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COVID-19

Please note the advice provided on this page is intended as general industrial advice for SASMOA Members. If you are a salaried doctor and have specific concerns, please contact SASMOA directly to discuss your particular circumstances by email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

COVID-19 and SASMOA Member safety

Firstly, thank you to all SASMOA doctors for everything you are doing to keep our community safe during the COVID-19 health emergency.

 

There’s no doubt that for many of us, the coming weeks and months will be the most challenging of our professional careers. We can’t promise it won’t be tough, but we can promise that we will be here for you, to advocate for your health and safety, and to address any workplace concerns you have.

 

SASMOA’s priorities during this time is to represent South Australia’s salaried doctors regarding:

 

  • Your health and safety in the workplace
  • Appropriate PPE availability and protocols
  • Staffing levels, workloads, fatigue, and your physical and mental welfare
  • Consistent and clear communication and governance from your employer/s
  • Your industrial entitlements

We are working closely with the Local Health Networks, SA Health, the State Government and other unions regarding these and other concerns. We will not hesitate to make concerns public when needed but are approaching the task with the intent to be proactive, constructive and solutions-focussed.

 

To keep up with COVID-19 information:

Below is a list of FAQs and important documents relevant to SA salaried doctors

SASMOA will continue to issue Member Updates via email regarding COVID-19 and other issues. If you are a Member and not receiving these emails please let us know. You can also log-in as a Member to read these updates on this website

During these challenging times we are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our medical workforce is not compromised. As always, you can get in touch with us via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Dr David Pope, President, SASMOA

Bernadette Mulholland, Senior Industrial Officer, SASMOA

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Below is a list of frequently asked questions relevant to salaried doctors in the South Australian state industrial relations public health system on their employment obligations and entitlements.

If you have questions regarding your circumstances, please contact SASMOA directly via email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

COVID-19 Special Leave with Pay

The Supplementary Commissioners Determination 3.1 specifies that the new entitlement of 15 working days of special leave with pay for COVID-19 is available in the circumstances listed below.

It is important to note that in each of the below circumstances, the employer is obliged to offer flexible working arrangements (including working from home) where practical and appropriate, prior to leave being considered.

Where instructed, SASMOA will pursue circumstances where there has not been genuine consideration of practical and appropriate flexible work arrangements prior to requiring an employee to take leave.

 

Service closures (full or partial)

Where a service has temporarily ceased (full or partial), or where a workplace physically closes.

Self-isolation - interstate travel

 

Where an employee travelled interstate prior to the direction issued by the Australian Government on 22 March 2020, and was placed on mandatory self-isolation for 14 days.

Self-isolation – overseas travel

Where an employee travelled overseas prior to the direction issued by the Australian Government to self-isolate on return to Australia from 12.00am 16 March 2020.

Self-isolation – contact from CDCB

Where required to self-isolate as directed by the Communicable Diseases Control Branch as part of contact tracing.

Self-isolation – other reasons

Whilst not specified in the Determination, employees directed to isolate for other reasons (including waiting COVID-19 test results) should be entitled to claim special leave. Noting that if an employee has COVID-19 symptoms or is otherwise sick, they would be required to take sick leave from that point.

Sickness

If an employee is unwell, current sick leave entitlements must be taken prior to any special leave being granted.

 

In instances where sick leave is exhausted and the employee has tested positive for COVID-19, Chief Executives may grant special leave with pay on a case-by-case basis.

 

At the request of the employee, other additional paid leave may also be taken (e.g. annual leave/LSL).

Caring for sick family member (COVID-19) [1]

 

 

 

Access to accrued sick leave for the purpose of caring for a family member for the full duration of any required period of isolation, or for the full duration of the dependent or household member’s illness relating to COVID-19.

 

Once sick leave entitlements have been exhausted, COVID-19 special leave with pay will be provided.

Living with vulnerable family member[2]

 

Employee will have access to accrued sick leave entitlements to use as carers leave if they wish to remain away from the workplace because they live with a vulnerable family member.

