Answering OOSH Questions on COVID19
Members are welcome to contact us to ask additional questions regarding Coronavirus. Please email email@example.com
Financial Relief for OOSH
Job Keeper Payment
The Commonwealth Government has announced the ‘Job Keeper’ stimulus package to assist businesses to keep employees on their payroll.
Businesses (including not-for-profits entities) will be given a fortnightly wage subsidy of $1,500 per employee to help pay their wages.
This will be open to any organisation that has seen their income fall by at least 30% compared to the same period 12 months ago (15% for registered charities). At this stage this will be measured by self declaration to the ATO, although more information may come to light when legislation is passed.
It will be available to eligible employees, defined as:
– Full time permanent employees;
– Part Time permanent employees; or
– Casual employees who have been employed for a minimum of 12 months as at 1 March 2020.
This measure is available to employees who are still employed with your organisation. If you had staff who were on your books at 1 March but have since been stood down, you can re-engage them and they will be eligible for the payment.
There are some other requirements, such as that employees must be Australian Citizens or hold certain Visas.
The payments are administered by the employer (business). Businesses must register with the ATO to receive the subsidy, and will be obligated to direct the $1,500 fortnightly payment to their employees. The payments will be available for a period of 6 months. Employers will need to report on a monthly basis the number of employees at their Service, and payments will be made monthly in arrears by the ATO to the Employer.
If an employee would normally be paid more than $1,500 employers may be obliged to pay the excess amount. More information on this will be available once the relevant legislation has been passed.
If an employee would normally earn less than $1,500 per fortnight the employer is still obliged to pay them the full $1,500.
The measure is effective from 30 March (backdated) and payments will begin 1 May.
Superannuation guarantee contributions will likely be payable on Job Keeper payments up to the level of the employee’s normal fortnightly salary, with any superannuation above this level at the discretion of the employer.
We encourage you to visit the ATO Website to register for the Job Keeper Payment Updates.
Further, Network strongly encourages you to speak to your accountant or book keeper for formal advice pertaining to your Service.
Free Childcare Assistance Measure
On 2 April 2020 the Commonwealth Government announced the Free Childcare measure.
The Government will pay 50% of a service’s fee revenue, or 50% of the hourly capped rate; whichever is lowest.
This is only available to Services who remain open, and do not charge families for care. Care must be available to those who need it.
The funding will be available from 6 April and begin to flow to services at the end of that week . It will be based on the number of children who were booked in during the fortnight starting 17 February 2020, whether or not they are attending services.
For Services that only provide vacation care, your amount will be calculated using your bookings from the first two weeks beginning Monday of the Spring holidays 2020 (i.e. the holidays between Term 3 and Term 4).
The Government has also stated “We will also make payments of higher amounts available in exceptional circumstances, such as where greater funding is required to meet the needs of emergency workers or vulnerable children.”
We understand that there are a lot of questions that will result from this announcement, and we will provide more information when legislation is passed.
To read the Government’s press release on this measure click here.
To see the the Child Care Subsidy Amendment click here.
My Service is on a Public School Site. Will I continue to be charged rent?
Network is thrilled to confirm that after significant ongoing consultation the NSW Department of Education has confirmed that licence fees (rent) will not be charged to schools on Department school grounds from Friday 10th April 2020 until Friday 3 July 2020 inclusive.
We are liaising with the Catholic dioceses to secure the same arrangement for schools on Catholic school grounds. We encourage you to continue to monitor this page for updates and maintain an open dialogue with your school Principal over the coming days.
What is the Community Child Care Fund Special Circumstances Grant Opportunity? Does it apply to my service?
OOSH Services may be eligible to apply for the CCCF grant. We have seen information circulating among the sector that this grant will not be applied to circumstances resulting from COVID19. We have been assured that while the grant is not specifically in response to COVID19, this can be a factor in assessing your application for CCCF Special Circumstances Grant.
