Working arrangements guidance – Updated 15 May 2020
As this unprecedented situation has continued, it has understandably been a challenging time for everyone. As we transition back to on-site learning, principals and employees are reminded of the available supports during this period, which include access to employee assistance programs. For further information on the available support in your diocese, please contact your relevant diocesan representative.
For further advice regarding arrangements in schools, please contact Employee Relations.
1. Working arrangements within schools having regard to the latest Victorian government requirements and the CECV Return to School: School Operations Guide released on 15 May 2020.
1(a) Performing duties onsite
Having regard to the latest government advice, with a transition back to onsite learning, all school staff will be required to attend onsite at their school in accordance with their normal arrangements from Monday 25 May 2020. Teachers who will be delivering remote and flexible learning for students in Years 3 to 10 will do so from their school, onsite.
Schools should commence planning to support physical distancing, which will include making the necessary adjustments to support physical distancing between adults.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has advised that a ‘venue density’ rule of no more than one person per four square meters is not appropriate or practical in classrooms or corridors, nor is maintaining 1.5 meters between students during classroom activities. Therefore, the previously established ratio of 10 students per class is no longer required in schools.
1(b) What if an employee wants to stay home due to a medical condition or a factor which causes them to be at a higher risk?
Guidance on vulnerable staff has been updated by the Victorian Chief Health Officer. In line with other members of the community, teachers and other school staff may be at greater risk of more serious illness if they are infected with COVID-19, if they are:
- aged 70 years and older
- aged 65 years and older, with chronic medical conditions
- of any age, with compromised immune systems
- Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and aged over 50 years, with one or more chronic medical conditions.
If an employee advises that they are in one of the above risk categories and have been advised by their treating medical practitioner to stay home as a precaution, discussions should occur in relation to work from home arrangements. If working from home is not reasonably practicable, it is currently recommended that employees who are in this category are granted paid miscellaneous leave.
An employer may request reasonable medical information and evidence in this instance. Employees aged over 70 are not required to provide medical evidence.
1(c) What arrangements apply to employees who are pregnant?
Where an employee is pregnant and, provides reasonable evidence from their medical practitioner which states that they are fit for work however it is required (based on medical advice) that the employee not perform duties on-site for a period of time due to illness or risks arising out of the pregnancy and/or hazards connected with their position, in line with clause 13(3) of Appendix 1 of the VCEMEA 2018, the employee should be provided with an appropriate safe job, performing suitable duties remotely for the period, as indicated by the medical practitioner.
If working from home is not reasonably practicable and reasonable evidence from a treating medical practitioner has been provided, in accordance with clause 13(5) of Appendix 1 of the VCEMEA 2018, the employee is entitled to paid no safe job leave (without deduction from any other leave credits) at their ordinary rate of pay for the period as is certified necessary by their medical practitioner.
1(d) What if an employee wants to stay home because an immediate family or household member has a medical condition which causes them to be at a higher risk?
The Chief Health Officer’s advice does not require that staff who are caring for elderly or chronically ill relatives refrain from attending onsite. If an employee advises that they have been advised by a medical practitioner to stay home as a precaution due to living with an immediate family or household member who has a medical condition which causes them to be at a higher risk, the employee will be able to access paid leave entitlements (e.g. personal, annual or long service leave).
An employer may request reasonable medical information in this instance.
A school can hold discussions with the employee in relation to work from home arrangements for this period, if this is appropriate. If not, the employee will be able to access paid leave entitlements (e.g. personal, annual or long service leave).
1(e) What if an employee wants to stay home despite not being in a medically vulnerable category which causes them to be at a higher risk?
All staff are required to attend on-site from Monday 25 May 2020, unless they are in a defined (see 1b, above) medically vulnerable category. If an employee advises that they would prefer to perform duties from home, despite not being in a medically vulnerable category, then discussions should be held as to the reasons behind the request. In these discussions, schools should communicate the safety measures that will be implemented on site, such as physical distancing between adults and provision of sanitiser, and the expectation that those who are able to work should present themselves for work onsite from Monday 25 May 2020.
Consideration can be given to granting access to paid leave entitlements (such as annual or long service leave) or a period of unpaid leave, subject to operational requirements. Alternatively, an employer may not grant leave in this scenario.
