Lockdown and COVID-19 OOSH FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Created 23 July 2021
Last Updated 8 September 2021

Don’t see the question you’re looking for? Contact network@networkofcommunityactivities.org.au

Restrictions as applicable to OOSH

BREAKING NEWS: 3 September
Cessation of Care

Network has advocated strongly to have the ‘14 week rule’ suspended during the lockdown period. Network is happy to announce that DESE has committed to suspending the 14 week cessation of care rule for Commonwealth Declared Hotspots.

This is huge news for Services in Greater Sydney in particular, that have been in lockdown for 10 weeks.

Breaking News 23 August
We did it! The largest tailored support package for the OOSH Sector has been announced.
40% of Pre-lockdown revenue to be paid to OOSH Services in lockdown!
See information about the package here. Scroll down to see our FAQs regarding BCP.

News 16 August:
DESE has confirmed that areas placed into lockdown for greater than 7 days will be able to waive the gap fee. To see whether this applies to you, and from which date you can waive the gap fee, see here.

Financial Support

Business Continuity Payments (BCP)

The following answers are based on the information put out by DESE here.

How is the BCP 40% calculated?

The BCP payment is 40% of your revenue (income) from fees charged during the reference period (that is, fees for all attending and absent children), up to the hourly CCS cap. That BCP amount stays the same every fortnight – it is only calculated once.

A sector-wide study of the OOSH sector conducted by Network in 2020 evidenced that the overwhelming majority of OOSHs in NSW charge less than the hourly CCS capped rate ($10.77 per hour). Please note that the explanation below features fees that are below the hourly capped rate, and therefore this has not been built into the example.

The easiest way to work out what your BCP payment will be is to generate a session report for your reference period and look at the total charged hours multiplied by your hourly fee rate (up to $10.77) and finally multiplied by 40%.
Total charged hours in the reference period means adding up every fee attached to a booking (so attendance fees, not late fees, search fees, overdue fees etc.) and adding them together.
Then it is simple as:
Total booking fees in the reference period x (40/100). This will tell you your BCP rate.

For example, imagine a simple scenario where your Service had 10 bookings each day for the entire reference fortnight, and you charged $20 for a 3 hour session. Your BCP payment will be:

10 (number of days in the fortnight)
x
10 (number of bookings per day, whether attending or not)
x
$20 (fee per session)
x
40/100 (40%)
= $800 per fortnight BCP

It is worth noting again that the BCP will be received in addition to CCS – in the above example, in a scenario where all children received a 50% CCS entitlement you would receive $1,000 of CCS in addition to the $800 BCP. You would also be entitled to still charge the gap fee for any children actually attending – if 2 children were still attending you would receive an additional $200 in gap fees, for a total of $2,000 received (exactly the same you would receive, pre-Covid, for 10 children attending).

What does “maintain staffing levels” mean?

DESE has confirmed that “maintaining staffing levels” – a requirement of receiving the BCP, means:

  • Maintain headcount only, for permanent full-time and part-time employees, and casuals who have been with you for longer than 12 months or more;
  • Your headcount must be compared to the fortnight ending 22 August 2021 for Greater Sydney and the Australian Capital Territory and the fortnight ending 27 August 2021 for regional New South Wales;
  • You are not required to maintain a particular number of hours of employment;
  • Employees who leave by their own choice or are terminated due to misconduct are not counted as reducing your headcount

What does an expected drop in attendance mean and what are average charged hours?

Services must have a reasonable expectation that during each fortnight they receive the support payment, attendance at the service will be equal to or less than 50% of the average charged hours the service experienced during the reference fortnight.

This is a very confusing calculation – as attendance is not the same thing as average charged hours. We are not comparing the same two measurements! At this point this may change before the final details are released – please pay close attention once this happens.

In the reference period (pre-lockdown) the number to use is the average charged hours according to your CCS submissions. This is effectively the same as your bookings, and includes non-attendees using an allowable absence. If for instance you had 16 booked sessions, with 14 children attending, 16 is the number to use in your calculations (not 14).

In the BCP fortnight you’re only considering attendance. You may for instance have 16 bookings but expect only 8 to attend – 8 is the number to use here for your calculations.

In this simple scenario, if you had 16 bookings in the reference period and 16 now, with only 8 expected to attend, you do meet the eligibility criteria.

What if we expect a 50% drop in some fortnights but not others?

Early notification to the Department will be required as circumstances change. This may mean you apply for the BCP and then subsequently expect your attendance to drop by less than 50%, in which case you must notify DESE and will stop receiving the BCP. It may also mean that you do not apply for the BCP from day one as you expect that attendances will not have dropped by 50% – but then later expect that your attendances will drop by 50%, in which case you can then apply for the BCP.

