July 2021, you must already have been tested before you start work in these areas.

You can check if you work outside the 50km zone using the NSW Government’s map of 50km zone around Greater Sydney.

I live in other areas of Greater Sydney, outside of Canterbury-Bankstown, and Liverpool LGAs, do I need to undergo mandatory COVID-19 surveillance testing?

If you live in Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong, and Shellharbour, and if your workplace is 50km or more outside this area, then you are required to have a COVID-19 test every 7 days. From 18 July 2021, you must already have been tested before you start work in these areas.

You can check if you work outside the 50km zone using the NSW Government’s map of 50km zone around Greater Sydney.

Do I need to self-isolate each time I get tested?

If you are symptomatic, you should self-isolate after getting tested as per the general rules.

If you are asymptomatic, you do not need to self-isolate after getting tested – you can keep working. You will only have to self-isolate if you receive a positive test result.

Where should I get tested?

If you are symptomatic, you must get tested at a facility that is close to your residence.

If you are asymptomatic, you have the option of attending a testing facility closer to your workplace if that is more convenient.

You can find your nearest clinic by visiting the NSW Government’s ‘COVID-19 testing clinics’ website.

Will I be asked to provide evidence that I have taken a test?

Both employers and police can ask for identification and evidence of having been tested to determine whether workers are complying with these requirements. You must have proof of a test within the past three days whether the proof is a text message, email, or other form of evidence.

You will be required to provide evidence of testing when entering a workplace if you are:

  • An authorised worker living in Fairfield LGA entering a workplace outside this area; OR
  • A health care worker and/or an aged care worker living in Canterbury-Bankstown LGA and entering a workplace outside this area; OR
  • A worker living in Greater Sydney entering a workplace 50km outside this area.

Employers are required to ask these workers to provide evidence of testing – within 3 days for workers from Fairfield LGA and Canterbury-Bankstown LGA, and within 7 days for workers from Greater Sydney working 50km outside – before allowing them to enter the workplace and/or start work.

What are the consequences for not complying with these requirements?

In cases of a breach of order, police can issue an on-the-spot fine of $1000 for the workers and $500 for the corporation. In ‘serious cases’ (undefined) workers and employers can be prosecuted in court and subject to $11,000 fine or six months in jail or a $55,000 fine respectively. Workers who are concerned about their rights if they stopped by police can get information on the Legal Aid NSW Police Powers website.

Financial and other supports

Will I receive additional support if I am on an existing income support payment?

Changes to payments for people living in locked-down areas were announced on July 28.

All individuals who currently receive welfare payments (Youth Allowance, JobSeeker, Pension, etc) whose work hours have dropped by 8 hours or more a week under lockdown will receive an additional $200 per week.

For full details, please check the Services Australia website.

What is the COVID-19 Disaster Payment?

The COVID-19 disaster payment is a lump sum payment to help workers who are unable to earn an income because of a COVID-19 lockdown or period of restricted movement.

The existing Covid-19 disaster payment will be increased by $150 a week for those in locked-down areas who have lost more than 20 hours of work per week (to $750), and by $75 a week for those whose hours have decreased by fewer than 20 hours per week (to $450)

You can find more information on the Services Australia ‘COVID-19 Disaster Payment’ website.

What are the general rules of eligibility for this payment?

To get the COVID-19 disaster payment you must meet the following criteria:

  • You are an Australian resident or hold an eligible working visa.
  • You are 17 years or older.
  • You are not currently receiving any Centrelink or Department of Veterans Affairs income support payment.
  • You are not getting the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, a state or territory pandemic payment or a state small business payment for the same period.
  • You had paid employment, but you are unable to go to work on or after day 8 because of movement restrictions.
  • You have lost income on or after day 8 and do not have appropriate paid leave entitlements.

You can find more information on the Services Australia ‘General eligibility rules’ website.

Do I have to live in a Commonwealth-declared hotspot to receive this payment?

