Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information for Members

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information for Members

Below are resources to support FRSA Members, their workplace and our sector with the latest information, advice and resources.

For more health information please call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week or visit the Department of Health website.

For latest advice from Government Agencies visit australia.gov.au.

Please note that as official COVID-19 guidance is updated, this information will be amended to reflect new information and advice.

This information is by way of general information and is designed for discretionary use. It does not replace the requirement for the reader to obtain specific operational, legal, insurance, or other advice. FRSA accepts no responsibility for any errors in the information provided, nor the effect of any such errors.

Page last updated: 14 May 2020

FRSA is excited to launch our Online Member Forums. The Forums are designed as a place for FRSA Members to have open discussions and share practical advice, ideas and resources about how they are responding to both the COVID-19 crisis and the ongoing impacts of the bushfires.

FRSA has recently been engaging in conversations with various parts of the network via Zoom teleconferences and would love to continue those discussions or start new ones. Members will be able to start their own discussions, reply to each other and directly upload any documents they wish to share. FRSA will moderate all discussions.

If you have any questions about the online forum or need help in registering or using the Forum, please email our Communications Officer, Vanessa: communications@frsa.org.au.

Key Updates

6 May 2020

  • Work health and safety guidance released

Industrial Relations Minister, Christian Porter, released new work health and safety guidance after yesterday’s meeting of national cabinet. The industry-by-industry guidelines are published by Safe Work Australia and include, amongst other things, a number of helpful checklists on topics like hygiene and cleaning.

The workplace safety protocols will help guide workplaces out of the coronavirus pandemic – in particular, providing guidance on return-to-workplace requirements. The measures are part of the government’s goal to establish a virus-safe economy by July.

  • COVIDSafe App

The Government has launched the COVID-19 tracking app COVIDSafe. The app is designed to speed up the process of identifying people who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with coronavirus, to help stop further spread of the virus in the community.

For more information about the app visit the Department of Health website.

2 May 2020

  • Government support for not-for-profits

Treasury updated its factsheet on Support for Not-For-Profit Organisations on 2 May. The factsheet provides key information on:

  • JobKeeper Payment
  • Boosting Cash Flow for Employers
  • Coronavirus Small and Medium Enterprises Guarantee Scheme
  • $200 million Community Support Package

The Australian Taxation Office is also providing a rolling timeline of content changes for the JobKeeper Payment to help organisations keep up with the changes.

29 April 2020

  • Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia COVID-19 List to deal with urgent disputes

The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (the Courts) are establishing a court list to deal exclusively with urgent parenting-related disputes that have arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The list will commence on 29 April 2020.

The introduction of the list is in response to an increase in the number of urgent applications filed in the Courts over a four week period in March and April, with a 39 per cent increase in the Family Court of Australia and a 23 per cent per cent increase in the Federal Circuit Court.

The Courts have provided the following example of applications that may be suitable for filing in the COVID-19 List:

  • Family violence: There has been an increase in risk due to family violence resulting from the restrictions imposed on families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Supervised contact: the current parenting arrangements involve supervised contact, and the contact centre is closed or the supervisor is unable to perform their role, and the parties cannot agree on an alternative arrangement.
  • Border restrictions: the parties live in different States or Territories and the child cannot travel between the parties’ residences due to border restrictions.
  • Medical: The parties and/or child have tested positive for COVID-19 and cannot fulfil the parenting obligations due to sickness or concerns of infection.
Information about the Courts and COVID-19 is on the Family Court website.

24 April 2020

  • JobKeeper Update: eligibility for charities has eased

Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, announced changes to JobKeeper eligibility giving charities greater flexibility to access the JobKeeper payment.

The changes will allow eligible ACNC registered charities (other than schools and universities) to elect to exclude government revenue from the JobKeeper turnover test. This means charities receiving revenue from Government can use either their total turnover, or their turnover excluding government revenue, for the purposes of assessing eligibility for the JobKeeper Payment.

Treasury has provided an updated factsheet on the JobKeeper payment.

  • Extension of time to enrol for the JobKeeper scheme

The Commissioner of Taxation has extended the time to enrol for the JobKeeper scheme from 30 April 2020 until 31 May 2020. Further information is available on the ATO website.

16 April 2020

  • United Nations Policy Brief: The Impacts of COVID-19 on Children

The United Nations released a policy paper on the impacts of COVID-19 on children. The Policy Brief notes that harmful effects of the pandemic will be felt most acutely by children living in poorer countries and neighborhoods, and in already disadvantaged or vulnerable situations.