 

Once sick/carer’s leave is exhausted, and if employees have annual leave accrual in excess of 12 months, they can be directed to take this. If they do not have in excess of 12 months accrual of annual leave, special leave with pay for COVID-19 will be provided.

[1] family member includes, spouse or defacto, child/stepchild, parent or parent-in-law, member of persons household, grandparent or grandchild, other person who is dependent on the employee’s care.

[2] vulnerable includes persons with an underlying health condition (e.g. a compromised immune system, for example due to cancer, or a chronic medical condition which places them at serious risk); OR are aged over 50 as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person;  over 65 with a chronic medical condition; or over 70.

 

The Supplementary Commissioners Determination 3.1 specifies that a new entitlement of 15 working days special leave with pay for COVID-19 is not available in the circumstances listed below.

It is important to note that in each of the below circumstances, the employer is obliged to offer flexible working arrangements (including working from home) where practical and appropriate, prior to leave being considered.

Where instructed, SASMOA will be pursuing employers who do not genuinely consider practical and appropriate flexible work arrangements prior to requiring an employee to take their own leave.

 

School Closures[3]

 

Employees with care arrangements impacted by school or child-care closure can access accrued sick leave entitlements to use as carer’s leave.  

Self-Isolation - travel after certain dates

 

If travel personal commenced after the announcement by the Government directions (both State and Federal), the period is covered by either recreation, long service, DILs, retention leave or special leave without pay.

Workplace shutdown for “deep-cleaning”

Where directed by the Government or Chief Public Health Officers, the affected employees will be deemed ‘absent on duty’ on full pay.

 

[3] sick leave cannot be used for ordinary school holidays corresponding with published school term dates and pupil free days – these are managed as per existing agency processes, with employees to use existing leave entitlements if they cannot attend work and it is not practicable to use flexible working arrangements.

 

Not at this stage. SASMOA has written to the Commission for Public Sector Employment about the need to provide paid leave to casual and VMOs affected by COVID-19 to ensure that they are not financially disadvantaged when taking the necessary precautions in order to care for the community and themselves.

COVID-19 Special Leave with Pay applies to part time employees on a pro rata basis in that the amount of working days available would be proportionate to the full-time equivalent (FTE) of that employee.

A medical certificate will not be required to access sick leave entitlements for COVID-19 related absences, unless expressly required by the Chief Executive.

Chief Executives may additionally communicate a requirement to gain medical clearance for employees providing frontline services, prior to their return to work.


Vulnerable Workers

Per the Supplementary Commissioners Determination 3.1, all LHNs must actively consider and must implement ‘work from home’ arrangements for populations within their workforce who are able to do so, within the constraints of maintaining effective operations and essential services.

Vulnerable Workers

It has been recommended that people falling in the following categories self-isolate at home and do not attend work:

  •          Persons with an underlying health condition (e.g. a compromised immune system)
  •          People are aged over 50 as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person;
  •          People over 65 with a chronic medical condition
  •          People over 70

Vulnerable workers should be supported with flexible work arrangement (including work from home) where practical and appropriate and, where instructed, SASMOA will pursue circumstances where there has not been genuine consideration of practical and appropriate flexible work arrangements prior to requiring an employee to take leave.

Where flexible work arrangements are not practical or appropriate, vulnerable workers will have access to 15 days of COVID-19 Special Leave, followed by the employees own leave entitlements (including LSL and annual leave at half pay).

SASMOA is currently clarifying whether sick leave entitlements will also be made available to support the employee staying at home.

Please refer to the SA Health FAQ for further information.

 


Pregnant Women

Pregnant women should be supported with flexible work arrangement (including work from home) where practical and appropriate and, where instructed, SASMOA will pursue circumstances where there has not been genuine consideration of practical and appropriate flexible work arrangements prior to requiring an employee to take leave.

Additionally, where medically recommended pregnant women are entitled to be transferred to a safe job under Clause 6.7.11 of the SA Medical Officers Award, and must be supported to take leave if that is not practical.

Where flexible work arrangements are not practical or appropriate, 15 working days of COVID-19 Special Leave will be available to pregnant women, followed by an employee's own leave entitlements (including annual leave and LSL at half pay or commencing paid maternity leave early).