“The CCCF Special Circumstances Grant Opportunity is designed to support continuity of child care, in particular in disadvantaged or vulnerable communities, where service viability is affected by an unforeseen factor outside the control of the service, such as COVID-19.” – Department of Education, Skills and Employment
Eligibility and the amount of funding will be decided on a case-by-case basis. For more information visit the website: https://www.education.gov.au/cccfspecialcircs
Will the Boosting Cash Flow for Businesses measure apply to me?
The Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure will provide up to $100,000 back to business, with a minimum payment of $20,000 for eligible businesses. The payment will provide temporary cash flow support to small and medium businesses that employ staff. The payment will be tax free.
This measure will apply to a number of OOSH services, specifically those with an “aggregated annual turnover under $50 million and that employ workers”. The payment is available to organisations that “continue to be active”.
This is an automatic measure, you do not need to apply.
When lodging your March 2020 BAS this tax credit will be applied to your business based on the amount of tax you withheld on behalf of employees (PAYG). 50% of your total tax credit (this will be calculated by the ATO) will be applied at the time of submission of your March BAS. 25% of the total will be applied at your July BAS, and the final 25% to be applied at your October BAS.
This measure DOES extend to Not-for-Profit organisations.
Employers and Employees
What are my responsibilities as an Employer?
Fair Work has a designated FAQ specifically addressing Employer and Employee concerns regarding Coronavirus. This includes a lot of information regarding different scenarios that may apply to OOSH Services, and can be checked for frequent updates.
What happens to employees if a Service is ordered to close by NSW Health?
In the event of a service’s forced closure, the individual service will need to make decisions regarding staff pay.
According to the Children’s Services Award 2010, employers are normally obligated to give 7 days’ notice of rostering for casual and permanent part-time staff. However, this obligation is waived in the event of an emergency, such as a pandemic (Coronavirus has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation). In essence, you will not have an obligation to pay these staff during the period of a forced closure. However, employers may decide to pay casual staff for the period of closure if you so wish. You may see in the news that others in the Education Industry such as Macquarie University have chosen to pay casual staff in the event of a forced closure, but this does not oblige you to do the same. Services will need to consider their individual circumstances (e.g. finances, number of casual staff, length of closure etc.) and make arrangements accordingly.
Regarding permanent staff, the Children’s Services Award 2010 does not cover instances such as a forced closure of a service due to diseases such as Coronavirus. As such, we look to the Fair Work Act 2009 section 524 (1)c that states that employees can be stood down without pay during periods where work cannot be completed due to reasons outside of the employer’s control. Management at your service may choose to take a different approach, however they are not obligated to pay employees during a forced closure.
Network of Community Activities has spoken to the Department of Education and the State and National OOSH reference groups to explain the need for support and financial relief for Services in the event of forced closures. We will continue to advocate for the needs of OOSH services as the Coronavirus situation develops and will communicate any news or changes to you as they arise.
Regarding general other questions on permanent staff during the coronavirus situation, please see the Fair Work FAQ: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/news-and-media-releases/website-news/coronavirus-and-australian-workplace-laws
Forced and Voluntary Closures
How will I know if my Service needs to close?
OOSH providers may be concerned about their obligations specifically if an OOSH Service is closed. All decisions regarding closures will be made by the NSW Health, or occasionally by the regulatory authority (Early Childhood Education Directorate). If your service operates on the premises of a school that is forced to close, it is highly likely that your service will be directed to close for the same period. These directions will be issued to your service directly, either by NSW Health or the regulatory authority. This may be a good opportunity to check that your contact information as lodged with ACECQA is correct and up to date.
You may also wish to check that your contact information for relevant people in the school (for example, the School Principal) is up to date, so that you can continue to communicate in the event of a closure.
If your service chooses to, or is directed to close, you must notify the Early Childhood Education Directorate within 24 hours.
Will my service be covered by Insurance in the event of a forced or voluntary closure of my service, or loss resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic?
Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that your insurance will cover losses resulting from Coronavirus. Guild (the primary industry insurer) and the majority of other insurers will not cover ‘Business Interruption’ in relation to Coronavirus.
Can my service close voluntarily as a result of Coronavirus concerns?
Yes. Your service can voluntarily close for a period of your choosing as a result of concerns regarding Coronavirus. Consult Fair Work Australia for more information if you are investigating the possibility of closing your service voluntarily.
Can my service charge families if the service closes due to Coronavirus?
A service can choose to charge families during a period of closure. We advise that you consider the needs of all stakeholders when making decisions of this nature. Further, if you charge families you will not be able to access the ‘Free Childcare’ assistance measures.
You will also need to consider your standing Complying Written Agreement (CWA) with families; ie, what is contained in your policies regarding fees. This constitutes your contract for care, and will need to be reviewed in detail before deciding to charge families fees during a period of closure.
“Where their contract for care is silent, it’s unlikely families can be charged while closed. In this case, provider’s and families would need to agree to a new CWA that states the service will charge the family if they are closed due to unforeseen circumstance…” – CCS Helpdesk
If your service is directed/forced to close by a Government authority as a result of COVID-19 you may be able to claim CCS attendances.
Who do I need to notify if I choose to voluntarily close my Service or change my hours of operation?
If you choose to close your Service or change your hours of operation due to low occupancy or because of COVID19 concerns, you must contact the regulatory authority.
If you are considering making changes to your hours or closing, the ECED has asked Services to contact them prior to making a decision.
Contact details for the regulatory authority are 1800 619 113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To notify ACECQA of a change to your service’s hours or a closure, use the NQA ITS.
We also suggest you advise the CCS Helpdesk of changes to your service’s operations on 1300 667 267.
What are the recommended cleaning and hygiene practices to prevent Coronavirus?
For the current recommended hygiene practices to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, please see the NSW Health website:
Do I need to do anything new in OOSH?
Generally, OOSH services have a high standard of health and hygiene policies and procedures that already cover a lot, if not all, of the recommended practices for preventing the spread of Coronavirus.
We recommend that all staff review these policies and ensure they are followed. The following may be additional practices that your service wishes to adopt at the moment. These are not compulsory practices, but rather are suggestions that could reassure children and families that your service is taking all necessary precautions.
Additional Health and Hygiene Suggestions:
- Place information, posters or reference links around your service. For example, additional hand-washing posters, reminders about disposing tissues, or posters regarding correct sneezing practice.
- Avoid personal contact such as shaking hands.
- Include hygiene reminders as part of your program. There are lots of examples online of ways to play and learn with children regarding hygiene.
- Wipe down surfaces that you may not usually clean daily, but get regular use. For example, sign in and out screens, keyboards or a computer’s mouse, communication books or folders and shared pens, door handles and taps.
- Ask people entering the service to wash or sanitise their hands as they enter
- Provide additional tissues and designated tissue bins for quick and easy disposal
Should I amend our practices around preparation and serving of food?
We suggest that during this pandemic children should not be allowed to serve food. Educators only should be involved in the serving of food, and should be vigilant with hygiene practices.
Educators should remind children not to share food.
Food preparation standards in OOSH are already high, although we recommend reminding all staff of the increased need to wash hands, wear gloves and wipe surfaces.
Am I allowed to have alcohol-based hand sanitiser at my service?
During this difficult period, common sense must prevail. OOSH Services can have alcohol-based hand sanitiser available to educators, families and children. However, the use of hand-sanitiser by children should be monitored by educators.
My centre operates at a school that is increasing their cleaning measures. Do I need to change how I clean my service?
In OOSH services generally have a high standard of health and hygiene practices in place, and are often required to do more to ensure the cleanliness of their environment than organisations outside of the Childcare industry.
We recommend maintaining an open dialogue with the relevant people at your school (whether it is the Principal, front-office staff, etc.), and explaining the current practices you have in your service regarding hygiene.
I am concerned that my service cannot accommodate the current social distancing measures.
