The Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety has agreed to extend fixed-term contracts and is offering flexible working arrangements to support front line staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a memo to employees, DJCS secretary Rebecca Falkingham announced a number of key changes, including special leave provisions and new quarantine arrangements.
After pressure from the Community and Public Sector Union, the department has granted an extension of fixed-term contracts. Staff who began working at DJCS before March 1 and are due to cease on or before June 30 will have their contract extended to December 31. The change relates to fixed term contracts across the whole department, Falkingham noted.
“This is particularly important for a great many of our hardworking frontline and operational staff, providing them with stability and security at this challenging time,” she said.
The extension is available to employees who’ve met performance and attendance requirements, are willing to deliver work though other changed working arrangements, and are seeking an extension of their existing employment contract.
The extension would not apply to those who have already been told their contract would not be extended after March.
Falkingham said other changes include working arrangements for frontline staff during the pandemic.
“Face-to-face work will be limited to providing custodial services, essential community services that can’t be provided remotely and emergency support. Far greater use of telephone and other technology will be used to support our clients, staff and their families to stay safe and resilient,” she said.
Frontline workers will have access to personal, carers’ and other leave entitlements to cover COVID-19 related circumstances including:
- required quarantine or self-isolation,
- absence from work due to COVID-19 related illness (subject to the exception for voluntary employee travel),
- caring for a family or household member who is required to quarantine or self-isolate,
- required absence from work,
- required absence for scheduled school holidays, or in circumstances where school or childcare centres are closed, or school holidays are extended.
For those working from home, Falkingham said web-based platforms and other technology-based collaborative applications will be used to keep teams connected and provide opportunities for professional development.
She said a hotline to support frontline staff who have questions or health concerns will soon be established.
The department has also secured a supply of personal protective equipment for distribution across the network in the coming week. Antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser is also expected to be distributed in the coming week.
Falkingham thanked staff for their “collective resilience, collaboration and dedication”.
“I would like to thank all those involved in delivering this important and urgent work. We will continue to work collaboratively with both the CPSU and the Department of Health and Human Services on ongoing efforts to keep the community and our frontline workforce safe,” she said.
See below for the full list of changes for DJCS staff.
Justice Service Centres
Reception areas are now closed to the public, and front-end reception will be delivered via telephone. Reception staff will transfer calls on the usual office number to relevant DJCS staff. Staff in smaller centres may be redirected to other locations to support critical services. Instructions for clients who present at offices are posted at the reception entrance.
Corporate services staff located in the service centres are working remotely where possible, in consultation with their line managers. Rosters are being put in place with some staff working remotely periodically to maintain the presence of justice officers in centres.
In prisons, social distancing for staff and prisoners is being implemented where possible, and procedures are being updated, such as the use of personal protective equipment.
Protective quarantine units have also been established across five prisons. All prisoners coming into the system will be required to spend 14 days in a protective quarantine unit.
Corporate services staff will remain onsite and will discuss location-based requirements with the prison general manager.
Community Correctional Services
Case-management and supervision of offenders will be conducted remotely where possible. Precautions have been put in place where staff must manage offenders face-to-face.
Youth Justice custodial and community services
Safety precautions have been introduced in custody and for the community workforce. These involve screening processes, new ways of supporting young people in custody, changes to daily programs and movement across precincts.
The case management and supervision of young people will be conducted remotely where possible. Face-to-face supervision will be reserved for essentials functions, with precautionary procedures put in place.
Sheriffs, Consumer Affairs Victoria and Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria
Staff are commencing remote working arrangements in consultation with their line managers.