Twenty days’ special pandemic leave for Queensland’s public servants

By Shannon Jenkins

March 19, 2020

Brisbane. Adobe

Public servants in Queensland who refuse to go to work for fear of contracting coronavirus risk suspension, according to a new government directive.

The directive released this week by Queensland Public Service Commission chief Robert Setter and Industrial Relations minister Grace Grace says that employees can access “special pandemic leave” in a range of instances, including if their train has been cancelled.

Public servants can access up to 20 days’ paid special pandemic leave for when they have used up their sick leave in the instance that they are unwell, or they have to care for someone else. The leave can be granted to casual workers, at the discretion of their chief executive.

Once the 20 days run out, staff will be expected to use their recreation leave, then long service leave entitlements.

The leave also applies when “employees are unable to attend work because they are reliant on public transport and services are suspended or cancelled”.

However, those who refuse to go to work could be punished.

“Where an employee refuses to attend work for fear of contracting the virus and such refusal is
deemed as not reasonable, the chief executive may consider disciplinary action and/or suspension
as appropriate,” the directive states.

If a public servant has been authorised to skip work to volunteer in the community, “such absence is deemed to be included under the leave type ‘attendance at emergencies’ or ‘declared emergency situation or state disaster’”.

The directive states that supporting documentation will be required for all absences of paid special pandemic leave.

“Where employees access the leave as a result of illness, or need to care for ill family or household members, they may not be required to provide a medical certificate; they may instead provide a copy of a record to confirm they (or their family member) have undergone a relevant assessment or such other documentation or advice which satisfies agency requirements,” it says.

The directive lists various instances where employees will be paid as usual.

“Where employees are directed by the agency not to attend their workplace and are unable to undertake flexible work arrangements or work at a reasonable alternative location, such employees are to be paid regular remuneration without debit to any leave account,” it states.

“Where an agency closes down a workplace due to health and safety issues and/or unavailability of sufficient staff, any employees who normally attend work at that workplace shall either be directed to attend work at a reasonable alternative workplace, undertake flexible work arrangements or be directed not to attend any workplace due to not being required.

“Where directed by the agency not to attend work such employees are to be paid regular remuneration without debit to any leave account.”

Those with symptoms of the virus should stay away from the workplace for the recommended self-isolation time or until they are cleared to return to work, and employees with COVID-19 should stay away for the prescribed period, the guidance says.

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