HUNTER Catholic school teachers are calling for greater clarity around arrangements to work from home, saying there is inconsistency between schools.
The Independent Education Union's Hunter organiser Therese Fitzgibbon said the Department of Education and Sydney Catholic Schools had issued "clear and concise advice" that staff deemed at risk or pregnant would be supported to work from home.
Ms Fitzgibbon said the IEU asked the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle last week about provisions for Hunter staff and was sent advice from the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations.
The IEU is calling for all staff to be able to work from home and if this isn't an option - due to their role at school, or responsibilities at home - to be given 10 days of ex-gratia leave.
"Staff members who are considered at risk because of a pre-existing health condition have been encouraged to speak with their principal to ensure any increased risk is mitigated in the most appropriate way for their circumstance," the commission said.
"Where a pregnant staff member may as a personal decision have concerns about attending school, they may work from home where possible or where not request to access long service leave or annual leave (if applicable) or where these have been exhausted access a period of unpaid leave."
Ms Fitzgibbon said requiring staff to have discussions with principals was "not acceptable" and not the same as a diocese policy.
"Members are feeling very confused because they understand that some staff are being allowed to work from home, depending who the principal is, while others are saying to go and get a medical certificate and take sick leave," she said.
"They're not sick, it's just not a safe workplace for them. There has been no consistency... and it's causing inequity across schools."
The commission said staff with a condition unknown to the principal or that doesn't increase the risk of serious infection may need to provide evidence why they are vulnerable.
If satisfied, the school would enable the employee to work from home, or access paid or unpaid leave. Those caring for a vulnerable relative at home will be dealt with on a "case by case basis" and, after providing evidence, may be able to take paid or unpaid leave.
Ms Fitzgibbon said there was still confusion after the government said schools were safe and open, but recommended children stay home if possible.
Around 20 Toronto High teachers called in sick on Tuesday to encourage students to stay away. A teacher said the government needed to explain which jobs should be sending children to school. "A beautician is not an essential worker... it needs to be crystal clear."
We have removed our paywall from our stories about the coronavirus. This is a rapidly changing situation and we want to ensure our readers are as informed as possible. If you would like to support our journalists, you can subscribe here