State of confusion: Public servants’ conflicting advice


PUBLIC servants in offices have reported conflicting advice about work-from-home arrangements and safe working practices to minimise the spread of the coronavirus.

Staff across the public service, which is the state's largest employer, have reported to ad hoc decisions being made by managers about steps to slow transmission of the virus.

As plans to limit people's exposure to COVID-19 ramp up, Queensland MPs' electorate offices have been closed to the public and staff only allowed to answer queries by telephone or email.

A Queensland Government fact sheet, sent last Thursday, told public service managers to start planning who can work from home and to set up agreements for telecommuting.

Options to be considered include physically separating employees, rostering staff on alternate days and staggering work hours so people can avoid public transport in peak hours.

Unions that represent public servants will today meet the state's chief health officer Jeannette Young and representatives from the Public Service Commission in a bid to iron out clearer guidelines for staff.



"Whatever we can do to give effect to social distancing we should be doing and that includes arrangements to work from home where possible," Queensland Council of Unions general secretary Michael Clifford said.

"Employees can't just down tools and work from home. It is something we should negotiate with employers."

Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union secretary Beth Mohle said nurses had already been given guarantees of access to personal protective equipment.

But she said there needed to be better communication to the public and also staff about the crisis.

"I can absolutely understand the fear that people have," Ms Mohle said.

"People won't hear these messages until we communicate in less medical gobbledygook.

"The priority needs to be about decreasing anxiety levels in the community as well as in the workforce."



Clerk of the parliament Neil Laurie, who is the employer of electorate office staff, yesterday released a directive that electorate offices be closed from Wednesday.

"The Speaker and I have come to the conclusion that given the increasing risks of community transmission and a number of isolated instances that have come to our attention, that we need to now mandate some operating rules for the health and welfare of electorate office staff," he said.

Electorate staff will be allowed to handle queries by email or phone but will be banned from personal contact with constituents and community groups. Volunteers will also be stopped from entering MPs' offices.

Staff with a higher risk profile because of their age or medical background will be given priority in work from home arrangements, he said.











Originally published as State of confusion: Public servants' conflicting advice

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