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Frequently asked questions

Please see below for FAQs. These will be updated as advice or information changes.

Questions

Confirmed or suspected cases

Social distancing

Most at risk

Symptoms and potential exposure

Overseas travel

Travel within Australia

Self-isolation

Office management

Working from home arrangements related to COVID-19

GovTEAMS

Confirmed or suspected cases

Do I need to let anyone know if I have been diagnosed with coronavirus?

Yes, you must advise your employing parliamentarian and MaPS at mpshelp@finance.gov.auif you have been diagnosed with coronavirus and the period you will be in isolation.

What do I do if I’m notified that one of my staff has been diagnosed with coronavirus?

Like any other illness, you should seek to obtain the appropriate medical evidence to support the absence. There is an additional requirement that medical clearance will be required for the employee to return to work. You should also advise MaPS at mpshelp@finance.gov.auas soon as they are aware of an employee being diagnosed. 

What should I do if someone in my office or building has coronavirus?

People infected with coronavirus must remain isolated in either their home or a healthcare setting until public health authorities inform them it is safe to return to their usual activities. Where there is a known case in one of the buildings housing the Commonwealth Parliament Offices or an electorate office, the building manager will organise for a special office clean.

It is a matter for the building managers to arrange all cleaning, including the use of protective arrangements by cleaning staff.

Once the office has been cleaned, staff will be able to return to the office.

Social distancing

What is social distancing and why is it important?

Social distancing includes ways to stop or slow the spread of infectious diseases. It means less contact between you and other people.

Social distancing is important because COVID-19 is most likely to spread from person-to-person through:

  • direct close contact with a person while they are infectious or in the 48 hours before their symptoms appeared
  • close contact with a person with a confirmed infection who coughs or sneezes
  • touching objects or surfaces (such as door handles or tables) contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with a confirmed infection, and then touching your mouth or face.

So the more space between you and others, the harder it is for the virus to spread.

Social distancing in the workplace

If you are sick, you must not attend your workplace. You must stay at home and away from others.

To reduce the spread of germs in the workplace:

  • stay at home wherever possible
  • stop handshaking as a greeting
  • hold meetings via video conferencing or phone call
  • defer large meetings
  • hold essential meetings outside in the open air if possible
  • promote good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene and provide hand sanitisers for all staff and workers
  • take lunch at your desk or outside rather than in the lunch room
  • clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly
  • consider opening windows and adjusting air conditioning for more ventilation
  • limit food handling and sharing of food in the workplace
  • reconsider non-essential business travel

More information about social distancing in the workplace can be found on the Safework Australia website.

Most at risk

Who is most at risk?

Some people who are infected may not get sick at all, some will get mild symptoms from which they will recover easily, and others may become very ill, very quickly. 

From previous experience with other coronaviruses, the people at most risk of serious infection are:

  • people with compromised immune systems (e.g. cancer patients)
  • elderly people
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as they have higher rates of chronic illness
  • people with chronic medical conditions
  • people in group residential settings
  • people in detention facilities
  • very young children and babies

At this stage, the risk to children and babies, and the role children play in transmission of COVID-19, is not clear. However, there has so far been a low rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children, relative to the broader population.

If you fall into this category, please discuss this and any impact on your working arrangements with your Parliamentarian, and if appropriate seek medical advice.

Symptoms and potential exposure

What should I do if I am experiencing cold or flu like symptoms?

If you are experiencing cold or flu like symptoms, you should not come to work – you should seek medical attention. If you are at work, you should leave and seek medical attention.  In both scenarios you should notify your employer/employees.

What does it mean to have been in ‘close contact’ with someone?

A close contact is defined as requiring:

  • greater than 15 minutes face-to-face contact in any setting with a confirmed case in the period extending from 48 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed case

OR

  • sharing of a closed space with a confirmed case for a prolonged period (e.g. more than 2 hours) in the period extending from 48 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed case.

What should I do if I have been in close contact with a person who has travelled to a higher risk country in past 14 days?

The Department of Health advice is that members of a household are not required to be isolated unless they have also travelled to a higher risk country in the past 14 days, or have been in close contact with someone who has a proven case of coronavirus.

Should I come to work if I have been in contact with someone that has flu like symptoms but has not been diagnosed with coronavirus?

