A definite drop in staff, CELA says, as COVID-19 vaccine mandates hit ECEC in earnest

A definite drop in staff, CELA says, as COVID-19 vaccine mandates hit ECEC in earnest

by Freya Lucas

November 23, 2021

With a number of providers including G8 Education and Goodstart Early Learning making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all staff around Australia (except those with medical exemptions) a number of early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector advocates have spoken about the workforce planning impact. 

 

With a number of providers including G8 Education and Goodstart Early Learning making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all staff around Australia (except those with medical exemptions) a number of early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector advocates have spoken about the workforce planning impact. 

 

All states and territories except Queensland and Tasmania have introduced vaccine mandates for those working in ECEC. 


Speaking with the ABC Community Early Learning Australia (CELA) CEO Michele Carnegie said the organisation’s survey of more than 100 centres in NSW showed two-thirds had experienced staffing problems because of the mandate.

 

When the NSW cut-off for vaccinations happened earlier in November, 200 staff were unable to attend work because of their vaccination status.

 

Among the vaccine-hesitant staff, 36 per cent have since quit, 38 per cent have been put on leave, 6 per cent were terminated, and 16 per cent found off-site roles.

 

“There’s definitely been a drop in staff,” Ms Carnegie said, expressing her belief that small stand-alone and community-run centres have been hardest hit.

 

Affected services have reduced places or hours of operation, she continued, in an attempt to soften the impact. One in five centres CELA spoke with had to combine rooms or groups of children, and 22 per cent had to reduce the ratio of staff to children.

 

“It’s put us in essentially a crisis situation,” Ms Carnegie said. “It’s devastating to lose people out of the sector but we must keep our children safe.”

 

Some centres dealt with the shortages by offering staff more money, but Ms Carnegie warned that would not benefit everyone. “It will flow to parents in the form of higher fees,” she said.


Renewed calls for support from Government to tackle workforce crisis

 

In a sector which is already battling workforce shortage issues, more support is needed, Ms Carnegie continued, warning that even a five per cent drop in staff could leave centres short-staffed because of legislated staff-to-child ratios.

 

“This means the number of places available for early education and care will reduce, and higher demand for qualified staff is also likely to drive up staffing costs,” she added, calling on the Government to give consideration to retention payments “so we can keep the staff who are already in the services, and potentially offer relocation payments”. 

 

To access the original coverage of this story please see here

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