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Coronavirus: School Closures and Affected Employees

Published March 30, 2020 (last updated July 22, 2020) Author: Employsure
School closure due to covid

At this stage, the government has confirmed that schools will remain open, nation-wide.

However, there are some slight differences in how each state is communicating on this.

School Closure by State

NSW

  • Schools remain open. However, the government is “encouraging” parents to keep their children home if possible.

VIC

  • Schools remain open. However, school holidays were brought forward to Tuesday 24 March (instead of Thursday 26 March). Term 2 will go ahead as normal at this stage.

QLD

  • Schools remain open. However, the government is saying that parents have a choice whether to send their children to school or not.

WA

  • Schools remain open. However:
    • Schools run by the Anglican Schools Commission (12) are asking parents to keep their children home, Wednesday 25 March
    • For government schools, the government is saying that if parents decide not to send their children to school, they will not enforce the law that requires them to do so.

SA

  • Schools remain open. However, the government is saying that parents may choose to take children out of school.

 TAS

  • Schools remain open. However, the government is saying that parents may choose to keep their children home from Wednesday 25 March.

NT

  • Schools remain open. However, the government has said that from tomorrow for the rest of term, to send children to school will be a choice.
STATE
CURRENT POSITION
New South Wales
Schools remain open.
However, the government is “encouraging” parents to keep their children home if possible.
Queensland
Schools remain open.
However, the government is saying that parents have a choice whether to send their children to school or not.
Victoria
Schools remain open.
However, school holidays were brought forward to Tuesday 24 March (instead of Thursday 26 March). Term 2 will go ahead as normal at this stage.
Tasmania
Schools remain open.H
owever, the government is saying that parents may choose to take children out of school.
Western Australia
Schools remain open.
However, schools run by the Anglican Schools Commission (12) are asking parents to keep their children home, Wednesday 25 March. For government schools, the government is saying that if parents decide not to send their children to school, they will not enforce the law that requires them to do so.
Northern Territory
Schools remain open.
However, the government has said that from tomorrow for the rest of term, to send children to school will be a choice.

Please be aware that the above information is of a general nature and your obligations may change depending on the individual circumstances of your case. For specific advice, please seek workplace relations advice.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • School Holidays Have Been Brought Forward So My Employee Must Care for Their Child and Cannot Work. What Type of Leave Is This?

    The moving forward of the school holidays means that parents of children now have children at home for a few more days more than what they would have, had the school holidays stayed at the scheduled time.

    If an employee must care for their child or children as a result of the early closure and they cannot work as a result, this will be likely be considered an unexpected family emergency. The employee’s absence for the additional unforeseen days may be covered by paid personal/carer’s leave under the Fair Work Act (the Act), provided they are permanent staff and unpaid leave if they are casual. However, this only relates to periods which are outside of the standard school holiday period. During the standard school holiday period, an employee cannot normally seek personal/carer’s leave unless their arrangements during this period for the care of their children by others falls through.

    Alternatively, employers can consider making alternative arrangements for the employee to work from home where reasonable and/or practical.

    There is no precedent as to how long an “emergency” can last for the purposes of personal leave.

    When personal leave runs out the employer may offer other types of leave such as annual or long service.

  • My Employee Has Notified Me That Their Children’s School/Day Care Has Been Shut Down Temporarily Due to a Person Within the School/Day Care Testing Positive to Coronavirus. They Will Not Be Able to Attend Work as Their Childcare Arrangements Have Now Changed. What Are Their Entitlements?

    If your employee has a child whose school has had to shut down for a short period of time due to someone contracting the coronavirus, and the employee must care for the child, and cannot attend work, this is an unexpected family emergency. Therefore, the employee’s absence would be covered by personal/carer’s leave under the Act. As such, your employee, depending on their employment status, may be able to utilise their personal leave accruals to cover this period.

    There is no precedent as to how long an “emergency” can last for the purposes of personal leave. When the employee runs out of personal leave, you may offer alternative leave types such as annual or long service leave. Alternatively, you can consider making alternative arrangements for the employee to work from home where reasonable and/or practical.

    You may require the employee to provide evidence that the school has shut down. For example, a copy of the communication the employee would have received from the school notifying them of the closure.

    Remember that casual employees are entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion. They are also able to reject and accept shifts as they wish, and you cannot discipline them for this.

  • Schools Are Not Shut down, but the Government Has Recommended and Encouraged Parents to Keep Children Home. My Employee Has Chosen to Follow That Advice and Keep Their Child at Home, so Cannot Work. What Kind of Leave Is This?

    If your employee is required to care for their child due to the recommendation from Government, this would not constitute an unexpected family emergency or trigger an entitlement to personal/carer’s leave.

    Therefore, the employee’s absence would be covered by paid leave entitlements such as annual leave or long service leave. In the event that the employee does not have any or enough leave accrued it would be unpaid.

    Alternatively, you can consider making alternative arrangements for the employee to work from home where reasonable and/or practical.

    The employee should still follow your internal policies relating to absence notification and application for annual leave.

    Note that the entitlement to personal leave in these circumstances may apply if there is a confirmed case of coronavirus at the school, or if the employee’s child has medical conditions that increase their exposure to coronavirus. The employer may request from the employee proof of such conditions such as a medical certificate or letter from their doctor.

    Ensure that you keep accurate records of any absence taken by employees and any agreements made between the business and the employees in relation to absences.

  • I Have Heard That Teachers Are Going to Strike If Schools Are Not Shut down by the Government This Week. If My Employees Cannot Come to Work Due Them Needing to Care for Their Children Because of a Strike by Teachers, What Are Their Entitlements?

    If the teachers strike and your employee is required to take time off to care for their child due to the strike during a time in which the child would ordinarily be at school, we would consider this to be an unexpected family emergency. The employee would be able to access their personal/carer’s leave entitlements for the time period in which the strike takes place, unless the strike continues for some time and therefore it is to be looked at on a case by case basis as to whether it is still an “emergency” or not.

    Remember that casual employees are entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion. They are also able to reject and accept shifts as they wish, and you cannot discipline them for this.

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