If you have been in contact with someone who is unwell but has not been diagnosed with coronavirus (even if they have been isolated) and you are feeling well, you can continue to come to work. You should continue to monitor your health to protect both yourself and your colleagues, and practice good hygiene to protect against infection.

Overseas travel

Do I need to do anything if I have just returned from an overseas trip?

All travellers arriving into Australia from overseas after 12am 16 March 2020 must self-isolate for 14 days.

If you returned from overseas prior to this date, please see the list of high and moderate risk countries on the Department of Home Affairs website. If you travelled through one of these countries you must self-isolate for 14 days.

If you have returned from overseas prior to 12am 16 March 2020 from a country that has not been identified as high you must advise your employer/employees, and monitor your health for 14 days after leaving that country. If you develop a fever or cough, seek medical advice urgently and isolate yourself.

Travel within Australia

Can I travel domestically, including interstate, for work?

Each jurisdiction is at a different phase in responding to COVID-19 and has determined its own requirements in relation to work related travel. You can keep up to date on the latest response to the coronavirus in your state or territory by visiting the Australian Government website or by using the COVID-19 Restriction Checker.

If you would like personal advice about your planned travel, please contact the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority on 02 6215 3000 or enquiries@ipea.gov.au.

Self-isolation

When do I need to self-isolate?

You must self-isolate for 14 days if you

  • have returned or return from overseas after 12am 16 March 2020
  • have returned from a country identified as higher risk by the Department of Health
  • have been in close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with coronavirus

As the coronavirus situation is evolving each day, please refer to the Department of Health website or Department of Home Affairs website for the current list of countries considered as higher risk.

If you are self-isolating, please advise MaPS at mpshelp@finance.gov.au.

How long do I need to self-isolate for?

Self-isolation after visiting a higher risk country is usually 14 days from the time you left the country but you should refer to the Department of Health website for specific detail.

If you have been in close contact with a proven case of coronavirus, you must isolate yourself for 14 days from the date of last contact with the confirmed case. If you are self-isolating, please advise MaPS at mpshelp@finance.gov.au.

Office Management

Should I/Can I close my office?

This is a decision for each member of Parliament. Please review the current advice from the Department of Health when considering closing your office. It may be an option to close to all visitors and guests, but enable staff to continue working from the office.

What do I do if I need toilet paper or hand sanitiser for my Electorate Office?

You can place an order through COS as normal. If they are not able to fill your order, please contact your State Manager.

What happens if my building is a designated testing location?

Designated testing locations and clinics will operate under strict protocols to best protect everyone working and visiting them and those in the immediate vicinity. Where locations and clinics are co-located with other tenants, mechanisms such as dedicated entrances or wings and isolation controls will be implemented in line with health safety and standards. You should avoid any designated areas and entrances and continue to practice good hygiene such as regularly washing your hands and covering your mouth or nose when you cough or sneeze.

Can I arrange for testing in a Commonwealth office (Commonwealth Parliament Office/Electorate office)?

No. All Commonwealth offices, including your electorate office, Commonwealth Parliament Office and/or the meeting rooms, should not be used as a testing location for Parliamentarians or staff.  

Designated testing locations operate under strict protocols to best protect everyone working and visiting them, and those in the immediate vicinity.

If you are experiencing any symptoms please follow the advice above under ‘Symptoms and potential exposure’.

If you have recently travelled from interstate, including parliamentary sittings in the ACT, and wish to undertake testing please arrange for this at a designated testing location or seek medical advice.

Working from home arrangements relating to COVID-19

What needs to be done before I work from home?

Where an employee works from home they are required to complete the Work Health and Safety Checklist - Working from Home or from a Privately-Funded Office (Form 151), to meet WHS obligations. If any issues are identified through the completion of the Checklist, the employee should discuss the identified risks with their employer and ensure they are satisfactorily resolved. You should retain the checklist for future reference, however you do not need to send it to the Department.

If I have to work from home, will I get reimbursed for the cost of data and phone usage?

Members are provided ICT equipment (including mobile devices) by DPS as office resources. Additional ICT equipment and services can be provided by DPS with costs met from members’ annual budget for office expenses. The cost of software, including cloud-based services and storage, can also be met as an office expense.

Office resources and office expenses provided under the PBR Act must be used by the member or their staff for the dominant purpose of the member’s parliamentary business and must provide value for money.

