Early childhood services have been declared an essential service, like schools, and therefore need to ensure they stay open during this time unless they have been closed by the Department of Health.
While many services have seen a big drop in the number of children attending, as children begin returning to classrooms in Term 2. No fees can be charged to parents at this time.
We believe that most early childhood services, including preschools, have applied for JobKeeper payments and other forms of COVID-19 funding available to preschools and long day care centres to support them at this time.
If you have not yet applied for JobKeeper or other emergency funding we would encourage you to approach your employer to do so as soon as possible. Preschools should also ensure that they apply for the funding announced just before the Term 1 break when it becomes available.
If your service is eligible for JobKeeper, staff will need to fill out and sign a JobKeeper nomination form. We encourage members to seek advice from the union before signing the form. During the period of JobKeeper payments, you will continue to accrue annual leave, personal leave and long service leave.
Any changes to your hours of work should be considered temporary. Employers cannot stand you down or reduce your hours of work unless they have your consent or are receiving and passing on JobKeeper payments. The industrial instruments governing your employment do not allow this to happen.
Your employer should implement JobKeeper payments in a fair and equitable manner across the service. There are no changes to the National Regulations, so services need to ensure that the appropriate qualified staff are present and that child/staff ratios are still being met.
Members are encouraged to discuss any proposed changes to their working conditions with their union organiser.
Have you developed a work, health and safety policy for COVID-19 at your service?
The union believes all services should implement a policy for the safety of both staff and children attending the service. Things to consider in developing a policy include:
- ensuring all children, staff and visitors who are ill are excluded and/or sent home if they display any signs of illness
- instituting temperature checks at drop off and once during the day
- organising smaller groupings of children
- ensuring staff are at least two metres apart at all times if possible and ensure there is sufficient space for children and staff.
- checking and ensuring staff, children and parents are vaccinated against influenza before attending
- ensuring there is hand sanitiser available for staff and children and encourage frequent use and hand washing
- ensuring parents use hand sanitiser before drop off and pick up
- ensuring the centre is properly cleaned each day and toys are washed thoroughly.
Remember – an open service is only good to staff if it’s a safe service.