The Minister for Health has announced that COVID vaccines will be made mandatory for all health workers. NSW Health has advised that health workers will be required to have the first dose by 30 September and the second dose by 30 November.
Health workers living in LGAs of concern will now be required to have their first vaccine booked by 8 September, and have recieved one dose by the end of 19 September. From 9 September,you will be required to carry evidence of your booking if you have to leave your LGA for work.
Doctors with medical contraindications may seek an exemption from being vaccinated. Please find the Medical Contraindications form here.
At this stage the booster shot is not mandatory and your right to paid vaccination leave does not apply. We suggest you arrange with your supervisor to receive your booster shot on work time - however this is at their discretion.
ASMOF is advocating for stronger protections for doctors to be able to speak out their workplace, our health system, health policy, and other matters on which doctors have important perspectives that should be heard.
However in the absence of these protections presently, ASMOF must advise member to be cautious about what they say and share publicly. Some doctors have chosen to share their views with media outlets anonymously.
MEDIA: ASMOF advises against speaking directly to the media and suggests you contact ASMOF for assistance. In many cases it will be appropriate for ASMOF to raise the concerns publicly on behalf of members instead.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Posts you make or content you share on social media can be found to be in breach of the NSW Health Code of Conduct. Regardless of whether the posts are made outside of work hours or only viewed by a limited number of people, if the comments cause damage to the employer or breach an express term of an employment contract then they could be grounds for disciplinary action including a warning or in serious cases, termination of employment. To mitigate risk ensure that you identify your views as your own and not your employers.
Please see our 10 Tips for Social Media Use which continue to be relevant during the COVID crisis.
Yes. Unions have successfully advocated for free parking for all NSW Health staff at public hospital carparks during the pandemic.
Some members have been told that the free parking is only offered to staff who previously paid for parking. This is NOT correct - it is available to all.
Unfortunately at most hospitals, there is not enough parking for everyone who wants it, and as such you are not guaranteed a parking spot.
NSW Health is currently in discussion with the relevant local councils to waive parking fines around hospital and vaccination facilities for healthcare workers during these periods.
After consultation with ASMOF and other health unions, the NSW Government has committed to providing frontline workers with alternative accommodation.
Some basic principles have been agreed to by the Ministry- it will be free, it’s voluntarily, meals are provided and it will be available across NSW.
If you are seeking alternative accommodation we advise you to contact your local manager in the first instance.
We are aware that some locations are currently full and some doctors have had accommodation requests rejected. Please contact the Union for assistance in securing accommodation.
Safe Work & PPE
Under s19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) your employer must ensure your health and safety at work and this includes eliminating risks from exposure to COVID-19 where possible and where they cannot be eliminated, then minimising the risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
If you are providing care for patients who have, or are suspected to have COVID-19, your employer must provide you with appropriate PPE to ensure you can do your job safely.
The PPE must be readily accessible to you so you can use it when you need it. Your employer needs to ensure you are trained in how to use the PPE safely.
Any member who is immunocompromised or has a chronic condition should not be working in a high-risk area. Your employer must manage the risk. If you believe that you fall into this category you should raise this with management and request that they make reasonable adjustments which removes you from the risk. This could be an alternative position within the hospital, or it could be working from home.
See question below for advice on ceasing unsafe work.
If you believe your workplace is unsafe please contact ASMOF at [email protected].
Under the Work Health and Safety Act you have the right to refuse work or cease work if there is a reasonable concern that you would be exposed to a serious risk to your health and safety from an immediate or imminent hazard. A serious risk of exposure to a COVID-19 infection would meet this definition.
Our advice to members is that you are within your rights under the Work Health and Safety Act to decline to work if you are asked/required to undertake an exposure prone clinical activity without an evidence backed standard of PPE.
If you have any questions you should seek immediate advice from ASMOF and your workplace Health and Safety Representative (HSR).