Before 18 July 2021, it was a requirement that you had to live in a Commonwealth-declared hotspot to receive this payment.

From 18 July 2021 onwards, you are eligible to receive this payment if you live or work in any area of NSW, regardless of whether or not it is a hotspot.

You can find more information on the eligibility rules for NSW on the Services Australia ‘NSW eligibility rules’ website.

Do I need to pass the $10,000 liquid asset test?

No, the Commonwealth Government has waived its liquid assets test for workers affected by the recent COVID-19 lockdowns. The dates of these waivers are different for different areas of NSW.

Parts of Sydney

  • You are not required to pass the liquid asset test if you lived or worked in parts of Sydney, including City of Sydney, Inner West, and Randwick, and you are claiming for a period from 8 July onwards. The full list of suburbs can be found here.
  • If you are claiming for the period between 1 July to 7 July, however, you must have liquid assets of less than $10,000.

Greater Sydney

  • You are not required to pass the liquid asset test if you lived or worked in Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong, and Shellharbour, and you are claiming for a period from 11 July onwards. The full list of suburbs can be found here.
  • If you are claiming for the period between 4 July to 10 July, however, you must have liquid assets of less than $10,000.

All other areas of NSW

  • From 18 January onwards, if you live in any area of NSW and you meet the general eligibility rules for the COVID-19 Disaster Payment, you do not need to pass the liquid asset test.
How much am I eligible to receive?
If you are making a claim for a lockdown period before 15 July 2021, you are eligible to receive:
  • $325 per week, if you lost less than 20 hours of work per week.
  • $500 per week, if you lost 20 or more hours of work per week.
If you are claiming for a lockdown period from 15 July 2021 onwards, you are eligible to receive:
$375 per week if you lost:
  • between 8 and 20 hours per week OR;
  • a full day of your usual hours per week, where ‘a full day of work’ is defined as the hours workers were scheduled to work but could not because of a restricted movement order, including not being able to attend a full-time, part-time, or casual shift of less than 8 hours.

$600 per week of lockdown if you lost 20 hours or more of work per week.

If you are claiming for a lockdown period from 28 July 2021 onwards, you are eligible to receive:
  • $450 per week if you lost between 8 and 20 hours per week
  • $750 per week of lockdown if you lost 20 hours or more of work per week.
Workers living in affected areas become eligible for the payment after their area has had a public health lockdown or period of restricted movement for more than 7 days.
You can find more information on payments amounts on the Services Australia ‘How much you can get’ website.
How can I claim the COVID-19 Disaster Payment?

If you are an Australian resident, you must claim the COVID-19 Disaster Payment online through a MyGov account linked to a Centrelink online account.

If you are an eligible visa holder, you must claim by calling the Emergency information line. If you require a translator, you can call using the Multilingual phone service.

The claims open and close dates – that is, when you can claim for specific time periods – depends on where you live. To check your claims eligibility dates for:

  • Parts of Sydney click here.
  • Greater Sydney click here.
  • All other areas of NSW click here.
What is the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment?

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is a lump sum payment to help you during the 14 days you need to self-isolate, quarantine, or care for a child 16 years and under who is in self-isolation or in quarantine.

How do I know if I am eligible for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment?

There are very specific eligibility rules for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment including:

  • You are unable to go to work and earn an income.
  • You have no appropriate leave entitlements, including pandemic sick leave, personal leave or leave to care for another person.
  • You are not receiving any income, earnings or salary from paid work, or any income support payments including Jobkeeper payments.

There are a number of other eligibility criteria for this payment, so please make sure you check the Services Australia ‘Who can get it’ and ‘Who can’t get it’ websites or contact Services Australia directly to confirm your eligibility.

How much can I get?

If you are eligible for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, you can get $1500 for each 14-day period you’ve been told to self-isolate or quarantine, or you are caring for a child 16 years and under who has to self-isolate or quarantine.

You can get more information on payment amounts visit the Services Australia ‘How much you can get’ website.

