Wellbeing at work is worth your while

The health and safety of our members is paramount for the IEU during a time of further COVID-19 outbreaks in schools and the community.

Also of concern is the wellbeing of members who have been dealing directly with COVID-19 in their workplace or managing COVID-safe protocols with colleagues, students and parents, often in the face of rapidly changing advice from employers or government.

“There is a heightened sense of anxiety that there may be an outbreak in the school or the local community,” one principal member told the IEU. “Any cough or sneeze makes people nervous and members of the school community are particularly concerned if they or family members have health vulnerabilities.”

The impact of physical distancing and mask wearing on social relationships and implications for mental health are also of concern, the principal said.

“Staff are doing a wonderful job but there is a sense of tiredness, of being on guard all the time,” the principal said.

“We know that vigilance is absolutely vital but we need to monitor staff wellbeing and the risks of fatigue.”

Another member indicated that the COVID-19 challenges of Term 3 came on top of a Term 2 during which staff had managed remote learning then the return to classes, with many feeling an ongoing sense of anxiety, not knowing when they may need to self isolate as a close contact or if the school is required to close due to a positive test.

There is a heightened sense of anxiety. We know vigilance is absolutely vital but we need to monitor staff wellbeing and the risks of fatigue.

Noting a recent report from Victoria, another principal described his experience to the union as “an almost relentless period of time for schools where staff have been meeting the needs of students on or off site and also supporting families who have their own health and financial concerns”.

Members, including principals managing COVID-19 situations, have welcomed the IEU’s support and advocacy and also the role of NSW Health in schools and centres where there have been positive COVID-19 tests. The IEU consistently pursues clear guidance from the NSW Government around permissible activities in schools.

We update our website regularly, and encourage members to contact the union should they wish to clarify any matter in regard COVID-safe practices.

Many members are also understandably anxious about the pandemic’s impact on the business or employment of family members. COVID-19 has also had direct employment implications for some IEU members in the early childhood education and care sector, as well as on casual teachers and support staff.

When considering the health and safety aspects of COVID-19, it is important to remember that work, health and safety covers risks to psychological wellbeing (mental health) and employers are required to mitigate, as far as practicable, the psychological risks to workers such as workload and fatigue.

For IEU members this also means appropriate consultation and access to timely and accurate information to protect their health, safety and wellbeing during the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic.