Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Last updated
02 August 2022

With the surge in COVID-19 cases, compounded by the spread of other respiratory illnesses and influenza, it is essential that we continue to manage COVID-19 in our workplaces. Some specific measures will help reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

Vaccination

Keeping up to date with your vaccinations is an important aspect of protecting against COVID-19.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has released updated recommendations for a winter COVID-19 vaccination dose (second booster / fourth dose).

The updated recommendations are:

  • winter doses can be given 3 months after the first booster dose (previously 4 months)
  • adults aged 50 to 64 years are now recommended to get a winter COVID-19 vaccine dose (second booster)
  • adults aged 30 to 49 years can get a winter COVID-19 vaccine dose, however the benefit for people in this age group is less certain.

People who have recently had COVID-19 should still wait 3 months after infection before they get their next dose.

COVID-protocols

If you are experiencing cold or flu like symptoms, you should not come to work – you should be tested for COVID-19, and seek medical attention if required.  Discuss with your employer if you have any concerns, and stay at home if you experience any symptoms or if you are a household contact.

Masks and physical distancing

You are strongly encouraged to carry a mask and wear it when it is not possible to physically distance.  Further information on the wearing of masks and physical distancing is included below.

Health and wellbeing

It is important to acknowledge the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on us all.  The links below provide some helpful advice.

Information about work health safety and wellbeing during COVID-19 can be found on the dedicated page on this website. This includes practical tips, the Employee Assistance Program, the working from home checklist and other helpful resources.

For information on the current status of COVID-19 in Australia, please visit the Department of Health website.

Health directions and information relating to COVID-19 may differ between each state or territory.

If you are seeking guidance for people who test positive for COVID-19 and close contacts, as well as testing, quarantine and mask-wearing requirements for each state and territory, please refer to the links below for specific information depending on your location:

General guidance for managing the impacts of COVID-19 in the workplace is provided below, and is updated as advice or information changes.

You can also check the COVID-19 Restriction Checker on the healthdirect website for specific information on restrictions and requirements in each state and territory.

Symptoms and potential exposure

The common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, coughing, sore throat and shortness of breath. Other symptoms can include runny nose, headache, muscle or joint pains, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of sense of smell, altered sense of taste, loss of appetite and fatigue.

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 be tested for COVID-19 , and seek medical attention if required. If you are at work, you should leave and be tested for COVID-19 and seek medical attention if required. In both scenarios you should notify your employer/employees.

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

Different states and territories have different requirements for close contacts of people with COVID-19. If you are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19, visit your state or territory health department website to see what rules apply to you.

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

Whether you have to quarantine as a close contact of a person who has returned from overseas depends on the rules in the state or territory you are returning to.

You can check the COVID-19 Restriction Checker on the healthdirect website for specific information on restrictions and requirements in each state and territory.

Should I come to work if I have been in contact with someone that has flu like symptoms but has not been diagnosed with COVID-19?

If you have been in contact with someone who is unwell but has not been diagnosed with COVID-19 (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 practise good hygiene to protect against infection.

Confirmed or suspected cases

Do I need to let anyone know if I have been diagnosed with COVID-19?

If there is a positive COVID-19 case, please email Marsh at mops.safety@marsh.com with the following information:

  • staff member(s) name
  • date of positive test result and type of test (RAT/PCR)
  • office location
  • last date in office
  • names of close contacts (if applicable)

Alternatively, you can report a COVID Positive case by calling Marsh on 1300 418 288. 

You, or someone in your office, should also contact the Ventia Helpdesk to ensure that appropriate cleaning arrangements are made or contact your State Manager to discuss the requirements.

What do I do if I’m notified that one of my staff has been diagnosed with COVID-19?

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 follow the steps in the information above about notifying Marsh, Ventia and your State Manager.  

What should I do if someone in my office or building has COVID-19?

People infected with COVID-19 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, a special office clean will be organised. If you become aware of a known case in the CPO you should contact your local State/Territory Manager to ensure that appropriate cleaning arrangements are made.

If you become aware of a known positive case in your electorate office, you should contact the Ventia Helpdesk to ensure that appropriate cleaning arrangements are made.

It is a matter for the building managers to arrange all cleaning, including the use of protective arrangements by cleaning staff, however, by contacting Ventia or your local State/Territory Manager you can confirm that they are aware of the matter.

Masks

Do I need to wear a mask in my workplace?

Wearing a mask is mandatory in some settings, and recommended if you can’t physically distance from others. For specific requirements in your relevant state or territory, refer to the COVID-19 Restriction Checker on the healthdirect website.

Do MaPS provide masks for MOP(S) Act employees?

Limited numbers of masks are able to be claimed as an office expense for use within the workplace. Masks can be purchased through COS. Instructions on the correct use and storage of masks should be provided with your purchase.

Rapid Antigen Tests

What is a Rapid Antigen Test?

Rapid antigen testing is a screening tool to help detect COVID-19 in people without any symptoms of COVID-19. The test generally involves a nasal swab (using a small cotton bud-like swab) that is placed into a chemical solution. The result displays within 15 to 20 minutes. Rapid antigen tests (RATs) have been used internationally and in some high risk Australian industries to screen employees for COVID-19 with no symptoms.