What if our attendance doesn’t drop 50% like we expected?

At this stage, it appears that if you expect that in a certain fortnight attendance will be 50% lower than the reference period, but then your actual attendances are higher than the 50% drop, you will still be entitled to the BCP for that period. However note that this sort of situation will likely be use to assess whether your expectation for future fortnights was reasonable – if you know that attendances in one fortnight were only 10% lower than the reference period average charged hours it may be difficult to claim that for the next fortnight you reasonably expected a drop of 50%.

To notify DESE that you are no longer expecting a 50% drop in attendance you will need to email  ECECViabilitySupportPackage@dese.gov.au.

Are you sure that services can’t receive JobSaver as well as the BCP? Isn’t JobSaver a State grant?

DESE has explicitly stated that services must choose between JobSaver and the BCP and cannot receive both at once. JobSaver is a joint-funded initiative of the NSW and Commonwealth governments.

We were open for 9 days in the Vacation Care reference period due to a public holiday but 10 days in this Vacation Care period – will we be disadvantaged? (Vacation Care only Services)

It’s important to remember that the payments you receive will be calculated based on your hourly fees (up to the hourly cap for CCS) for the hours you’re actually open, so the 9 day fortnight will not reduce the amount you receive if you qualify.

Where this 9 day period may impact you is in the calculation of whether you expect your attendances will drop by 50%. While we have to await the final details of this calculation, Network believes it is reasonable to base your expectations on a “like for like” basis, that is ignoring the impact of the shorter comparison period and calculating as if the fortnights were the same length.

We expect our Vacation Care service to lose money even with BCP. Will we be penalised if we don’t open?

If you do not open for Vacation Care you will not receive BCP for this Service. You may elect not to open for Vacation Care period, and you will do so by notifying the the ECEC via the NQA ITS, and DESE through your CCS software.

If you have zero children attending on any given day you may want to leave the Service early or not attend at all (depending on the circumstances). This is not considered a closure. You would be best placed not to notify of a Service closure in the event that you are leaving the Service unattended.
Instead, you should:

1. Email the ECECD once to inform them that:
From time to time your Service may be unattended when no children are present at the Service.
In such an event, you will be available on <INSERT PHONE NUMBER>.

2. Check that the emergency number that you have listed as the contact number for the Service matches the contact number on the NQA ITS.

3. Place a note on the door of the Service if you leave early, indicating that you are not present at the Service but you are available at <INSERT PHONE NUMBER>.
The Department (and families) need to be able to reach you on the number you provide in the event that you aren’t at the Service, so be sure to keep it on you for the duration of the session of care.

By doing this you are not closing the Service, but you do not need to physically attend the Service (think of it as keeping the Service operational while working from home). You do not need to notify of a closure and you can continue to claim BCP and CCS. Note however that you must be available on the listed contact phone number, and that you can only do this when there are zero children attending the Service.

What does “average charged hours” mean if we have waived the gap fee? Is CCS part of this calculation?

For the purpose of estimating whether attendance will drop 50%, average charged hours simply means the number of hours recorded through your CCS submissions. For instance, if you opened for 10 days in the reference fortnight, for 15 children booked, for 3 hours per day, your average charged hours for the reference period were 10 x 15 x 3 = 450. If you opened for 10 days in a BCP period, still for 3 hours per day but now with only 5 children attending, your attendance hours would be 10 x 5 x 3 = 150. You will therefore have experienced the 50% reduction. The amount of CCS in either period or whether the gap fee has been waived is irrelevant.

Is there a crossover period where you can claim both JobSaver and BCP?

Technically you are only eligible to receive one of these two measures (JobSaver and BCP) at any time. There may appear to be a crossover period – BCP begins from 23 August but you are only required to notify Revenue NSW by 6 September that you no longer wish to receive JobSaver. However this notification should take effect 23 August – although DESE has made a concession that where through no fault of the Service they still receive a JobSaver payment after this date due to administrative delays on behalf of the NSW Government, no recovery action will be taken. You may therefore receive both payments covering this crossover period if administrative delays mean that this is unavoidable, and you will not be required to repay either.

What if I have applied for JobSaver but it has not been approved by 3 September (the deadline to opt-in to the first round of BCP), or what if I have not yet applied for JobSaver?

