Aged Care Covid19 – United Workers Union

Coronavirus Info for Aged Care and Disability Workers

 Aged care and disability workers: on the front line of this crisis

Aged care and disability workers are on the front line of the coronavirus crisis, and deserve to be supported and safe.

Your employer has significant responsibilities to keep you safe during this time, including providing training and personal protective equipment when necessary.

Your aged care and disability workers union is calling for these commitments from aged care providers and the Federal Government to ensure aged care workers are supported and kept safe during this global health crisis:

  1. If workers cannot work due to coronavirus risks, they should not lose pay

  2. The Federal Government needs to support workers and the community

  3. Workers must be entitled to avoid unsafe workplace situations

  4. Workers must be consulted about employer response to coronavirus

  5. Workers falling into special categories (including higher risk and carers) must be supported

  6. Workers must be supplied with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)

 

Read our full statement about support for workers affected by coronavirus issues here:

Download the statement (PDF)

COVID-19 AGED CARE AND DISABILITY WORKERS Q&A – YOUR RIGHTS TO SAFETY ON THE JOB

 

This information has been divided into four sections:

Aged Care Workers and Disability Workers Q&A – your rights to safety on the job

Aged Care Workers and Disability Workers Q&A – retention bonus and other workplace issues

Vaccination Q&A

Home Care Workers Q&A

Please note: Much of this information is taken from Australian Government sources including the Department of Health website. Please check this website for the latest advice from authorities: www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov.

This information was updated on April 8 2020 and is likely to change.

Residents with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 must be immediately isolated and interaction with other residents must be limited.

Where a resident is not transferred to hospital, signage alerting to the condition of the resident must be displayed outside the room.

The required personal protective equipment (PPE) must also be provided outside the room.

Do not enter the room without the appropriate PPE.

Your employer should ensure you know and understand the signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

Your employer is required to provide training in the following:

  • – Symptoms and signs of Covid-19.
  • – Exposure risk levels (e.g. overseas travel).
  • Personal hygiene – hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette.
  • Appropriate use of PPE including how to put on/take off correctly.
  • Handling and disposal of clinical waste.
  • Processing reusable equipment.
  • Environmental cleaning.
  • Laundering of linen.
  • Food handling and cleaning of used food utensils.

Please advise the Union if you feel you have not received appropriate training.

You need to continue to follow the standard precautions that you need to be doing in your normal day-to-day work.

Importantly, practice appropriate hand hygiene before and after all patient contact and cough/sneeze etiquette.

This may also include the use of personal protective equipment including include gloves, impermeable gowns, plastic aprons, masks, face shields and eye protection.

In addition to standard precautions outlined above your employer must provide you with the following personal protective equipment (PPE):

  • Single-use gloves.
  • Gowns and aprons.
  • Masks, eye protection, face shields

Remember – the use of PPE is not an alternative to performing hand hygiene. Hand hygiene is required immediately before and after using all PPE.

Your employer must also provide you with training on the correct way to use and dispose of PPE.

Residents that are presenting with symptoms of severe respiratory distress, including fever, breathing difficulties and uncontrolled coughing, or are confirmed to have Covid-19 with symptoms of severe respiratory distress, should be transferred to, and managed in, a hospital.

A fit-checked P2/N95 respirator should be worn when working with people with severe symptoms and/or confirmed cases.

In the first instance, you should raise your concerns with your employer.

Your employer may direct your co-worker not to attend work.

Yes.

The Australian Government Department of Health has advised that from 1 May 2020, aged care workers must have had the flu vaccination to work in, or visit, an aged care facility.

The Union believes it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure all applicable workers have access to the flu vaccination before the deadline.

If members need more information or are having trouble accessing the vaccination, contact the union.

In order to keep all workers and residents safe, your employer must provide an adequate supply of the following:

  • Personal protective equipment – which may include gloves, impermeable gowns, plastic aprons, masks, face shields and eye protection.
  • Hand hygiene products – alcohol based hand rub, liquid soap and hand towels.
  • Diagnostic materials – swabs.
  • Cleaning supplies – detergent and disinfectant products.