An HSR is authorised to direct a worker to cease unsafe work if they have a reasonable concern that a worker would be exposed to a serious risk to health and safety from an immediate or imminent hazard. HSRs should consult and attempt to resolve the issue with the business first, unless the risk is so serious and immediate or imminent that it is not reasonable to consult. If work ceases or is refused, you and/or the HSR must tell your employer as soon as possible.
You may be asked to carry out alternative work, such as working from home. You should comply with this direction, as long as it is safe and appropriate for you to do so.
The Health Secretary’s update remains valid:
- Staff are not to undertake or be required to undertake tasks requiring PPE if the PPE is not available for use. Any such tasks are not to proceed until required PPE is available
- Any staff member who is concerned about their safety must raise their concerns immediately to their manager.
If you have concerns that your employer is not providing you with the necessary PPE (or is making it very difficult to access) and/or is not training people in its safe use, then you should:
- Put in an incident report at your workplace, and
- Escalate your concerns to your employer in writing and ask for an urgent response.
If your concerns are not being taken seriously, we can assist to ensure appropriate measures are in place. Contact ASMOF using the form at the bottom of this page.
If you are required to wear a P2/N95 mask then it must fit you.
The NSW Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) guidance states that staff caring for patients confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 or who are close contacts of people with Covid 19 should be wearing a P2/N95 respirator and eye protection.
Fit testing must be done by a trained and competent person. Your LHD should have either trained staff to do the fit testing or should have engaged qualified external fit testers.
If you have not been fit tested, you should raise this with your manager in writing.
If you are having unreasonable delays in accessing fit testing, you should submit an incident report in IMS+.
If this does not resolve the situation, contact ASMOF.
Under the Work Health and Safety Act, you have the right to refuse unsafe work where you have a reasonable belief that carrying out that work will expose you to a serious and imminent risk to your health.
If you are requested to provide care to a known or suspected case of COVID-19 or close contact of a COVID-19 positive case and you have not been properly fit tested for a P2/N95 mask you should be redeployed to an area where you don’t need to utilise airborne precautions.
Leave & Pay
You are entitled to paid special leave of 20 days if you cannot work because you are:
- Self-isolating in line with public health advice due to COVID-19 exposure
- Caring for family members sick with COVID-19
- Caring for family members due to closure of school/day-care
- Unable to attend work due to transport disruptions or workplace closure
- A vulnerable health worker who following completion of a risk assessment is unable to be redeployed to a lower COVID-19 risk environment and is unable to work from home or self-isolation.
- COVID-19 Vaccination in the particular circumstances described below
Special leave is to be paid at your base rate (excluding allowances and penalty rates).
If a casual is required to self-isolate due to close contact COVID-19 exposure in the workplace, each situation will be considered by the Health agency on a case-by-case basis including such things as:
- length of the casual engagement and
- Whether the casual has regular and systemic shifts
Paid special leave may be appropriate for shifts that are already rostered during the self-isolation period.
If you meet the criteria for accessing paid (COVID) special leave but you have exhausted your 20 days entitlement, you can apply for additional paid special leave. Contact ASMOF if you are having issues obtaining special leave.
If you experience an adverse reaction after the vaccination you should take sick leave. Where sick leave is exhausted, Agency heads may grant special sick leave on a case-by-case basis.
Yes. If reasonable and appropriate you could be asked to undertake your substantive duties from your self-isolation location. Or you could be asked to undertake other meaningful work which could be performed from self-isolation. For example telehealth, project work, completion of mandatory training, etc. If you undertake work from self-isolation then you will be paid as normal. That is, you will not be required to use your paid special leave. If you cannot work then paid special leave will be granted.
If you are sick due to COVID-19 or any other reason, you should take sick leave. Where sick leave is exhausted, you may be granted additional sick leave on a case-by-case basis.
If you are required to isolate then you are entitled to get special leave. However this leave is paid at base rate.