If you have applied for JobSaver but your application is still being assessed, we encourage you to leave your application pending- do not ask for it to be withdrawn. Email Service NSW and ask for your application to be assessed, up until 23 August (the start date of BCP).
If you have not applied for JobSaver before the first opt-in date for BCP (3 September) you can still apply for JobSaver for the period prior to BCP. If you were eligible prior to the announcement of BCP, you are still eligible for payments of JobSaver before the BCP period regardless of the time you apply. When you submit your application for JobSaver email Service NSW and note that you are only applying for JobSaver up until 23 August, as you will be receiving another grant after this date that requires you not to receive JobSaver.

We have provided the following template to make life easier:

To: smallbusinessassistance@service.nsw.gov.au

Subject: Withdrawal from JobSaver for <PROVIDER NAME>

Body:

I am writing on behalf of <PROVIDER NAME and ABN> to request that JobSaver payments cease on 23 August. We have applied for an alternative grant, the criteria for which states that we cannot receive JobSaver from 23 August. This does not change the status of our JobSaver declaration of eligibility prior to this date. <INCLUDE A JOBSAVER REFERENCE NUMBER IF APPLICABLE>.

Your support in this matter would be greatly appreciated.

<SIGNED>

Can we still claim BCP if we have zero attendances?

Having zero attendances on a given day will not impact your ability to claim BCP payments. You must however remain open (unless of course health orders have directed you to close).

How will our BCP be calculated for a combined BASC and Vacation Care service?

Services that provide both OSHC and Vacation Care will have the standard OSHC reference period apply to them. That means that Services will receive the same standard payment during Vacation Care that they have receive for fortnights during term time.
For some services they will be ‘better off’ with this model than they would if Vacation Care BCP payments were calculated based on the Vacation Care reference period. For example, you may only be receiving BCP for roughly 5 hours worth of attendance (before and after school care) but if you have more children booked in during BASC than vacation care, you will be receiving a per head payment for more ‘heads’.

Am I allowed to change my Service offering by reducing the number of hours I operate (either for BASC or Vacation Care) and still receive BCP?

DESE have informed Network that Services are not allowed to reduce the number of hours of their normal sessions of care and receive BCP. If you decide to offer parents shorter days this Vacation Care (for example, open from 9am – 4pm when you normally would open 7:30am – 6:00pm) then you will not be eligible for BCP during Vacation Care. The intention of BCP is to ensure Services maintain their usual session offering.

This is not the same as staff leaving early because all of the attending children have gone home. Leaving before the end of a session (for example staff leaving at 5pm after the last child leaves, even though the Service is normally open until 6) is not considered a reduction in service offering, and you would still be eligible for BCP.
We discuss what you should do if you’re leaving the service unattended during hours of operation later in this FAQ.

Business Support Grant

Tell me more about the Business Support Grant?

COVID Business Support is available to Services that can establish a 30% (or more) downturn in revenue when compared to the same period in 2019. The Business Support Grant will have no impact on your ability to claim the Business Continuity Payments (BCP).

You have to establish this over a minimum 2 week period between 26 June and 17 July. It is important to note that your source of authority on this should be the COVID-19 Business Support Grant guidelines as published on the NSW Government Website.

You can do this over a longer period if it is helpful – any period 2 weeks or greater between 26 June and 17 July is acceptable.

8 July -19 July in 2019 was Vacation Care, so this may or may not be beneficial for you to compare the overlapping period, depending on your Vacation Care attendances.

You will need to establish that:

  • You had an annual turnover more than $75,000 and less than $50 million (inclusive) for the year ended 30 June 2020;
  • Have experienced a decline in turnover of 30% or more due to the Public Health Orders over a minimum 2-week period from 26 June 2021 to 17 July 2021 compared to the same period in June and/or July 2019;
  • Maintain your employee headcount as at 13 July 2021. This includes all permanent staff, and casual staff that have been employed for more than 12 months.

How much is available through the Business Support Grant?

Eligible businesses and not-for-profit organisations can apply for a one-off grant of $7,500 (tier one) or $10,500 (tier two) or $15,000 (tier 3) via one application:

·        $7,500 (tier one)
Businesses that have experienced a decline in turnover of 30% or more due to the Public Health Orders will be eligible for a grant of $7,500.

·        $10,500 (tier two)
Businesses that have experienced a decline in turnover of 50% or more due to the Public Health Orders will be eligible for a grant of $10,500.

·        $15,000 (tier three)
Businesses that have experienced a decline in turnover of 70% or more due to the Public Health Orders will be eligible for a grant of $15,000.