Staff may be experiencing higher levels of stress or anxiety during this time and are encouraged to access relevant employee assistance programs.
1(f) What if an employee wants to stay at home to care for their children due to a personal decision to keep their children home from school/kinder/childcare from 25 May 2020?
With students transitioning to onsite learning, all school employees will be required to attend on-site at their school in accordance with normal arrangements from 25 May 2020. Where employees have children in Years 3–10 and where alternative arrangements cannot be made, those children can attend their usual schools from Tuesday 26 May 2020.
Where alternative arrangements cannot be made and the employee decides not to send their children to their usual schools out of precaution, consideration can be given to granting access to paid leave entitlements (such as annual or long service leave) or a period of unpaid leave. Alternatively, an employer may not approve leave in this scenario.
1(g) What if an employee requests to work from home due to a confirmed medical condition which places them at higher risk (meeting one or more of the four established categories); however, they also need to care for children?
If an employee requests to work from home due to having a confirmed medical condition which causes them to be at a higher risk, but is also known to be caring for children, an employer will need to consider whether this is reasonable, safe and practical in the circumstances. This will depend on factors such as the age of the children, whether there are other adults present to provide the care and whether work can be done flexibly. In these scenarios, schools should also take into account that the current circumstances are unprecedented, and a level of flexibility as to how and when work is performed should, where possible, be accommodated. However, in some circumstances, an employer may make an assessment that it is not reasonable, safe or practical for an employee to be working from home where also caring for children.
2. Non-teaching staff performing alternative duties
Where it is not possible for an employee to perform all of their current duties due to the changed working arrangements of a school, or due to students not being on-site, an employer can give consideration to directing an employee to perform alternative duties in accordance with clause 9.1 of the Victorian Catholic Multi-Enterprise Agreement 2018 (VCEMEA). This requires any duties assigned to be reasonable within an employee’s skill, competence and training, and consistent with the classification structure of the VCEMEA.
Any alternative duties that employees are directed to perform may be duties that the employee would not normally perform within their ordinary role; however, such duties should be meaningful and, as outlined above, are required to be consistent with the employee’s classification structure as well as their skills, competence and training in line with clause 9.1(a) of the VCEMEA.
In directing employees to perform any alternative duties, staff should be consulted about the changes and conversations should occur regarding the change and the need to assign alternative duties during this period.
3. Positions of leadership and alternative duties – Updated 16 April 2020
In the event schools find that time release for components of a position of leadership (POL) cannot be fulfilled, e.g. sport leader having a 0.3 FTE allocation for interschool sport attendance, it is recommended that schools consult with the staff member about reasonable alternative duties that can be undertaken during this time. Schools should attempt to reach agreement with the staff member on a temporary change to aspects of their POL. A temporary change could include the school and the teacher agreeing that the teacher be allocated scheduled classes during the period of time release. Schools would need to ensure in this example that the additional scheduled classes undertaken did not exceed the maximum scheduled class time for a teacher. Other meaningful duties such as policy review, planning etc. could also form the basis of reasonable alternative duties.
If required, as per clause 16.3(a) and 62.1(b) of the VCEMEA, discussions can be undertaken within the Consultative Committee in relation to the structure and nature of the POL, and the temporary assignment of alternative duties.
4. What if schools are required to temporarily amend employee start and finish times to accommodate staggered start and finish times for students which promote social distancing?
Schools should commence appropriate consultation with employees who may be requested to temporarily amend their start and finish times to accommodate staggered start and finish times for students. Schools must consider the relevant employee’s views on the proposed temporary change to their start and finish times. Temporary changes to start and finish times will not involve a reduction in hours for employees. These proposed temporary changes may not be required in all schools. Consultation should occur in line with clause 17.3 of the VCEMEA.
5. What happens to current break times for staff?
Schools should consider staggering breaks for employees to assist in managing appropriate distancing requirements for adults. Schools should also consider whether alternative break rooms for staff are more appropriate than a staff room or other shared spaces in the current circumstances to support distancing requirements for adults. Appropriate consultation should occur with relevant employees prior to making changes to break times for employees.