The kinds of effects discussed include falling into poverty, compromised learning, increased risks to child safety, and threats to children’s health, even survival. To mitigate these effects the UN proposes a range of measures that governments and partners can introduce or expand on. This includes: prioritising child-centred services, providing practical support to parents and caregivers, and expanding child protection programs in locations of vulnerability.

Read the full Policy Brief.

11 April 2020

  • Charities to get $100 million injection to help with coronavirus downturn

Over the weekend the federal government pledged $100 million to more than 300 charities and community organisations to help them through the coronavirus crisis.

Families and Social Services Minister Anne Ruston says a further $100 million would be allocated over the next six months where it is needed.

More than $37 million will be shared among almost 200 existing Commonwealth-funded Emergency Relief organisations to boost support and change service delivery methods to comply with social distancing guidelines.

With an additional $20 million to go to current financial counselling services including the National Debt Helpline, Money Support Hubs and Problem Gambling to increase their capacity to assist more Australians through the economic downturn.

9 April 2020

  • Community contracts extended to 31 March 2021

The Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Ruston, announced that over $64 million will be used to extend about 3000 grant agreements currently administered by the Department of Social Services for essential services to 31 March 2021 which had been due to cease over the coming months.

This includes grants for family and relationship services, mental health counselling for parents, services for families and children experiencing the impacts of alcohol and drug misuse, and technology to keep women experiencing domestic violence safe.

  • JobKeeper legislation passed

The Australian Government’s Coronavirus Economic Response Package Bill, which includes the JobKeeper Payment, was passed in Parliament on Wednesday 8 April.

Charities that are registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) will be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment if they have experienced a 15 per cent decline in turnover as a result of the coronavirus.

The $1,500 per fortnight JobKeeper Payment is the equivalent of about 70 per cent of the median wage and will be available to full-time and part-time workers, sole traders and casuals who have been with their employer for 12 months or more.

Further information, including eligibility requirements, is on the Treasury website.

Organisations can register their interest for the JobKeeper payment online with the Australian Taxation Office.

  • Employees working from home – tax deductions

FRSA members may have some of their employees working from home through the COVID-19 period. The Australian Taxation Office website has guidance for employees on what can and cannot be claimed as a tax deduction when working from home. This includes a ‘shortcut method’ for calculating deductions for working from home as a result of COVID-19.

8 April 2020

  • Relief for commercial tenants

The Government announced new rental waivers and deferrals for commercial tenants hit by the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The purpose of the mandatory Code of Conduct  is to impose a set of good faith leasing principles for application to commercial tenancies (including retail, office and industrial) between owners/operators/other landlords and tenants.

Under the mandatory Code of Conduct, landlords will have to reduce leases in proportion to the reduction in the tenant’s business.

To be eligible to negotiate under the code either party must:

  • be a business that is in a position of financial distress;
  • have an annual turnover of $50 million or less;
  • be eligible to receive support under the JobKeeper program (meaning the business has experienced at least a 30 per cent drop in revenue due to COVID-19 restrictions).

Waivers of rent must account for 50 per cent at least of the reduction in the rental provided to the tenant during that period while deferrals must be covered over the balance of the lease term and for no less of a period than 24 months.

Read the National Cabinet Mandatory Code of Conduct – SME Commercial Leasing Principles during COVID-19 here.

Find out more on the business.gov.au website.

6 April 2020

  • JobKeeper eligibility requirements eased for charities

On Sunday 5 April, the Treasurer announced a change in the JobKeeper Payment eligibility requirements for charities. Charities that are registered with the national regulator – the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) – will be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment if they have experienced a 15 per cent decline in turnover as a result of the coronavirus. The 15 percent turnover threshold is a significant drop from 30 percent, which still applies to for-profit businesses and other not-for-profits.

The reduced threshold recognises both the vital community work that charities provide, and contractual constraints that mean charities cannot easily move funds from one part of their business to another in the way that for-profit businesses can.

While the changes are welcome, for some charities the reduced threshold will not be enough to protect discrete areas of their operations – for example, op shops – that have suffered massive losses. This means some charities will have to stand down staff who won’t be protected by the JobKeeper scheme.

Updated information on the JobKeeper scheme is available on the Treasury website.

  • Government boosts support for mental health and domestic violence services

Last week the government unveiled a $1.1 billion package to boost mental health services, domestic violence support, and emergency food relief during the coronavirus pandemic.