SASMOA is currently clarifying whether sick leave entitlements will also be made available to support the employee staying at home.

Pregnant women should also be aware that they may be required to provide a medical clearance if intending to work past 34 weeks pregnant.

Any vulnerable/pregnant members who are experiencing difficultly negotiating appropriate work arrangements – including those wishing to remain in the workplace - should contact the SASMOA office for further advice.

Please refer to the SA Health FAQ for further information.

Vulnerable employee should be offered flexible work arrangements (including work from home) where practical and appropriate.

Should a vulnerable worker wish to remain in the workplace, LHNs must undertake a risk assessment and ensure they are mitigating the risk to employees as far as is reasonably practicable.

If an employer is directing an employee to stay away from the workplace as a precautionary measure in circumstances where the employee is not required to self-isolate and the employee is ready, willing and able to work, SASMOA will support a claim for payment of normal wages for the period they are directed to remain away from work.


Miscellaneous Work Directions & Leave

Any request to work additional hours must not be unlawful; unreasonable in the circumstances or represent a risk to the health and safety of the employee.

All additional hours must be paid per current industrial instruments and practices.

The declaration of a major emergency or a disaster under section 23 or 24 of the Emergency Management Act or the declaration of a public health incident or public health emergency under section 86 or 87 of the SA Public Health Act is the trigger for potential activation of the Public Sector Mobilisation Policy.

SASMOA and its members always stand ready to work with government to address the challenges that emergency situations and disasters may present, including the response to COVID-19, and SASMOA is of the view that it should be unnecessary to use legislative powers to compel medical staff to support a response to an Emergency/Disaster.

Members should be aware that even in emergency situations any directions to employees must not be unlawful; unreasonable in the circumstances or represent a risk to the health and safety of the employee.

To date there has not been a blanket cancellation of existing approved leave, with the exception of Professional Development. LHN’s have been advised to consider previously approved leave and may revoke planned leave if the employee is critical to ongoing service delivery.

In accordance with Schedule 1, Part 4, clause 5(3) of the Public Sector Act 2009 (PS Act) and regulation 21(4) of the Public Sector Regulations 2010, employees with annual/recreation leave entitlements in excess of 12 month’s accrual may be directed to reduce their leave balances with three business days’ notice.

You can still put in requests for leave, but these will be considered in the context of the current and anticipated service needs.

SASMOA expect leave to still be considered on a case by case basis, taking into consideration personal circumstances (e.g. weddings, funerals etc).

In accordance with Schedule 1, Part 4, clause 5(3) of the Public Sector Act, employees may elect to take annual/recreation leave on half salary, and in that event:

  1. the period of leave is to be twice the period to which the employee would otherwise have been entitled; and
  2. the first half of the leave is to be taken on full pay; and
  3. the second half of the leave is to be taken to be leave without pay

Employees are being provided with the option to cash-out a portion of their recreation leave if they wish to do so and their circumstances fall within the financial hardship criteria.

An employee with a family member who has lost their job and is experiencing financial hardship, may apply to receive a lump sum payment in lieu of their accrued annual/recreation or long service leave.

No employee can be directed to cash-out any portion of their recreation leave. This is intended as a beneficial measure for all public sector employees in response to unprecedented circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Applications must request one week of leave to be paid out as a minimum and must retain at least two weeks of recreation leave. Long service leave may be paid out to a zero balance.


Workers Compensation

If you cannot work due to COVID19 contracted at work you will be entitled to income compensation. In general terms, income compensation is usually based on average earnings over the year prior to stopping work due to injury or illness. However, the rate of income compensation is capped at twice State Average Weekly Earnings (currently, $3,128.80 weekly).

After one year, income compensation is paid at 80% of the rate originally fixed.

Medical expense compensation and rehabilitation assistance is also available. If COVID19 leaves you with permanent impairment, compensation for that impairment will be payable if the permanent impairment is assessed at 5% impairment of your whole person or more.