Please Note
Eligible businesses may only receive one grant tier. Meaning, only one grant is available for a single ABN. Multiple businesses under a single ABN are only eligible for one grant. This is particularly relevant for Providers that have multiple Services, and P&Cs that have multiple service ‘arms’.

I see the Business Grant Criteria says that you must “have business costs for which there is no other government support available” – does CCS make us ineligible?

No, receipt of CCS will not make you ineligible for the COVID-19 Business Support Grant. CCS is not a grant.
Further, the wording of this portion of the criteria suggests that 100% of your expenses must be directly paid for by a grant. See below for more.

I received a different grant! Am I now ineligible to receive the COVID-19 Business Grant?

The wording in the guidelines is you “must have business costs for which there is no other government support available”.
This part of the criteria is saying that you have to have some business costs that are not covered by a grant. Even if you receive a grant for some portion of your business costs – for example, you received a local government grant to build a playground – but you pay for everything else from income generated by fees, then this part of the criteria would not discount you from being eligible.
To avoid confusion, a grant for a project or to cover a portion of your business expenses does not make you ineligible for the Business Grant.

Where can I find the Business Grant Criteria?

You can find the full criteria on the Service NSW Website:
https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/2021-covid-19-business-grant-guidelines#eligibility-criteria

Do I need an accountant to apply?

It would be beneficial if you have an accountant or tax agent. Industries that have been published on the ‘Highly Impacted List’ do not require an accountant’s letter to apply for Tier 1 or 2 of the Business Grant.

OOSH is not included on the Highly Impacted List.

This means that to apply for the Business Grant you will need to provide a letter from an accountant that states your organisation is within the turnover threshold and that you have had a decline in turnover. This is a standard template for your accountant to complete- it cannot be completed by you. If you are for profit you will also need to provide a lodged tax return to demonstrate that your annual turnover is within the $75,000 – $50million threshold. If you’re a not for profit you can provide a set of financial statements to establish the latter.

Your accountant should handle this.

I don’t have an accountant! Can I still apply for the COVID-19 Business Grant?

Yes. There is a carveout for Services that don’t have an accountant – the NSW Government has made it clear that they will work with organisations to ensure those impacted and that fit the criteria do not miss out. Call Services NSW on 13 77 88 for information on alternative pieces of evidence.

I saw that there is a heading ‘Education and Training’ in the list of Highly Impacted Industries. Does that include OOSH?

No. The subheading under Education and Training makes it clear that this only applies to physical or artistic training organisations (e.g. personal trainers).

JobSaver

What is JobSaver?

JobSaver is a measure provided by the NSW and Australian Governments to provide payments to Employers to support with payroll where the business is experiencing diminished revenue due to lockdown. You cannot receive JobSaver and the Business Continuity Payments (BCP), so be mindful of your choice in this regard. See our section on BCP for more information.

Your OOSH will need to demonstrate a reduction in turnover (revenue) of 30% or greater when compared to:
-the same period in 2019; OR
-the same period in 2020: OR
-the two week period immediately prior to the start of lockdown (12-25 June)

This criteria has been expanded since the initial announcement of JobSaver, providing you with new options for comparison with the reference period (a minimum of two weeks since 26 June). This is incredible news for OOSH Services who can now compare the two weeks before lockdown (Term 2 Before and After School Care) with two weeks during lockdown (Term 3 Before and After School Care).

The period you must compare with is a minimum of two weeks during the Greater Sydney lockdown, which commenced on 26 June. You will note that unlike the Business Grant reference period, there is no ‘end date’ on that reference period.

JobSaver is open to all of NSW not merely areas in lockdown, as long as the reason for your reduction in turnover is a result of Public Health Orders.

For example, if your OOSH is not in a lockdown area but all of your families are living in LGAS subject to lockdown, and all of those parents were choosing to keep their children at home, your income will likely have dropped 30% or more as a direct result of a Public Health Order.

See the eligibility criteria here.
https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/jobsaver-payment#eligibility

As with the Business Grant, you must retain your staff headcount as at 13 July 2021.

JobSaver: Headcount issues

JobSaver requires you to maintain your headcount, but we’ve had to cut our staff hours so we don’t qualify.

Headcount is literally that – a count of the number of permanent staff, and casuals with more than 12 months of service employed as at 13 July 2021. If you have had to cut staff hours but they are still your employees, that counts as maintaining your headcount regardless of the hours they’re working.

We’ve had someone resign so I’m concerned that it’s impossible to maintain headcount.

Resignations are not counted as a reduction in headcount for JobSaver – you are still eligible!

Because we’ve cut staff numbers so low, 40% of their wages isn’t much money for us.

