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Covid-19 What do we do now?

SafetyNest will cover some of the important things you need to know from a practical as well as legislative point of view.

With so much information going around, particularly on social media, it is getting more and more difficult not to be concerned, or to know what information to pay attention to.

One thing we know for certain is that the situation is evolving, and it is likely to be an ongoing issue.

SafetyNest will cover some of the important things you need to know from a practical as well as legislative point of view. 

Our illness register tool will be available by the end of this week.

This will include being able to record type of illness, pick up times and have parents/caregivers sign to show they are aware of your centre’s stand down periods. It is a simple and practical way to collect and record this information, not only around Covid-19, but also as we head into the cooler months. 

Plans and Policies

Now is the time (if you haven’t already) to review your centres Pandemic and Illness Policies.

Every ECE centre should have a Pandemic Plan in place, including appointing a Pandemic Manager (usually the Centre Owner or Manager). Their role is to ensure that there is a safe working environment for those that remain at the centre and those who need support during their recovery.

There are great resources on what a Pandemic Plan needs to cover available here and our team is happy to help you out too.

At the end of the day all centres are governed by the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Health at this time, so it is important to keep reading the updates that they are sending out, watch their Facebook page and if you have questions, contact them directly or the Ministry of Health

What if our centre has to close?

You may be advised or directed to close your centre if there are any confirmed cases of Covid-19 by a number of different authorities including the Ministry of Health.

Now that a pandemic has been declared, they will continue to provide advice and guidance.  It is important that you keep up to date with the information and guidance they are providing and be in touch with your local DHB

Think about the following to plan for a possible closure:

  • Plan when and how to notify caregivers, families and whānau
  • Plan communications with staff
  • Plan communications with your local Ministry office

Early learning services can claim funding for absences for up to 3 weeks, and in some cases for longer periods. Funding is also available if a service must close in an emergency.

The Government is also set to announce the financial assistance that may be made available on Tuesday 17th March. 

If you are advised to close, you need to contact your local MOE office as soon as possible.

They can confirm if you are eligible for emergency funding and requirements you need to follow during any shut down period.

What to do if a staff member or child attending my centre is unwell?

Anyone who is unwell should not be at an early learning service/kōhanga reo.

If you have a particular concern about a child, ask their caregiver to call Healthline on 0800 358 5453

Mental Health

We need to treat each other with kindness and compassion. It is not always clear to us what our colleagues have going on at home, or what their concerns are. Or their fears. 

If you or someone in your team does have to self-isolate, make sure there is a support network available. This could be as simple as sending a text message each day, or more practical like
offering to drop off food, medicines, or even a good book. 

The legal stuff

One of the main premises of the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015) is that an employer must do everything “practicable” to keep people safe. Whilst this word is hard to say, it basically means do what is reasonable and practical for you and your centre. 

For ECE centres, it is not practical for you to have all of your teachers spend time at work in full haz
mat gear, although the kids might find it fascinating at first, this will soon wear off. But it does mean that you should be doing some practical things. 

Making sure your first aid and spill kits are well stocked and available, lots of soap and hand towels and hand santiser are just some of the ways we can make people feel reassured. 

The guidelines for employers at this time include:

  • An employer should not require or knowingly allow workers to come to work when they are diagnosed or potentially have Covid-19 or if they have been advised to self-isolate.
  • If you do require them to come to work under these circumstances, you are likely to be in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.
  • If an employee comes to work after being told not to for the reasons above, they can be suspended from work.
  • Working from home as a teacher is obviously not an option, but for your support staff this is worth talking to them about. It is important however, to put some expectations in place.
  • All employees who can’t work from home and have been advised to self-isolate can be paid sick leave. The same rules apply if they need to care for a sick dependent or if they are ill themselves.
  • If they have no sick leave available then you can discuss with them the options for other types of leave, such as unpaid leave, special leave or allowing them to use some of their annual leave entitlements.
  • Now is the time to talk as a management team about this and have a strategic plan in place. For instance, it may be financially viable to offer special leave for one or two staff, but if it becomes wide-spread across your centre, can you afford to pay everyone the same way.

What if a staff member is worried about their own health at work?

Where the employer does not agree there is a reasonable belief or concern about an employee contracting coronavirus at work, they can require them to come to work.

The staff member must follow the reasonable instructions, policies and procedures of their employer.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

If you need any help dealing with the legal side of having employees, then please be in contact with us.

Practical Advice

  • Don’t panic. Children feed off stress and fear shown by the adults around them whether we are conscious of it ourselves or not.
  • Try not to touch your face… a great tip is to put a plaster on one of your fingers. This will remind you to stop when you subconsciously touch your face
  • Wash, wash, wash your hands, using soap and water. Dry thoroughly.
  • Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. We, as human beings, all react differently to situations such as these. Especially those that contain the unknown. Remember that whatever you are feeling is ok, as is what the people around you are feeling.
  • Consider having pumps of hand sanitiser available for people coming in and out of your centre to use.
  • Kids are a bit gross – fact. It isn’t realistic to expect the younger children to wash their hands for the recommended 20-30 seconds, but you can make it fun. Think of a song that your children love and get them to practice singing it while they wash their hands. And sing it again when they dry them.
  • Keep communication open with your families and community.
  • The MOE has shared a great video from the infamous Nano Girl (aka Dr Michelle Dickinson) that we recommend you share with them. These can be found here

They have also shared this great resource on how to talk to children about Covid-19

Resources such as these will enable your families and the wider community to help wade through all of the information and choose what to share with their children. 

  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow. This Myth Busters video has a great way to explain why
  • Consider offering all staff the flu vaccination. It won’t keep you safe from Covid-19, but it will help with influenza. Remember that we are about to enter flu season, so defence is the best option here.
  • Keep communication open with your team. Let them know you are keeping up to date with all MOE, MOH and WHO advice and procedures and you will keep talking to them about it
  • Update or review your cleaning schedules and types of cleaning to keep things as germ free as possible.
  • Things like dust masks are becoming harder and harder to purchase, and there is no scientific proof that these will keep you safe.
  • Look at your illness policy regarding stand-down periods for children – our new illness tools at SafetyNest will help with this
  • Talk to your staff about what they can be doing to prepare. Things like reconsidering overseas travel, thinking about their financial situation and what would happen if they were unable to work for a period of time and whether or not they have enough supplies to last them two weeks, or a support network who can help them with this. 

We all know that telling someone to “calm down” never works, but in this time of uncertainty, let’s keep talking, checking in on each other and be prepared.


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