Firstly, in general terms, if an employee from a work caused injury or illness suffered in 2020 and leaves a partner and / or an eligible child or children (under 18, in full time study and under 26 years old or cannot earn a living due to disability), an untaxed lump sum of $521,158 is payable. The lump sum may be split between a partner and eligible children.

Secondly, economically dependent partners (whether partially or wholly economically dependent) and eligible children are entitled to income compensation.

A partner who is totally economically dependent will be entitled to 50% of the income compensation applicable had the injured worker lived (which may mean until they would have reached Commonwealth age pension age). A partner who was partially economically dependent will be entitled to a lesser percentage depending on the extent of the dependency.If both partners’ income contributes to the household budget, partners will usually be economically dependant on each other for these purposes.

Thirdly, compensation capped (for 2020) at $10,999 is payable towards funeral costs.

Fourthly, family members are entitled to compensation for counselling associated with the death. A record of possible sources of exposure as mentioned above will likely be even more valuable if the person concerned is no longer able to explain their work and non-work sources of possible exposure.

Workers who are within 2 years of Commonwealth pension age or at or above Commonwealth pension age have up to 2 years of income entitlements.

If COVID19 from work makes some other condition you have worse, depending on the circumstances you may be entitled to compensation for that worsening. 

Under the Return to Work Act, a compensable injury includes an injury that is, or results from, the aggravation, acceleration, exacerbation, deterioration or recurrence of a prior injury(even if that prior injury is not a work-related injury).  For example, if there was a pre-existing cardiac condition (whether symptomatic or asymptomatic) and COVID19 placed additional stress on the cardiac system resulting in an infarction that may not have occurred at that time absent the COVID19, the infarction is probably a compensable injury. In that circumstance income and medical expense compensation would likely be payable, rehabilitation assistance should be provided and, if the infarction caused whole person impairment of 5% or more, lump sum compensation would likely be payable.

If COVID19 from work makes some other condition you have worse and that leads to you needing time away from work, medical treatment or suffering any permanent damage to your body you should seek advice about your specific situation.

As it stands, our State legislation requires a worker who contracts the virus to prove they contracted it from work, on the balance of probabilities. That may be difficult if for example other members of the doctor's family (or friends) also contract the virus around the same time as they did.

Under the Return To Work Act 2014 (RTW Act) South Australia has a list of jobs and medical conditions that are presumed to have occurred (deemed injuries) because the injury or disease occurred when they were undertaking a task that is likely to have caused that injury or disease. Unless there is proof to the contrary from the insurer/employer (the reverse onus) then the claim for that injury is accepted.

COVID-19 is not currently on this list for frontline doctors. SASMOA has written to the Premier requesting that COVID-19 be added to the list for frontline doctors and will continue to campaign to support doctors who expose themselves and their families to risk from being at work.

Yes, you may be entitled to claim other benefits available through superannuation or insurance in addition to workers compensation, including Super SA Income Protection, Death and Total and Permanent Disablement cover included with your superannuation.

 

Relevant Documents

If you have questions regarding the application of the following to your circumstances, please contact SASMOA directly via email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • DETERMINATION OF THE COMMISSIONER FOR PUBLIC SECTOR EMPLOYMENT 3.1: Employment Conditions – Hours of Work, Overtime and Leave: Supplementary Provisions for COVID-19 - link
  • South Australian Public Sector COVID-19 Workforce Arrangements – link to official page which includes Mobilisation Policy, changed leave arrangements and other important information: link
  • COVID-19 PANDEMIC: Payment in lieu of accrued leave (SA Government) – link
  • COVID-19 Bulk Billed MBS Telehealth Services Provider Frequently Asked Questions – link
  • Salaried Medical Officers Enterprise Agreement 2017 – link
  • SA Health Mindfulness Course - Consultants - link


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Last Updated: 16 April 2020

Service closures (full or partial)

 

Where a service has temporarily ceased (full or partial), or where a workplace physically closes.

Self-isolation - interstate travel

 

Where an employee travelled interstate prior to the direction issued by the Australian Government on 22 March 2020, and was placed on mandatory self-isolation for 14 days.

Self-isolation – overseas travel

Where an empl