This package includes an initial $150 million to help people experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence during the crisis, $74 million towards mental health support, and $200 million to help charities providing food relief services.

Over the weekend (4 April) it was announced that $32.5 million of the federal package will be to support frontline domestic violence services. This initial round of funding includes a fixed 3 per cent payment to all states and territories with the remainder provided on a per capita basis with a small contingency set aside. It will be distributed by June 30, 2020, with another $97.5 million over the following six months. State and territory governments are responsible for deciding how to use the funds to deliver on accommodation and services.

3 April 2020

  • Childcare relief package

The Federal Government announced an extra $300 million in subsidies to allow free childcare for working parents and carers.

The Government will pay 50 per cent of the sector’s fee revenue up to the existing hourly rate cap based on a point in time before parents started withdrawing their children in large numbers, but only so long as services remain open and do not charge families for care. The funding will apply from 6 April based on the number of children who were in care during the fortnight leading into 2 March, whether or not they are attending services. Read more.

1 April 2020

  • Parenting Orders and COVID-19

The Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia has put out a statement  to clarify that the Courts remain open to assist parties, and to provide parents with some general guidance regarding Parenting Orders. Read the full statement here.

31 March 2020

  • JobKeeper payment

Yesterday (30 March), the Government announced a $130 billion JobKeeper payment to help keep more Australians in jobs and support businesses (including not-for-profits) affected by the significant economic impact caused by the Coronavirus.

Under the JobKeeper Payment, businesses significantly impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak will be able to access a subsidy from the Government to continue paying their employees. The Government will provide $1,500 per fortnight per employee for up to 6 months.

While this is important news for Members who are facing the difficult prospect of reducing staff numbers, we are acutely aware that the eligibility criteria may lock some Members out of the scheme due to the way in which a Charity/NFP is structured.  (ie:  the significant impact on a social enterprise activity such as a café/restaurant/op shop may not be evident/obvious if that activity sits within the overarching Charity/NFP structure).

Eligibility
Employers (including non-for-profits) will be eligible for the subsidy if:

  • their business has a turnover of less than $1 billion and their turnover will be reduced by more than 30 per cent relative to a comparable period a year ago (of at least a month); or
  • their business has a turnover of $1 billion or more and their turnover will  be reduced by more than 50 per cent relative to a comparable period a year ago (of at least a month); and
  • the business is not subject to the Major Bank Levy.

For more information please visit: treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/jobkeeper or read the factsheet.

Treasury contact email for COVID-19: TreasuryCOVID-19Coord@TREASURY.GOV.AU

30 March 2020

  • Government launches Coronavirus Australia app and WhatsApp feature

The Prime Minister unveiled a new app allowing users to navigate the latest advice and information about coronavirus in real-time

The Coronavirus Australia app  is available from the Apple App Store and on Google Play and was launched alongside the Government’s new WhatsApp featureRead more.

In this joint webinar with the ATO, the ACNC provided an overview of the Federal Government’s recently announced support for the charity and NFP sectors, as well as covered issues of charity regulation in a time impacted by COVID-19.

27 March 2020

The Australian Tax Office have put together an article with advice tailored to NFPs about the support available and boosting cash flow for NFP employers. Click here to view the article.

  • ACNC grants charity reporting extensions to assists groups affected by COVID-19

To reduce the administrative burden on charities in this uncertain time, the Commissioner has approved blanket extensions to charities whose 2019 Annual Information Statement is due between 12 March and 30 August 2020. These charities now have an extension until 31 August 2020. Click here to read more.

24 March 2020

The Government has enhanced the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure it announced on 12 March 2020. Businesses and not-for-profits that employ workers and have an aggregated annual turnover under $50 million will receive up to $100,000, with a minimum payment of $20,000. Payments are available from 28 April and will be tax free, with an additional payment from 28 July.

Read the fact sheet on Cash flow assistance for businesses.

Financially distressed businesses will receive relief from creditors and insolvent trading, with targeted relief for companies to deal with unforeseen events that arise as a result of the coronavirus.

  • Family Law inquiry hearings postponed

In light of the current coronavirus pandemic, the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System (committee) has agreed to postpone the following committee hearings.

  • 6–9 April 2020: Launceston, Hobart, Melbourne
  • 28–30 April 2020: Darwin, Alice Springs and Adelaide; and
  • 9–11 June 2020: Kalgoorlie and Perth.

The committee intends to reschedule these hearings with further information to be published on the committee’s website in due course. In an endeavour to continue the committee’s work over the coming weeks, it will schedule in camera hearings with individual submitters by teleconference.

Resources for Organisations

Find out about your workplace entitlements and obligations if you’re affected by the outbreak of coronavirus.

National Cabinet met on 24 April and agreed to develop nationally-consistent, industry-specific work health and safety guidance on COVID-19, accessible via a central hub provided by Safe Work Australia.

A fact sheet for managing work health and safety risks from Coronaviruses at the workplace.

This information sheet answers common questions about social distancing — including what it is, how to do it and why it’s important.

An information sheet that answers questions about home isolation for those people who are unwell with a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19).

An information sheet for people who have been required to be in home isolation or quarantined and have completed their 14 day period without showing signs or symptoms of being unwell due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Advice on adapting domestic and family violence support services.

Guidance for managers and program staff associated with intervention and case management responses to perpetrators of family violence.

Developed to use with children and young people in vulnerable circumstances, the Kids Central Toolkit is full of practical ideas to support your work with children and young people.

The Centre for Social Impact has produced a series of fact sheets to address specific social issue areas in the context of COVID-19 including homelessness, loneliness & social connection, people with a disability and digital inclusion.

A playbook based on external and internal research at Google to help guide employees, managers and leaders through distributed work experiences.

The Institute of Child Protection Studies have developed resources to help children, young people and their families make sense of what they are seeing, hearing and feeling during this challenging time of COVID-19:

A useful summary of members’ advocacy and resources in response to the crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has many people working from home. But as we settle into this new normal, it’s easy to fall into bad habits. ACWA has put together some tips on how to keep good work habits while working remotely.

Poster resources for office spaces:
Simple steps to stop the spread – Department of Health
Good hygiene is in your hands – Department of Health
COVID-19 infographics – WHO

Information and advice for people working remotely at home during COVID-19.

Together with mental health organisations, experts and leaders, the National Mental Health Commission has developed #InThisTogether – a national online conversation sharing practical tips to support the mental health and wellbeing of Australians during COVID-19.

Resources on IT, cyber security, software and more:

The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) would like to remind you to incorporate cyber security into your contingency planning. As more staff may work from home, and the use of remote access technology increases, adversaries may attempt to take advantage. ASD’s Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) encourages Australians to remain vigilant and ensure sound cyber security practices.

On this page, Connecting Up have listed a number of free or heavily discounted remote work resources available to charities and NFPs. Some of these are available to qualified Connecting Up members via their web store, and others are available directly from the supplier.

  • WESNET resources

Knowing that you are working with vulnerable children and people, moving to online service delivery can come with its own challenges. Here are some resources that were developed by WESNET that might be applicable/useful to you as you need to move towards increasing your work activity in these areas:

 

Mental Health Online have created a free guide for anyone moving to online delivery of support and therapeutic services.

The eSafety commissioner has issued a specific e-safety resource for people working with victims of family violence.

Below are some useful policy and guideline templates that may be relevant to your organisation:

Epidemics or pandemics, and create increased risks for the community, these occasions require specific policies targeted at the particular disease in question and general efforts at preparedness. Institute of Community Directors Australia have developed an Epidemic/Pandemic Policy Template for NFPs.

Volunteering Australia has published two policy position papers, Volunteering and National Policy Settings; and Safeguarding Volunteers and Volunteer Involving Organisations; in order to clearly articulate their position around a number of issues regarding COVID-19 and the volunteering sector.

Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has developed a template for Workplace guidelines for COVID-19 response for staff. QCOSS has shared an example of their own guidelines which organisations can adapt for their own use.

The guidelines include information about working from home arrangements, ways of working, travel, meetings and events.

A fact sheet for managing work health and safety risks from Coronaviruses at the workplace.

Many Members may encounter issues holding their regular board meetings – or even their scheduled Annual General Meeting – due to concerns about public gatherings.

If you decide to cancel your AGM due to social distancing requirements and an inability to hold them electronically, you should consider alternate ways to demonstrate accountability to members within the context of your current operational circumstances. If you delay or postpone your AGM because you cannot conduct it safely, the ACNC has said that they will not take action against a charity unless there is evidence of wider non-compliance.

And if your charity believes it might need to delay or postpone its AGM, you may need to contact your state or territory regulator for further guidance.