Social Distancing guidelines were announced by the Federal Department of Health, which can be found here.
Most infamously, the number “1.5meters” is repeated, with some Services becoming concerned that they are required to keep children 1.5m apart from each other.
Please rest assured that this is not the case. Services should take a common-sense approach to social distancing and other measures to minimise the risk of COVID-19. Consider outdoor play as an alternative to congregating in smaller, indoor spaces.
Continue to frequently wash hands at your service, and encourage children to alert you if they are feeling unwell.
If a child is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, sore throat) isolate them from other children (remember to consider their dignity and mental wellbeing during this process) and alert their parents.
How do I discuss Coronavirus with, and in front of children?
Remember that children in the OOSH setting look to you as a source of information and influence. The words and body-language you use in front of children, even when you are speaking to other adults, impacts on the way they see and understand the world around them.
When it comes to Coronavirus, it is important that we all maintain a sense of calm and clarity. While we should remain vigilant in maintaining or increasing our current hygiene practices, and reminding children of the need to wash hands, sneeze into their elbow, dispose of tissues etc..
Reminding children of your health and hygiene practices is useful, but be aware not to cause alarm. Reassure children that they are not in danger or at immediate risk, and that they do not need to be anxious or worry about Coronavirus.
Emerging Minds has a useful video on talking to children about disasters and traumatic events, which can be viewed below.
Are there any resources available that I can use to inform children about Hygiene?
Absolutely! There are a number of free resources regarding handwashing, and practices to adopt during the coronavirus outbreak (or during each flu season!).
There are also a number of fun ways that you can engage children in learning about proper hygiene practices. Games, songs, online video clips and group discussions are all ways that children can be engaged in learning through play.
Should I communicate anything specific to families at my service?
In OOSH, we know that our existing hygiene practices and infectious disease prevention policies are already at a higher standard than a number of other industries. This may be a good time to revisit those policies, and refresh parents’ memory regarding our usual practices in OOSH.
You may wish to direct families at your service to the NSW Health website for information regarding Coronavirus, particularly if they have questions or concerns regarding their on risk of contracting the virus.
What if someone at my service says something to misinform, alarm or offend regarding Coronavirus?
It is important to stay calm when discussing the ongoing Coronavirus situation. Check the official Departmental websites for information (listed here), and only repeat this information. News media, Facebook, and other means of receiving information can be misleading or untruthful.
Recognise that the choice of words is important. We all want to live in an inclusive and welcoming community, and our communication with others needs to reflect that. Where necessary, remind staff and families that racist or xenaphobic language will not be tolerated. Educators must use their discretion when talking to children about inappropriate comments. Remind children that everyone is welcome at your service, that nobody is more at risk, nor less at risk of Coronavirus based on their appearance, race, ethnicity or background. Reassure children at whom inappropriate language or behaviour has been directed. Educators should communicate with the families of children involved when unacceptable comments or behaviour occur.
A centre may wish to document behaviour and/or discussions regarding Coronavirus.
How should I manage family expectations and queries at my service?
It is good to be on the front foot when communicating with families at your service. An email, printed note home, or a noticeboard announcement are all examples of how you can communicate with parents regarding your centre’s awareness of the Coronavirus situation.
Open dialogue is important. Where parents are concerned, it is useful to remind them that you are following all of the current recommendations regarding health and hygiene practices to stop the stem of Coronavirus, and that they can seek additional information from NSW Health.
Child Care Subsidy
What is the ACCS Temporary Financial Hardship measure?
The ACCS Temporary Hardship Measure is available to families who are experiencing temporary financial hardship due to an event that has occurred in the last 6 months, and as a result have a substantially reduced ability to pay child care fees.
To qualify, families must already be eligible for CCS.
To find out more, refer families to this website.
Have there been any changes to the number of Allowable Absences?
Families can get CCS for up to 42 absences for each child, per financial year.
These are not limited to absences related to COVID-19.