The 40% of weekly payroll figure is actually calculated on your wages as reported in your March 2021 Business Activity Statement – so for most, an average week between 1 January 2021 and 31 March 2021. So the payment will likely be a lot higher than you’d expect.

JobSaver: Turnover issues

We still don’t show that decline over any of the three periods!

Contact Service NSW – you may be able to use an alternative period on application.

If your service hasn’t lost more than 30% of income, is there any other income support available for the duration of the lockdown?

Unfortunately both the NSW Covid-19 Business Grant and the joint NSW/Commonwealth JobSaver package require a 30% drop in income to be eligible. There aren’t currently any additional income support measures available. For this reason Network is strongly advocating for a package tailored to the OOSH sector.

Employment Matters

Is it correct that Services can change rosters or reduce hours with 7 days notice?

In the Children’s Services Award 2010, Services can “change rosters” with 7 days notice, or with less notice with the Employee’s agreement.

You may not decide to change their rosters with a shorter notice period.
So what does this mean?

For Permanent employees you cannot change (including reduce) their rostered hours without providing 7 days notice. You should take care before reducing the number of hours a permanent employee works, because if you do so without their agreement this may be considered a constructive dismissal or a redundancy, and the employee may be able to seek compensation.

Services may have noticed that there is a provision for “emergency” changes under the Award, however the Greater Sydney lockdown does not fit the definition of an “emergency”.

Remember that ‘agreement’ to accept fewer hours with a notice period less than 7 days must be a GENUINE agreement. It cannot be a decision made under duress – for example, you could not tell an employee “if you don’t accept more hours we’ll go bankrupt. We’ll have to close our doors to families, and it will be all your fault” and expect them to genuinely agree.

It is important to check your employees’ contracts as there may be terms that alter the requirements of the Fair Work Act and the Children’s Services Award.  Remember – an employee’s contract cannot leave them ‘worse off’ than they would otherwise be under provisions within the Award/Act.

For Casual employees, you may be able to reduce their hours with less than 7 days notice if you are cancelling their shift(s). This is not considered a change in roster. A change in rostered hours may be moving their shifts around, keeping their shift but reducing its length, or adding shifts (this list is not exhaustive).

As per the casual employment relationship you are able to cancel shifts with reasonable notice.

Can we “stand down” employees due to the COVID lockdown?

“Stand down” provisions of the Fair Work Act only apply to “stoppages” of work and not “reductions”. A mere reduction in numbers (attendances) due to the lockdown will not entitle you to stand down employees. If however you are directed to close by a government agency that will constitute a stoppage and you will be able to stand down employees.

Note that some employment contracts use the term ‘stand down’ in a way that does not replicate the definition in the Fair Work Act. Your rights and obligations in this regard will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

COVID-19 Disaster Payments to employees- What should I tell my staff?

This payment is available to staff who have lost at least 8 hours or one day of work to the lockdown. Payments are a maximum of either $450 or $750 per week depending on if you have lost fewer or greater than 20 hours per week.
NOTE: The payments were previously $375 and $600. This was amended on 28 July 2021.

Remember to give your Employees the ABN and Trading name of your OOSH (or the parent organisation, for example, if you are P&C-operated you will need the name of your P&C Association as the employer) and the contact email and number of someone that can attest to their reduction in hours. Remember that an Employee can still be working during this period- the test is not whether they have stopped working altogether, but rather whether they are working fewer hours than they otherwise would have.

Your younger employees may be receiving Youth Allowance. If this is the case, they are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 Disaster payments. There is an additional $200 payment available to persons on Youth Allowance. (As of 28 July 2021)

Where can I find the criteria for the COVID Disaster Payments?

See the Services Australia website here:
https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/covid-19-disaster-payment/who-can-get-it/nsw-eligibility-rules

Can I require staff to attend the Service in person if I do not require them, simply to maintain their work hours?

This is a nuanced point, and the answer may change depending on your circumstances. In general, you should work with employees to promote their health and safety in the workplace, and this may mean providing them tasks to work from home if they are not required to care directly for children.
We encourage you to take reasonable steps to balance the needs of the service with the rights of your employees, and to remain in close communication with your staff to ensure that everyone is informed and comfortable with safety measures at all times.

I am a Nominated Supervisor but I’m working from home while others go to the Service. Is there anything I need to be aware of?