If you run out of paid sick leave your Health Agency may grant additional special paid sick leave. In assessing this the agency will look at the circumstances and history as to why you have run out of sick leave. Contact ASMOF if you are having issues obtaining sick leave.
If you meet the criteria for accessing paid (COVID) special leave or paid sick leave you cannot be asked to take annual leave, an ADO or any other type of leave.
The latest workplace confirms that if you cannot get vaccinated in work time, you will get a 2 hour special leave payment.
Employees must provide evidence of the COVID-19 vaccination and the date of the COVID-19 vaccination.
Health agencies will continue to make arrangements to support employees to access COVID-19 vaccination whilst on duty, where it is possible to do this within the need to ensure that service delivery is maintained.
If you are having issues claiming your payment, please contact us at [email protected].
Special Leave is not available for time spent quarantining or self-isolating as a consequence of recreational travel.
Where quarantine or self-isolation is required upon return to New South Wales following interstate travel on compassionate grounds (due to death/ illness of relatives residing interstate) applications for Special Leave will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the employing Health Agency.
If you choose to travel overseas or to an Australian State/ Territory (except for approved compassionate grounds) - regardless of the COVID-19 status of the destination, you will not be granted paid special leave to cover isolation upon return to Australia/ New South Wales
But hospitals have been asked to suspend business as usual processes for leave approval (annual, long service, leave without pay). Hospitals are going to establish in their surge plans how new leave requests will be approved over the next six months.
But there is NO leave freeze.
All leave applications should be considered on a case by case basis and there will be personal circumstances considerations (e.g. bereavement, family issues, weddings).
Your management will consider the following factors with leave requests:
- projected workforce supply for COVID-19.
- high demand periods such as school holidays.
- winter flu (surge in demand and possibility of increase numbers of staff absent due to personal illness/ family illness).
- strategies for staff to work outside their usual allocation to support high demand areas.
- supporting settings where there are existing vacancies.
Where leave (annual, long service, leave without pay) has already been approved this should proceed unless there is significant reason to withdraw approval.
If you are asked to cancel existing approved leave and you do not agree with this request then please contact ASMOF at [email protected].
For Official Overseas Travel booked and approved prior to 5 March 2020 (including TESL), the following applies:
If the Commonwealth Government’s Smart Traveller advice indicates ‘do not travel’or‘reconsider your need to travel’, or‘exercise a high degree of caution’ prior to departure, travel is to be cancelled.
✔ a documented risk assessment should be undertaken to determine whether such overseas travel should continue in light of the developing COVID-19 situation.
✔ the risk assessment should be undertaken as soon as practicable to do so, in order to minimise impact on the individual staff member/s and maximise potential for refunding/ crediting/ cancellation of bookings.
✔ Key considerations should include:
► The staff member’s safety while overseas
► Identified requirements of the workforce surge plan in relation to the staff member
► Potential delayed return to Australia and potential quarantine period further delaying return to work once back in Australia
► Any exceptional circumstances
► NSW Health Public Health advice until departure: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus.aspx
► Novel Coronavirus travel information provided at https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/news-and-updates/novel-coronavirus-covid-19
Important to note: where the status of the destination changes prior to departure and the Government Smart Traveller advice indicates ‘do not travel’ or ‘reconsider your need to travel’ or ‘exercise a high degree of caution’, official overseas travel is to be cancelled and not proceed.
New approvals of official overseas travel (regardless of the COVID-19 status of the overseas destination) are suspended. Alternatives to travel where practicable to do so are to be considered. This will be continually monitored and reviewed.
The NSW Department of Premier and cabinet have now released the following advice (which has now been incorporated into the NSW Health advice):
- All currently booked and approved international and domestic travel should be re-evaluated in line with the most up to date travel advice available at www.smarttraveller.gov.au.
- International and domestic travel should be restricted to essential travel only.
The latest advice from Chubb travel insurance regarding COVID 19 can be found here. Please note that members also need to check on any further Government travel warnings.