Can a rapid antigen test be used for diagnosing COVID-19?

Rapid antigen tests have some limitations compared to COVID-19 tests (Polymerase Chain Reaction tests or PCR) used at testing clinics. PCR remains the standard for COVID-19 diagnostic testing. If you develop symptoms or are identified as a close or casual contact of someone who has COVID-19, you must get tested and self-isolate. Depending on your State or Territory, you may be able to use a rapid antigen test to check if you are positive for COVID19 rather than a PCR test.

Please follow your appropriate state/territory health department  for any local requirements and advice on testing arrangements, including the use of RATs, which may apply in your state or territory.

Rapid antigen tests may be used if you are planning to visit a high risk site such as an aged care facility or a person who is elderly or immunosuppressed.

Does MaPS provide rapid antigen testing kits for MOP(S) Act employees?

No, at this time MaPS does not provide rapid antigen testing kits.

Unless indicated by a Public Health Direction, MOP(S) workplaces are not considered high risk workplaces (e.g. nursing homes, hospitals), therefore rapid antigen tests are not required in the workplace at this time.

What about if a MOPS employee needs to travel for work?

MaPS is not funding the purchase of rapid antigen testing kits for parliamentarians or their staff, regardless of whether staff are intending, or required, to travel.

MaPS have not issued guidance at this time on domestic travel as each jurisdiction has different requirements and has determined its own requirements in relation to travel. Given the changing nature of these requirements, you should keep up to date on the latest response to the coronavirus in your state or territory, or any state or territories you travel to, on Australia.gov.au. If you are affected by travel restrictions, you will need to notify and discuss the requirement to travel with your employing parliamentarian. 

Rapid Antigen Tests – more information

Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) advises in the wider community setting where there are low rates of COVID-19, the tests are less accurate as there is a higher risk of false positive and false negative results.

Rapid antigen self-testing guidance is also available from some local state and territory health departments:

Additional Information on Rapid Antigen tests can be found on the Health Website.

Physical distancing

What is physical distancing and why is it important?

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

Physical 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.

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

More information about physical distancing in the workplace can be found on Safe Work Australia.

Overseas travel

The current information about international travel can be found on the australia.gov.au website.

Self-isolation

When do I need to self-isolate?

If you have COVID-19 or health authorities suspect you may have it, you must go into mandatory isolation as directed by your state or territory health authority.

You can find out more about self-isolation on the Department of Health website.

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

Working from home arrangements relating to COVID-19

Do I need Ministerial approval to work from home or for an alternative work base?

As noted in Circular 2020/02 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, parliamentarians can approve working from home and leave arrangements. The Minister does not need to approve these working from home arrangements.

If an employee with an established work base is working from home temporarily during the COVID-19 situation, Ministerial approval for the employee to work from home or approval for an alternative work base is not required.

If an employee is temporarily working from an alternative location during the COVID-19 pandemic for personal reasons, they will not have been directed to travel to that location by their employing parliamentarian on official business. Therefore, they will not be entitled to claim Travel or Travelling Allowance related to working from that location. If an employee is working from an alternative location that is interstate, the employing parliamentarian should notify the Minister in writing that they have an employee that will be based interstate during the COVID-19 situation.

If an employee is permanently relocating to a new location, the employing parliamentarian must seek approval if the new location is an ongoing working from home arrangement and/or an alternative work base, i.e. the usual Ministerial approvals must be sought.

If the employee is a casual employee and their work location would be an alternative work base (e.g. not Parliament House or an office provided at Commonwealth expense), the employing parliamentarian must seek the Minister’s approval, as the employee does not have an established work base.

What needs to be done before I work from home?

Where an employee works from home they are required to complete the WHS Checklist - Working from home or from a privately funded or satellite office 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 MaPS.

The ATO has provided advice on working from home during COVID-19 as part of an individual's personal tax arrangements. Employees can consider this in relation to equipment purchased to support them working from home during COVID-19.

To assist with reducing the rate of transmission of COVID-19 throughout the community, the Department of Health has outlined circumstances where individuals should self-isolate.

The Minister has provided flexibility to Parliamentarians to make decisions to address staffing needs and working arrangements within their respective electorate offices (see Circular 2020/06). In doing so, the Minister has encouraged each Parliamentarian to consider the health and safety obligations and the advice from the Department of Health in determining how to minimise risks to their staff and other persons in the electorate office arising from potential exposure to COVID-19.

This would include educating workers on best practice to minimise the spread of infection, self-isolation requirements or potentially closing electorate offices to the public.              

This guidance does not cover situations where an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19, is caring for somebody who has, and/or is required to self-isolate by a relevant health authority. Leave arrangements in these circumstances are set out below.

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

Parliamentarians 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 parliamentarians’ 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 parliamentarian or their staff for the dominant purpose of the parliamentary business and must provide value for money.

Consistent with whole of government protocols relating to COVID-19, the following arrangements have been put in place for MOP(S) Act employees.