The things to consider:

  • There are no limitations on how frequently a Nominated Supervisor has to be on site, so there is no regulatory issue with regards to you working from home for the duration of lockdown.
  • In your absence you must ensure that you have a Responsible Persons designated for every shift.
  • The Nominated Supervisor is legally responsible for compliance at the Service even when absent from the Service, so it is imperative that you have a Responsible Person(s) that you trust wholeheartedly. While you will assign tasks to your Responsible Person(s) (and other Educators) in your absence, you can’t delegate your legal duties to those persons on the ground.
  • The Nominated Supervisor should be readily contactable by the Service to allow everyone to effectively carry out their duties.

Child Care Subsidy and Waiving the Gap Fee

Should we be open to everyone, or only children whose parents are considered essential?

This is a Service-level decision, that should be made taking into account the needs of your families, Educators, and environmental factors. You should consider the safety of your employees and children at all times.

How do I know who I am allowed to charge?

You should consider your existing policies, particularly around cancelations and fees, as these still need to govern decisions you make regarding charge to parents.

I saw the Department used the term ‘opt-in’ to describe the gap fee waiver. How do I do this?

Opt-in was the term used to articulate that the ability to waive the gap fee is not compulsory. Services do not have to waive the gap fee for parents that aren’t attending OOSH.
To do this, you will need to consult your CCMS provider. There is no notification process – for example, you don’t need to submit a form or call DESE –  instead, it is something you can do on each account in your CCMS.

Can I waive the gap fee?

Broadly speaking, the Department of Education Skills and Employment have stated that Services in lockdown for over 7 days will be able to waive the gap fee.
The fastest way to find out whether your Service can waive the gap fee (including the date from which you can waive the gap free) is to visit this website.

Vaccinations

Has the Government made COVID vaccines mandatory for OOSH workers?

All OOSH staff in NSW will be required to be fully vaccinated by 8 November. 

OOSH Services will be prioritised for a vaccine from Monday 6 September on the 1B priority list.

OOSH staff in LGAs of concern will have had or be about to receive their first dose of a vaccine (this is compulsory from 6 September).

All other OOSH staff in NSW will be required to be fully vaccinated by 8 November. The public health order on this issue will be available shortly.

Staff in regional NSW are encouraged to visit the eligibility checker and book their vaccination as soon as possible at a regional and rural vaccination clinic.

Book your priority vaccine here.

As at the time of publishing, for Educators looking to book a Pfizer vaccine in Olympic Park through a non-priority (normal) vaccination booking there was good availability over the next two weeks.

If still having issues please call the COVID-19 Vaccination Program hotline 1800 571 155 between 8am – 9.30pm, 7 days a week for assistance.

Can a Service require their workers to be vaccinated – wherever I live or work?

If you live or work in an LGA of concern – this is legally required. So yes, regardless of the Service’s intentions as an employer, employees must be vaccinated.

If you live and work outside of an LGA of concern or work on a non-public school site, the answer is “maybe”, with strong indications that the answer is “yes”. An employer can mandate vaccines where the direction is lawful and reasonable. Whether a direction is lawful and reasonable for an OOSH would be determined on a case-by-case basis – see here for a list of some relevant reasons, many of which relate to OOSH Services.

Can my Service ask me if I have been vaccinated – and if they do am I obliged to answer them?

Yes to both questions, although they must do so in keeping with Australian Privacy Principles.

I feel that I am being discriminated against by being forced to receive a vaccination. Where can I find out more about my rights?

With regards to our discussion of vaccinations in OOSH there are few examples that might constitute discrimination, but it is always important to be informed. We encourage you to consult the Australian Human Rights Commission if you have any concerns about your rights with regards to discrimination.

What if I’m not vaccinated by the deadline?

You must not work on site. Your employer may allow you to work from home but is not obliged to.

I want to know more about my workplace rights with regards to vaccines. Where can I find out more?

Fair work addresses a number of issues with regards to COVID-19 and vaccinations here.

Do Services have to provide paid leave for me to attend vaccination appointments?

If the Service has mandated vaccination and your appointment takes place during your work hours, the Service must pay you for your time and travel costs. Beyond this we encourage Services to voluntarily provide paid leave for their employees to be vaccinated where possible although it is not required, nor is sick/personal leave required to be provided.

Are there exemptions to the mandatory vaccination rule?

If you have legitimate medical reasons, you must obtain a medical certificate indicating a medical contraindication and must carry this on you at all times. There is no exemption for conscientious objectors to vaccines.

I am hesitant about vaccines. What should I do?

If you are hesitant about the COVID vaccines we encourage you to speak to a doctor. This does not have to be in person – you could arrange a telehealth if you do not want to leave the house for a consultation. There is a significant amount of misinformation available online, which can appear both professional and researched. The best way to know that you are getting accurate information is to speak to a doctor or medical health expert.