Residents and staff should be continually monitored for fever or acute respiratory symptoms.

The most important thing you can do is to continue with the standard precautions that you need to be doing in your normal day to day work.

This includes:

  • Practice appropriate hand hygiene before and after all patient contact.
  • Cough/sneeze etiquette.
  • The use of personal protective equipment, which may include gloves, impermeable gowns, plastic aprons, masks, face shields and eye protection.
  • The safe use and disposal of sharps.
  • The use of aseptic “non-touch” technique for all invasive procedures, including appropriate use of skin disinfectants.
  • Reprocessing of reusable instruments and equipment.
  • Routine environmental cleaning.
  • Waste management.
  • Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.
  • Appropriate handling of linen.

Remember, the most important ways you can help is to ensure that you:

  • Practise and encourage good hand hygiene and good cough/sneeze etiquette.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment.

Maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from visitors, and encourage residents to do the same.

Yes.

To ensure your safety and the safety of others you have a right to know if you are caring for someone with COVID-19.

When there is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 your employer must follow certain procedures, including isolation and signage.

You are entitled to a safe place of work and you can refuse to perform work where there is an imminent risk to your or others’ health and safety.

In the event that your employer does not provide you with the required personal protective equipment, you are entitled to refuse to perform the unsafe work.

If you are concerned that your employer is not meeting their obligation to provide a safe working environment you should contact the Union for immediate assistance.

You must not go to work and stay at home (self-isolate), and alert your employer if:

  • You have returned from overseas in the last 14 days.
  • You have been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You have a fever, or you have any symptoms of respiratory illness (e.g. cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose or nasal congestion).

Some employers are standing workers down who are showing a high temperature. While this is within your employers’ rights, if you believe you do not have a fever you can request that an additional test is taken.

Yes. The government has introduced new measures to restrict visitors including:

  • Visits to be kept short.
  • Visits limited to a maximum of two visitors at a time.
  • Children under 16 years and under are not allowed to visit in normal circumstances.
  • Visitors restricted to the resident’s room, outdoors or in a designated area.
  • No large groups permitted.
  • From May 1 2020, any visitor to a residential facility must have had the flu vaccination.
  • Social distancing of 1.5 meters to be encouraged.

If you need more information, contact your local UNITED WORKERS UNION member assist – details are available at www.unitedworkers.org.au/contact.

You can also get information from the Department of Health web-site at https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov .

COVID-19 AGED CARE AND DISABILITY WORKERS Q&A – RETENTION BONUS AND OTHER WORKPLACE ISSUES

 

Please note: Much of this information is taken from Australian Government sources including the Department of Health website. Please check this website for the latest advice from authorities: www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov.

This information was updated on April 8 2020 and is likely to change.

The Retention Bonus will be provided to aged care workers in residential and homecare who provide direct personal care (i.e. care worker, enrolled and registered nurse and allied health). Both permanent and casual workers are eligible. If you do not provide direct personal care (i.e. Cleaners, cooks, laundry workers, admin workers and therapists) you will not be eligible to receive the Retention Bonus. United Workers Union believes this is unfair and we are campaigning the Government to extend the payment to all aged care workers. Please click on this link to sign the petition. Eligible direct care workers in residential facilities will receive two payments of up to $800 (after tax) each over the next six months. Eligible homecare workers will receive two payments of up to $600 (after tax) each over the next six months. It is expected that these payments will be made in June and September of this year. These payments will be paid to your employer, who will then pay you.

Your eligibility for the JobKeeper payment will depend on how long you have been working for your employer and whether your employer has experienced a significant reduction in turnover due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unlikely that aged care employers will experience a significant reduction in turnover due to COVID-19. This means is means it is very unlikely that aged care workers will be eligible for the JobKeeper payment. For more information please see the unions detailed FAQ on the JobKeeper Payment here or contact the Union.