MOP(S) staff who are required to meet costs personally, such as mobile phone and data use, may wish to seek a discretionary payment. This is provided under clause 26 of the MOPS Enterprise Agreement.

To be eligible:

  • You must be a current MOP(S) Act employee
  • You mustn’t have received, or be intending to receive, reimbursement or compensation through other means
  • You must have incurred additional costs (which are able to be quantified) that you would not have otherwise incurred, e.g. additional mobile data costs beyond the allocation under your mobile plan
  • The additional costs must represent value for money, e.g. you sought to minimise costs by purchasing an additional block of data, rather than paying for individual gigabytes
  • The additional costs must be directly related to working remotely because of COVID-19.

To check the eligibility of your claim or to submit a claim please contact the Help Desk: mpshelp@finance.gov.au.

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 1988 (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 also encouraged to complete the online ergonomic self-assessment tool on the MOP(S) Learning and to check the ergonomic and worksite assessments page. Where further assessment is required, it is possible to have a guided assessment with our WHS provider.

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 MaPS 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 Help Desk and select option 2, they will direct you to the WHS officer 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 

EAP1800 808 374 or info@assureprograms.com.au

WHS – MOPSWHS@finance.gov.au

MaPS Help Desk – (02) 6215 3333

What happens if I am injured while working from home?

Seek medical attention if required, and notify your supervisor that you have sustained an injury and submit an incident report through Skytrust at www.skytrust.co as soon as possible. You could also call the WHS provider on 1300 418 288 or email mops.safety@marsh.com to notify of the incident.

Early intervention may be available for injuries sustained while working from home. Please contact MOPSsupport@finance.gov.au to discuss with one of our HR Advice and Support 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.

Leave relating to COVID-19

Ongoing and non-ongoing employees

For ongoing and non-ongoing employees, various forms of leave may be granted depending on an employee’s circumstances. Refer to the table below. 

Circumstance

Form of leave

Employee is well but is required to self-isolate AND CAN work from home

None – employee can work from home

Employee is well but is required to self-isolate AND CANNOT work from home

Paid miscellaneous leave

 

Employee:

  • initially is well but is required to self-isolate AND CANNOT work from home
  • then subsequently becomes unwell from COVID-19

Paid miscellaneous leave until the employee becomes unwell, then they should access paid personal leave

If an employee exhausts their paid personal leave after they become unwell, they can be granted paid miscellaneous leave.

Employee is unwell from COVID-19

Paid personal leave

If an employee exhausts their paid personal leave they can be granted paid miscellaneous leave

Employee is caring for a member of the employee’s immediate family or household who is unwell from COVID-19

Paid carer’s leave

If an employee exhausts their paid personal leave they can be granted paid miscellaneous leave

Employee is unwell but not from COVID-19

Paid personal leave

If an employee exhausts their paid personal leave they can be granted unpaid personal leave.

Employee is caring for children due to school closures

Employees may access working from home arrangements with their employer's approval. 

Employees who choose not to continue working will need their employer's approval to use existing leave credits such as annual leave, long service leave and, where appropriate, personal leave.

Casual employees

Leave relating to COVID-19

The Minister for Finance signed a determination under the MOP(S) Act creating special paid leave for casual employees:

  • where the employee has to self-isolate due to COVID-19 for a medically advised period,
  • where the employee has to attend a COVID-19 vaccination appointment or
  • when the employee is unwell with COVID-19.

The approved leave is for the hours that a casual employee would have worked but for their self-isolation, appointment, or illness.

Special paid leave for casual employees is limited to circumstances relating to COVID-19.

As a casual employee, how do I access paid leave?

You must have a casual employment agreement as per normal. You will be paid for the hours specified in the employment agreement.

If you take special paid leave, you or your office must notify MaPS in writing of the hours you are on leave to MOPSPay&Conditions@finance.gov.au.

Who approves leave and what evidence is required?

Your employing parliamentarian must approve all leave requests and will determine what evidence is required in support of a leave request.

How much leave can be granted?

For paid miscellaneous leave and special paid leave, your employing parliamentarian may grant leave for the medically advised period.

How long are these arrangements in place?

These are temporary arrangements. The Minister will review these measures in the future to ensure they are working as intended to support parliamentarians and their staff.

What should I do if I want more information about MaPS response to COVID-19?

If you have any questions please contact mpshelp@finance.gov.au.

Further information can be found by contacting your state or territory public health authority:

ACT

02 5124 9213 (during business hours)

02 9962 4155 (after hours)

NSW 1300 066 055
NT 08 8922 8044
QLD 13 43 25 84 (13HEALTH)
SA 1300 232 272
TAS 1800 671 738
VIC 1300 651 160
WA

08 9328 0553

or call your public health unit

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

If you are concerned or feel anxious about coronavirus (Covid-19), you or your family can talk with professional psychologists, as part of the Employee Assistance Program. This is a free and confidential service. For appointments contact Assure Services on 1800 808 374, book online at EAP Appointment Request or email info@assureprograms.com.au.

Circulars

Guidance and further resources