It is also helpful to look at the NSW Health and Australian Department of Health websites. The NCIRS also contains a useful series of FAQs here.

It’s my body, surely my choice not to get vaccinated doesn’t impact others?

Unfortunately the choices of individuals not to get vaccinated do impact on those around them. In particular, as an OOSH Educator your choices can have a huge impact on the children and families in your care.

As an Educator you are one of the most likely people in a child’s life to transmit COVID to them. It is a privilege to be a trusted adult in a child’s life, but it also comes with the burden of responsibility. If you unknowingly bring COVID-19 into your OOSH Service because you are unvaccinated, the risk of a child contracting and passing on COVID-19 is extremely high.

Remember that it is not only the child that you put at risk. A child may spread COVID-19 to a beloved family member. Children of primary-school age are often aware of the issues presented in the news media, and can articulate the infectious nature of COVID-19. Educators should do everything in their power to ensure children do not feel the physical and emotional toll of catching and then spreading COVID-19.

Parents are starting to ask whether staff are vaccinated. Do I have to tell them? Is there anyone else that I have to show proof of vaccination to?

At this stage there is nothing to force a Service to disclose the vaccination status of employees to families. At this point we recommend that Services discuss this possibility with employees and gain their express permission in writing to allow the employer to disclose their immunisation status.

Field Officers from the ECECD will not be asking for proof of vaccination.

I have a trainee or employee under the age of 16 that is not eligible for a vaccine. What happens now?

The NSW Public Health (COVID-19 Additional Restrictions for Delta Outbreak) Order (No 2) 2021 available here and specifically states that only employees over the age of 16 are required to have mandatory vaccinations. This is only for LGAs of concern, but it does suggest that we will see this language replicated in the wider Public Health Order regarding mandatory vaccinations in OOSH when it becomes available.

Mask Wearing

Masks must be worn in OOSH Services at all times.

  • Masks should be put on after thoroughly washing your hands.
  • Ensure that the mask covers your nose and mouth.
  • Do not touch your mask or face or leave it hanging around your nose or chin.
  • Masks should be changed between activities with children where health care procedures are administered.
  • You may use a single-use mask continuously for up to 4 hours, as long as it does not become moist, soiled or damaged.
  • Do not store and reuse single-use masks. Carry clean masks in a paper or zip-lock bag with you.
  • For each new situation put on a clean single-use or cloth mask. For example, you might wear a mask on public transport until you get to work. You shouldn’t reuse the same mask during your journey home.
  • After removing a mask, always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or hand sanitiser.

Department of Education

General Lockdown Questions

Who is currently in lockdown?
Stay at home orders have been extended to all of NSW.

Which Local Government Areas effected by additional lockdown restrictions (beyond usual ‘stay at home’ orders) ?

People in the LGAs below are not able to travel to outside of the LGA to go to work unless they are an essential worker (authorised worker). OOSH employees are considered ‘essential’.

  • Bayside
  • Blacktown
  • Burwood
  • Campbelltown
  • Canterbury-Bankstown
  • Cumberland
  • Fairfield
  • Georges River
  • Liverpool
  • Parramatta
  • Strathfield
  • Penrith for the following suburbs: Caddens, Claremont Meadows, Colyton, Erskine Park, Kemps Creek, Kingswood, Mount Vernon, North St Marys, Orchard Hills, Oxley Park, St Clair and St Marys.

People in the LGAs below are not able to travel to outside of the LGA to go to work unless they are an essential worker. OOSH employees are considered ‘essential’.

Are OOSH workers exempt from the LGA restrictions?

Yes, OOSH Workers are on the list of ‘authorised workers’ allowed to leave their home and LGA for work. This means if you work in one of the LGAs mentioned above you can leave that LGA to go to OOSH for work.

What about administrative staff that work in OOSH?

Even in OOSH, if an employee can work from home they should. This isn’t always possible in the OOSH setting, so please think about your individual circumstances.

If I live outside of one of the LGAs of concern, but my OOSH is located in a restricted LGA. Can I enter to go to work?

Yes, you can enter the LGAs of concern (listed above) to go to work as an OOSH employee.

Attendance and Travel

If I transport children in a vehicle to my Service, is this still allowed?

Yes, carpooling restrictions do not cover the transfer of children from one school site to an OOSH site.
Remember that the Department of Education considers transportation to form part of your session of
care- when you think of things this way, children are ‘at OOSH’ from the time they are being
transported.