This has as of 25/3/20 been extended to include an additional 20 absences (62 in total). This will be extended until the end of the 2020 claim period.
You will not be required to seek a medical certificate for these additional 20 absences, as would previously have been the case.
Will families continue to be eligible for CCS if their work or study hours change due to COVID-19?
Generally speaking, workers who have had changes to their work hours or location of work due to COVID-19 will not need to update their activity test for CCS. However, we recommend you direct families to the Families Line (136 150) for information specific to their circumstances.
Source of Information
Where can I get up-to-date information?
We recommend that you regularly check the NSW Health website for updates on Coronavirus.
NSW Health is also providing a 24 hour hotline for people who have concerns and queries regarding Coronavirus: 1800 020 080
If you have specific questions regarding your employment obligations or rights as an employee, please see the Fair Work website:
Should I contact the Department of Education for information regarding Coronavirus?
The Department of Education is receiving all directions and information from the NSW Health. The NSW Health, not the Department of Education, is responsible for decisions regarding school (or OOSH service) closures. Please continue to monitor the Coronavirus information contained on this page:
Excursions and Vacation Care
Has there been formal advice from NSW Health regarding Vacation Care Excursions?
We are acutely aware that services are in the process of publishing their program for the upcoming vacation care period. Network is working hard to advocate for OOSH in relation to Coronavirus, and gain clarity from the relevant State and Federal bodies on issues such as the ones listed on this page. We will regularly update our members and this page as information becomes available to us. At this stage, OOSH Services have not been advised to cancel their excursions, but individual services may wish to conduct their own risk analysis and make decisions before governmental advice is given on this issue.
I saw the Federal Minister suggest the upcoming school holidays may be extended. Is that going to happen?
The decision to extend the school holidays will be made by the NSW Government, not the Federal Government. There has been no comment as to whether the school holidays will be extended at this stage. Network will continue to impress upon the relevant bodies the need for clarity for the OOSH Sector, and that the decisions regarding Vacation Care are being made now.
If the school holidays are extended, should my service open for the entire period?
At this stage we’re suggesting Services make this decision on an individual basis. We suggest that in the absence of formal directions from government agencies that services make these decisions on an individual basis. We recommend conducting a risk assessment that contemplates factors such as the number of children, the need/demand for care, the type of program and the practicality and cost of prevention measures (such as cleaning and personal hygiene practices). We also recommend frequent communication between management, staff and families to ensure information is available quickly, as there is a high degree of confusion at this stage.
We know how difficult the current situation is for OOSH providers, and we are seeking formal advice from NSW Health and the Department of Education.
Do you know what other Services are deciding to do during the Vacation Care Period? Are there any emerging trends?
Network is in constant communication with services regarding their Coronavirus concerns and questions.
The emerging trend is that services are choosing to cancel some or all excursions. We have heard of services cancelling all excursions, focussing on incursions, or cancelling indoor excursions only. The decisions are being made based on risk; for example, an excursion to an indoor play centre may be considered higher risk to children and staff than an excursion to a park or garden.
Department of Education and NSW Health for clarity around excursions, whether the holidays will be extended, how high the risk is for groups of varying size, and other factors such as risk via region.
Are you thinking of closing your service during vacation care, or cancelling your proposed excursions? Please let us know, or direct any queries to email@example.com
Other Useful Links
Hand Washing Practice Poster
Department of Education: Coronavirus Updates
World Health Organisation: Coronavirus
NSW Health: Coronavirus: Find the Facts
NSW Health: Coronavirus Facts for Educators and Childcare Providers
NSW ECED: Coronavirus Information
Fair Work: Coronavirus
Department of Education: Information on Coronavirus for Childcare Providers
Treasury: Economic Response to Coronavirus
Federal Department of Health Information for Childcare Services
Child Care Subsidy COVID-19 Information Page
WHO COVID19 Myth Busters
DESE ECEC Relief Package
NSW Health Press Releases
Commonwealth Press Releases