Can I get the COVID-19 Disaster Payment and the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment at the same time?

No, you cannot get the COVID-19 Disaster Payment if you are already receiving the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.

How can I claim the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment?

You can find information on how to claim this payment on the Services Australia ‘How to claim’ website.

Is there any support available to help me pay the rent?

The NSW Government has announced a 60-day freeze on evictions for those who are impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are affected, this means you cannot be evicted for the period between 14 July 2021 and 11 September 2021.

How do I know if I'm eligible for protection against eviction?

To be eligible for protection against eviction, you need to:

  • Show that rent paying members of the household are impacted by COVID-19 and have lost employment, work hours or income or have had to stop working because they or other members of their household (or in their care) were/are ill with COVID; AND
  • Show that the household’s take home weekly income has reduced by 25% or more (including any government assistance received) compared to the weekly income received in the 4 weeks prior to 26 June 2021; AND
  • continue to pay at least 25% of the rent payable.

This 60-day protection against eviction applies to all tenancy agreements, including informal, unwritten agreements.

The NSW Government’s tenancy support package also includes:

  • Up to $1500 per tenancy for landlords who agree to reduce rent for COVID-19 impacted tenants. And land tax concessions for commercial, retail, and residential landlords who reduce rents for tenants.
  • The requirement that commercial and retain landlords will need to try mediation before recovering a security bond or locking out or evicting a tenant impacted by the Public Health Order.

These supports may change as the situation changes so make sure you check the NSW Fair Trading website regularly for updates.

Is there any mental health support available?

Yes, the Commonwealth Government and the NSW Government have come together to provide more funding for a number of services that provide support for mental health.

If you have been affected by the pandemic and the lockdown, and you would like to talk to someone, the following services will be receiving extra funding to support workers during this time:

You can find more information on the NSW Government’s mental health support package here.

Your rights at work

What is a stand down?

Traditionally industrial law has recognised a limited right for employers to “stand down” workers when they cannot be usefully employed because of something out of the employer’s control.

When a lawful stand down applies, workers are usually not entitled to be paid for the period of the stand down. Even if special stand down provisions do not apply because your employer is accessing Jobkeeper-like payments, a stand down can probably occur in a partial sense: that is; only a discrete part of a business or only in relation to certain periods of work.

But for a stand down like this – where the arrangements are complex – each situation will be different, and the lawfulness of the stand down will depend on the circumstances.

What do I do if my employer stands me down?

Unfortunately, even in COVID-19 under the Fair Work Act stand downs are lawful. Here is a list of steps you can take if you are stood down.

  1. Clarify the nature of your employment and call your union. That means finding out whether you are being stood down and for how long, or whether you have lost your job.
  2. If you are being stood down, in some situations workers should still be paid, especially if the worker’s employer is eligible for ‘Jobkeeper-like’ government subsidies (including the recently announced COVID-19 Disaster Payment in NSW and other hotspots). If you are stood down call you union or delegate straight away.
  3. You should also check if you are employed under an enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA). Your EBA may say that an employer must first make best endeavours to find alternative work before standing you down.
  4. If you are not stood down but sent home during the lockdown, you could also push for special arrangements, like special leave or working at home arrangements.
Can stand downs be indefinite?

No, stand downs should not be indefinite. During the pandemic we expect that longer stand downs might occur but there should be a specified end date (or review period). If you have not been stood down, and have instead lost your job, you may be eligible for redundancy.

Can I be forced to take annual leave in lieu of being stood down?

You cannot be forced to take annual leave in lieu of being stood down but you can if you want to.

Unfortunately, you cannot access other personal leave like sick leave when on a stand down either.

What should I do if I lose my job permanently?

Workers who lose their job permanently as a result of COVID-19 may be eligible for redundancy pay. So, if you are not just stood down but have been told you have lost your job permanently than you should contact your union. If your employer failed to consult or make reasonable attempts to redeploy, then there also may be potential grounds for unfair dismissal application.

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