Separate break rooms, always wear masks - life in ECEC under new exemption rules
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > Separate break rooms, always wear masks – life in ECEC under new exemption rules

Separate break rooms, always wear masks – life in ECEC under new exemption rules

by Freya Lucas

January 18, 2022

In Victoria, early childhood education and care (ECEC) services will be able to allow close household or household-like contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases to attend work under exemption for critical workforces rules. 


Effective Wednesday 19 January 2022, early childhood teachers, educators and staff working onsite at an ECEC service (excluding family day care) who are household or household-like contacts may be exempted from isolation requirements in order to attend work only if it is necessary for continuity of operations and if all other options have been exhausted.


Voluntary and mutually agreed arrangement 


This is a voluntary, opt-in arrangement between the provider as employer and the ECEC staff member. Mutual agreement between the provider and ECEC staff member is required. Providers cannot direct a staff member to attend work using this exemption if the staff member does not wish to.


The exemption applies only to household contacts who have no symptoms and have returned a negative rapid antigen test prior to attending work that day. It allows the staff member to attend work only on the days of rostered attendance. When not at the workplace, staff must comply with all relevant isolation requirements.


Who supplies masks and RATs? 


It is the responsibility of the employer to provide rapid antigen tests (RATs) and face masks to the exempt worker to ensure they and other workers are safe. An employer must not require or direct their employee to purchase or provide their own rapid antigen test or face mask.


What do employees have to do? 


Exempt workers are required to take a rapid antigen test (RAT) for five consecutive days and comply with other measures designed to keep their colleagues and the children they work with safe.


These measures include always wearing a mask (preferably a P2/N95 mask or TGA-approved P2-equivalent mask), including while teaching and in the company of others, except when they are eating or drinking.


Separate spaces


Exempt workers must not share break areas, including staff or break rooms. Facilities should ensure that the staff member works in areas where transmission risk is lower (outside where possible or in large, well-ventilated spaces).


Further information will be available from Wednesday 19 January under Exemptions at Checklist for COVID contacts.

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