Am I still covered under workers compensation while I am working from home?

Yes. Where an employee has approval to work from home you will be covered under the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (SRC Act). More information can be found on the Comcare website.

Comcare has released information for employers to assist in managing workers compensation claims arising from employees working from home during COVID-19. Please review the Comcare website alongside the Employer Information - claims involving working from home fact sheet.

How do I arrange an assessment of my workstation?

Consistent with your obligations to proactively take care of your own health and safety while at work, all employees working remotely must take active steps to set up a safe working environment. You are strongly encouraged to view a recorded webinar which provides an understanding of key home office ergonomic principles and a range of health, safety and wellbeing considerations to reduce the risk of injury when working in a home office environment. You can watch the live recording by accessing the MOPs Employee PDP channel on GoTo.

You are also encouraged to complete the online ergonomic self-assessment tool on Skytrust at www.skytrust.co. Where further assessment is required, it is possible to have a guided assessment over the phone via Facetime with our WHS provider.

To access the self-assessment tool go to the induction tile on the left hand column of the Skytrust homepage. On the next screen click on ‘start online Induction training’ and this will take you to the next screen where you will see the ‘Workstation Setup and Ergonomic Assessment tool’.

Can I take equipment that has been prescribed for me in a workstation assessment (e.g. special keyboard, special mouse, ergonomic chair) home with me?

If you have already been provided with ergonomic equipment from a prior assessment and require the equipment to enable you to work remotely, you should speak with your employer about safely transporting the equipment to your home for the duration of your working from home arrangement. All equipment must be returned to your work place once the arrangement has ceased.

Please contact DPS on (02) 6277 2020 regarding any ICT equipment you may wish to take home with you.

What are my obligations regarding staying in touch with my employer while I am working from home? How do I communicate with my colleagues while I am working from home?

This should be discussed within your teams, however it is very important to ensure regular communication is maintained if working remotely.

Managers should be ensuring all team members working remotely remain connected with the team and are in regular contact.

Formal expectations should be discussed with your employer.

What if I have a pre-existing injury?

If you currently have a compensable condition or are receiving support through the department for a non-compensable condition, it is important that you continue to adhere to any medical restrictions and return to work programs that have been implemented.

The Comcare website contains information for employees about how COVID-19 effects rehabilitation and return to work for existing claims. 

If you need additional support call the MaPS Helpdesk on 02 6215 3333 and they will direct you to the WHS team who can provide strategies to assist you.

How do I obtain support (technical, wellbeing etc.) while I am working from home?

Support can be obtained through the usual methods during periods where you are working from home.

DPS ICT– 02 6277 2020 

EAP – 1800 945 145 or info@assureprograms.com.au

WHS – MOPSWHS@finance.gov.au

MaPS Help Desk – 02 6215 3333

For more information see the working from home page on this website

What happens if I am injured while working from home?

Seek medical attention if required, immediately notify your supervisor that you have sustained an injury and submit an incident report through Skytrust at www.skytrust.co. You could also call the WHS Provider JLT on 1300 418 288 or email mops.safety@jlt.com.auto notify the incident.

Early intervention may be available for injuries sustained while working from home. Please contact MOPSsupport@finance.gov.auto discuss with one of our case managers.

GovTEAMS

What is GovTEAMS and how can I use it?

GovTEAMS is an online collaboration platform specifically developed for the Australian Government by the Department of Finance. It is important to note that GovTEAMS is not hosted or managed by DPS. The solution provides users with access to team chat, audio and video conferencing. We recommend  this platform is used for video conferencing only and not used to share, store or transmit any documents or material that would normally be managed through the parliamentary computing network.

Prior to registering, you should consider any matters pertaining to parliamentary privilege and the use of GovTEAMS. Please read the Privacy Notice and  Terms of Use prior to registering.

How do I use GovTEAMS?

To use GovTEAMS, you will need to register from the GovTEAMS website. Once registered you can create a community and invite other members and guests to join your community as required.

Further information is available through the GovTEAMS website, the GovTEAMS getting started guide and the GovTEAMS registration guide. When registering, please select 'Department of Parliamentary Services' as your Department. Offices requiring assistance in the use of GovTEAMS should contact Finance at MOPs.GovTEAMS@finance.gov.au.

Last updated: 07 October 2020