If you have currently been working a second job, your employer cannot stop you.

However, if you come into contact with a COVID-19 patient you need to tell both employers.

If you’re a permanent worker, you have a legal right to use personal leave (sick leave) to cover an absence from work.

United Workers Union is calling on all aged care employers to provide all workers – whether casual or permanent – with two weeks special paid leave if they cannot work due to coronavirus.

If you are caring for someone with COVID-19 and you become ill the Union will fight for your entitlement to workers’ compensation.

Some income protection policies may also provide cover, but you would need to check with your insurer or super fund.

If you are immunocompromised you should talk to your doctor about whether you should be working.

You should also speak to your employer about any alternative duties available.

Yes, new visa arrangements are available now to support the aged care workforce.

Aged care providers can now temporarily offer more hours to international students to help ensure the care of older Australians.

These changes apply to both residential and home care.

They are temporary measures and are designed to address any staff shortages caused by Covid-19.

No. Your employer does not have the right to cancel your pre-approved annual leave without your consent.  Your employer may request that you postpone, modify or cancel your annual leave, however this must be mutually agreed between you and your employer. Please contact the Union if your employer has cancelled your pre-approved annual leave without your consent.

.

If you’re a permanent worker, you have a legal right to use your accrued leave to cover an absence from work. United Workers Union is calling on all aged care employers to provide all workers – whether casual or permanent – with two weeks special paid leave if they cannot work due to coronavirus. We are also calling for additional support for workers in special situations – such as immunosuppressed workers, or workers with significant caring responsibilities, to be provided with extra support (including redeployment to safe work, work from home options or additional paid leave).

If you’re a permanent worker, you have a legal right to use your accrued leave to cover an absence from work. United Workers Union is calling on all aged care employers to provide all workers – whether casual or permanent – with two weeks special paid leave if they cannot work due to coronavirus.

If you need more information, contact your local UNITED WORKERS UNION member assist – details are available at www.unitedworkers.org.au/contact.

You can also get information from the Department of Health web-site at https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov .

COVID-19 HOME CARE WORKERS Q&A

 

Please note: Much of this information is taken from Australian Government sources including the Department of Health website. Please check this website for the latest advice from authorities: www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov.

This information was updated on April 8 2020 and is likely to change.

Yes. It is safe to enter a home of a client who has confirmed or suspected COVID-19, provided you are wearing the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment.

If you are providing direct personal care to a client with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 then you must wear the required Personal Protective Equipment before entering the clients home. This may include; gloves, gown and surgical masks.

You must dispose of your PPE and perform hand hygiene after every contact with your client, when leaving the home and when coming into contact with a new person.

Remember, PPE will only protect you if it is worn and disposed of correctly.

No. If you and your client do not have suspected or confirmed COVID-19, then you should continue to work as you normally would.

This should include performing hand hygiene before and after every contact with a client (including before entering and after exiting a home), continuing to wear the Personal Protective Equipment you would normally wear, good respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette and regular cleaning of the environment and equipment.

Your employer should provide you with training on infection prevention and control, including the correct use and disposal of PPE. You should discuss what training is available to you with your employer.

The Department of Health is providing a free online training module that provides a basic overview of COVID-19 and how to minimise infection risk. This may be a useful addition to the training provided by your employer. You can access the training through this link.

If you arrive at the home of a client and find they are unwell and they have not sought medical advice, you should notify your employer for assistance. Your employer should have procedures in place to minimise this risk.

You should not enter a client’s home if they are unwell until they have been assessed by a medical practitioner and you have access to any required PPE.

If you are concerned you may have contracted COVID-19 you should seek medical advice from your GP or call the National Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 020 080. Make sure to tell the doctor or the hotline you are a care worker.

If you have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, and you were not wearing the required Personal Protective Equipment, you must notify your employer who will then notify the local public health unit in the relevant territory/state.

