Update 20 March 2020

As we are all aware these are unprecedented times, but we are all in this together.

We are unsure of how things will evolve over the coming weeks and perhaps months so I have made the decision to postpone the announce of the decisions coming out of the Phase Two consultation until early May 2020.  We will also review this at the time to take into account the situation at that time.

It is important that we support our staff and members throughout this time and that we are 100% focussed on dealing with the Covid-19 issues that impact on our Centres and Playcentre Aotearoa.

We will continue to keep you advised on any developments and thank you for your support for Playcentre and our whānau at this time.

Please look after each other and your whānau – follow the health guidance provided by the Ministry of Health and please make use of our EAP support if required.

The COVID-19 pandemic is evolving rapidly.  The closure of our border for the first time is a dramatic sign that we are in ever-changing times.  It is crucial that we all keep as up to date as possible with Government announcements.

Introduction of leave options due to COVID-19

Because of the current unprecedented situation, we are putting in place provisions for staff who are sick, or, for other reasons due to COVID-19, will be absent from work.

Before staff decide to self-isolate or who become ill, they should talk to their Regional Manager. Likewise, if a Centre takes a decision to close sessions or the entire Centre, it is vital the decision is made in discussion with Regional Managers. Such a decision will have wide-ranging ramfications, as you can see from the table at the bottom of this document.

Please keep in mind that communication is crucial at this time and we can be at our most effective in supporting our Playcentre whānau and each other if we are all on the same page.    

Please keep in mind:

  • Playcentre Aotearoa wishes to care and support our employees through the COVID-19 pandemic and is working to mitigate threats to both our employees’ employment and the risks to the ongoing viability of our Playcentre communities.
  •  We see this as very important given we may face circumstances that will have a direct impact on our paid employees’ jobs.
  • We also acknowledge that individual employees may decide to absent themselves from the workplace for reasons other than medical.

 Leave options

 Usual Sick Leave

  • If a staff member is sick with a contagious illness (and has a medical certificate) they will be paid for “actual” and “reasonable” sick leave, and this will not affect sick leave balances.  This provision is temporary and in place until 1 September, when it will be reviewed.  Centres will be responsible for salaries, but in cases of genuine hardships for Centres, Playcentre management will consider them on a case by case basis.
  • If a staff member is required to go into self-isolation, their salary will be paid for two weeks of their normal substantive hours without a deduction to their sick leave balance.
  • If a staff member is self-isolated but well and still able to work, they may be able to work from home (at the request of the manager).

 Self-selected Absence

  • If a staff member chooses to stay away from work due to their concerns relating to COVID-19 (but doesn’t have the infections and has not been required to self-isolate) they should apply for annual leave or leave without pay (LWOP).
  • Once annual leave is exhausted or the approved LWOP period ends, managers will consider the circumstances and determine if further leave is granted or the employee should be asked to return to work.
  • Again, if a staff member is self-isolated but well and still able to work, they may be able to work from home (at the request of the manager) and the status/hours of their work would be recorded in Timefiler.  

Voluntary Playcentre Closure

  • When a Centre decides to close without being required to do so, and a staff member is as a result unable to work, their salaries will continue to be paid for four weeks of their substantive hours of work. Again, Centres will be responsible for paying staff, but in cases of genuine hardship for Centres, Playcentre management will make decisions on a case by case basis.

Wage subsidy

  • Where applicable/appropriate, we will request the wage subsidy from MSD, and if this is received the Centre will not be charged for that portion of the wages (or will receive a credit against the wage invoice). 

It is very important that in the first instance, always contact your manager to discuss your situation. Please ensure you contact them at the first possible opportunity.  For sick leave, annual leave or Leave without Pay you will also need to make these requests in Timefiler, as per the usual process. If you are required to self-isolate and are being paid your usual hours, record your standard hours in Timefiler as normal.

The Ministry of Educations latest update covers the following:

The Government’s announcement that indoor gatherings of more than 100 people are to be cancelled, does not apply to early learning services.

What would trigger the closure of an ECE?

At this stage, no ECE’s have been required to close. There has been one temporary closure of a school (following Ministry of Health direction) which was the result of one student testing positive for COVID-19.

The school will reopen next week, but the 150 students and staff (close contacts of the infected student) will remain away from the school for a period of 14 days from when they last had contact with the student confirmed with the virus. Unless the testing shows otherwise, those close contacts are not assumed to be sick. It is a precaution only to keep those people and those around them safe.

What happens in the case of closure of an ECE?

If a child or staff member at a Playcentre is confirmed with COVID-19, health authorities may require your service to close. This will assist in tracking and tracing close contacts.

What happens if you do have a confirmed case?

If there is a confirmed case linked with your service, you will be quickly advised by the Medical Officer of Health.

Regional Ministry of Education staff will work with you and local health authorities to agree on a plan – this will happen quickly, and support will be provided to assist you to communicate with and support your community.

What is the possibility of ECEs being closed?

The Ministry of Health has advised that there are plans in place if we are faced with higher levels of risk. Those plans could mean ECEs being closed for a period of time.

Most of the scenarios at these higher risk levels relate to community transmission. Community transmission is when a confirmed case had no known contact with another confirmed case and hasn’t recently arrived from overseas. There is currently no community transmission in New Zealand.

When is sick, sick?

The messaging remains clear – that if you are feeling unwell please stay home, and the same goes for children and young people.  However at the tail end of a cold, there will be runny noses and probably some coughing. This might be worrying for some people who are being vigilant about their own and others’ health.

A diagram has been developed by Dr Siouxsie Wiles to assist you when considering symptoms (sent to us by a teacher who found it useful). What it tells us is:
•    A dry cough and a high temperature are common to both flu and COVID-19.
•    Sneezing is not a symptom of COVID-19. However if someone has COVID-19, then sneezing can spread droplets containing the virus.

We have set up a new tab on our website called COVID-19. All updates and resources will be available here so please continually check these pages for new information.

Recent pages that have been added and updated:

 

We recommend regularly checking the Ministry of Education website, as it updates information and advice for the education sector and the Ministry of Health website for ongoing advice regarding COVID-19 and its progression within New Zealand.