Can I travel to work at an OOSH if I live in another local government area?
Yes, you can travel to work. It may be beneficial to have a letter from your employer on letterhead
stating that you are working in an essential industry – Early Childhood Education and Care.
If you are in a named LGA that has additional restrictions, please refer to questions earlier in these FAQS regarding testing and travel.

Do I require a permit to travel to work?

The only situation in which you would require a permit to travel to work is if you are travelling from an LGA of concern to regional NSW for the purpose of work.
See here.

If a service chooses to reduce operation hours for the lockdown period by either not ‘opening’ during a session of care or closing early due to low attendance, what do they need to do?

Changing your session times or closing your Service will impact your CCS. It is important to weigh up your situation and ensure that your Service remains viable.

It is reasonable to ask parents to communicate in advance whether they intend to attend a session of
care. If there are no children attending a particular session, you may decide it is safer not to attend the
Service during that session of care. Ensure you notify families of a contact phone number to reach a
person from the service in the absence of someone being physically present.

Remember that this is a Health-lead lockdown and we are all responsible for the safety of ourselves and
our employees. The Department of Education is aware of this and has stated their commitment to
working with Services during this period.

Can I send staff home early if we have no children, or allow staff to work from home if we have no bookings?

With regards to sending staff home early (or not opening the Service if there are no children attending), the Department has advised that:

1. You email the ECECD once to inform them that:
From time to time your Service may send staff home early, or allow staff to work from home when no children are present at the Service.
In such an event, you will be available on <INSERT PHONE NUMBER>.

2. Check that the emergency number that you have listed as the contact number for the Service matches the contact number on the NQA ITS.

3. Place a note on the door of the Service if you leave early, indicating that you are not present at the Service but you are available at <INSERT PHONE NUMBER>.
The Department (and families) need to be able to reach you on the number you provide in the event that you aren’t at the Service, so be sure to keep it on you for the duration of the session of care.

From an employment perspective – if you allow staff to leave early you will still need to pay your staff for the full duration of the shift for which they were rostered on.

What happens if you receive confirmation that there is a positive case of COVID at your Service?

There are a number of people or entities that you need to contact if you receive notification that you’ve had a positive case at your Service.

  1. Contact NSW Health. This can be difficult due to extended wait times. Our advice is to, if possible, have one staff member call NSW Health while a second staff member moves on to point ‘2’-  contact the ECECD.

2. Make contact with the ECECD by calling the information enquiries line and lodging a notification of the NQA ITS.

3. Contact the school principal. Discuss opportunities for mutually arranged messages to parents.

4. Contact your staff. Let them know that you have had a confirmed case and that they may be contacted by the contact tracing team.

5. Contact parents at your Service. Your Service will be closed for at least one day while the contact tracers review your case. NSW Health will determine the nuances of your situation (in particular, the days for which the confirmed case was infectious at your Service), which will inform how long you will need to be closed for. The ECECD Covid Support Team will also support and work with you to determine the length of closure and strategy for re-opening.

6. Arrange a deep clean. NSW Health does not recommend particular companies for deep cleaning.

7. Continue to communicate with staff and parents as new information becomes available.

Advocacy

What has Network achieved for the OOSH Sector during this lockdown?

Network successfully lobbied the NSW and Australian Governments to:

  • Provide financial support to OSHC Services by allowing Services to receive Child Care Subsidy for children booked into care, but not attending care.
  • To waive the ‘gap fee’ to support parents that are not sending their children to care.
  • Increase the number of allowable absences available to families for the purpose of Child Care Subsidy.
  • Waive rent paid by OSHC Services to the State Government for OSHC Services operating on Public Schools.
  • We also have worked with the NSW Government to secure the Department of Education’s Viability Grant – a recommendation that came from Network’s 2020 Money Matters Report.
  • Prioritise ALL Out of School Hours Care Educators to receive the COVID-19 Vaccine.
  • A stay on the 14 week cessation of care rule (cancellation of care after 14 weeks of absences) for the duration of lockdown.

Network is in close communication with the NSW Department of Education to ensure Services receive fast information and a reasonable approach to difficult the circumstances that continue to arise during this period of change.

Network has been very successful in securing tailored support that is beneficial for the OOSH Sector, but we are far from finished. Network continues to lobby for changes to existing measures and for the addition of new support for the OOSH Sector. We are also liaising with the Regulatory Authority to ensure that existing provisions of the National Quality Framework are handled with reason and fairness to ensure Services are not disadvantaged due to lockdown.

Don’t see the question you’re looking for? Contact network@networkofcommunityactivities.org.au