You will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days and be alert for symptoms of COVID-19. United Workers Union is calling on all aged care employers to provide all workers with two weeks special leave where they cannot work due to coronavirus.

If you have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, and you were wearing the required PPE, you can continue to work, but you should be alert for symptoms for 14 days.

Remember, PPE will only protect you if it is worn and disposed of correctly. Please speak with your employer regarding PPE training.

Yes. It is safe for you to enter a home where someone other than your client has confirmed or suspected COVID-19, provided you are wearing the appropriate PPE. This may include; gloves, gown and surgical masks.

Before entering the home you should discuss with your employer if you are a vulnerable worker (including conditions such as being immunosuppressed, pre-existing health issues or over the age of 70). Please contact your Union if you would like more information.

You should notify your employer if there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 at your second workplace.

If you have not had any contact with the resident with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 you do not need to take any additional precautions.

If you have been in contact with the resident with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, provided you were wearing the required PPE, it is safe to continue working.

If you need more information, contact your local UNITED WORKERS UNION member assist – details are available at www.unitedworkers.org.au/contact.

You can also get information from the Department of Health web-site at https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov .

The Retention Bonus will be provided to aged care workers in residential and homecare who provide direct personal care (i.e. care worker, enrolled and registered nurse and allied health). Both permanent and casual workers are eligible. If you do not provide direct personal care (i.e. Cleaners, cooks, laundry workers, admin workers and therapists) you will not be eligible to receive the Retention Bonus. United Workers Union believes this is unfair and we are campaigning the Government to extend the payment to all aged care workers. Please click on this link to sign the petition. Eligible direct care workers in residential facilities will receive two payments of up to $800 (after tax) each over the next six months. Eligible homecare workers will receive two payments of up to $600 (after tax) each over the next six months. It is expected that these payments will be made in June and September of this year. These payments will be paid to your employer, who will then pay you.

COVID-19 VACCINATION Q&A

Please note: Much of this information is taken from Australian Government sources including the Department of Health website. Please check this website for the latest advice from authorities: www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov.

This information was updated on April 8 2020 and is likely to change.

Yes. It is now an Australian Government requirement that from 1 May 2020 all people entering an aged care facility must have a current flu vaccination. This applies to all staff, visitors, health practitioners, volunteers and others (for example, cleaners, tradesman, gardeners, maintenance staff).

This means that all aged care workers are now required by law to have a flu vaccination.

Please click here for more information regarding flu vaccinations from the Australian Government Department of Health.

Every flu season brings a serious risk to all older Australians. Influenza is a very contagious infection of the airways and is particularly serious for people over 65 years of age.

While COVID-19 remains in our community, it is critical to reduce the risk of older Australians getting other illnesses, especially influenza.

Getting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time is a serious risk for all older Australians.

There are some medical conditions which will prevent you from getting the flu vaccination.

You should discuss with your doctor if you believe you have a medical condition that prevents you from being vaccinated.

There are very few exemptions to the Government requirements to be vaccinated.

Residential aged care providers may redeploy staff that are not able to be vaccinated.

You should discuss with your employer and contact your Union for further advice.

Yes. It is important to get the influenza vaccine every year.

This is because the most common strains of the virus that cause influenza change every year.

The vaccine also changes every year to match these strains.

No, there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.

It should not cost you anything to get the flu vaccination.

Residential aged care providers are required to provide a free flu vaccination program to their staff.

United Workers Union believe that this program should be extended to all homecare workers.

The Union believes it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure all applicable workers have access to the flu vaccination before the Government deadline.

If members need more information or are having trouble accessing the vaccination, please contact the union.

You should notify your employer if there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 at your second workplace.

If you have not had any contact with the resident with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 you do not need to take any additional precautions.

If you have been in contact with the resident with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, provided you were wearing the required PPE, it is safe to continue working.

If you need more information, contact your local UNITED WORKERS UNION member assist – details are available at www.unitedworkers.org.au/contact.

You can also get information from the Department of Health web-site at https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov .

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