Educators catching coronavirus must spur urgent hygiene and safety guidelines for the whole ECEC sector


Educators catching coronavirus must spur urgent hygiene and safety guidelines for the whole ECEC sector

United Workers Union, the early childhood union, is renewing calls for centres that are failing to deliver the highest standards of hygiene and safety during the coronavirus crisis to be shut down.

The call comes following alarming news for the sector, with the union being told that two educators in Sydney have been admitted to ICU for coronavirus.

The union is demanding that all early education facilities across Australia follow the union’s 6 point plan for hygiene and safety – if they cannot implement this plan they should not be operating. Educators and families must feel safe during this crisis.

The union’s plan includes temperature checks for children upon arrival, increased personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, and adequate time for increased cleaning and hygiene implementation. Because early childhood educators cannot practice physical distancing with very young children strong measures must be taken.

The union’s calls are in line with the updated advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), whereby the committee has recommended risk mitigation measures in ECEC, including the exclusion of staff, children and visitors with fevers or respiratory illness.

AHPPC’s and the union’s advice must now be supported with strict guidance from the Federal and state and territory governments.

Helen Gibbons, director of early childhood education at United Workers Union says, “We are deeply concerned at the news that early childhood educators are receiving treatment for coronavirus in ICU.

“Although it is still unclear how the educators were exposed to the virus, this news shows the very real risks in early childhood settings.

“Temperature checks must be mandatory and anyone with a fever should be excluded from centres. Because early childhood educators cannot practice physical distancing with very young children strong measures must be taken.

“Action must be implemented across the sector now. My clear advice to every educator is, if your centre will not work with you to implement the safety plan and as a result you feel you are at risk you should not be working.

“The Federal Government and state and territory health departments must also commit to this plan. This is the wake-up call. It is not business as usual. There is too much at stake.

“Educators and families across Australia must have confidence that early education is as safe as possible for everyone during the current crisis.”


United Workers Union plan for increased hygiene and safety in ECEC:

  • Pre-entry Screening: Every child must have their temperature taken by an educator in the foyer of the centre before being admitted, every single day they access the centre. The child must have a temperature reading no higher than 37.5 degrees. If it is higher than that the child will be refused access to the centre and the parent will be told to take the child home. The educator conducting the pre-entry screening must be covered in appropriate PPE (that includes a duck mask as well as gloves).
  • Adequate PPE: Before a centre is opened up each morning to receive children it must be satisfied that it has enough PPE for the next 48 hour period as a minimum. This includes antibacterial soap; disposable gloves;; thermometers; sterilising equipment; cleaning detergent and disinfectant; cleaning mops and buckets; antibacterial floor cleaner; toilet paper and nappies. If the centre does not have enough PPE it should not open and receive any children until such time as it does.
  • Adequate cleaning: High traffic areas of the centre must be comprehensively cleaned every 2 hours. Door knobs, hand rails, coded door entries, exit buttons etc. Every toy and every surface must be comprehensively cleaned 2 times per day. At the end of each day, after the last child leaves, the entire centre, including all objects and surfaces must be comprehensively cleaned.
  • Adequate staffing: Additional staff must be rostered to be available to do the cleaning. Educators cannot be responsible for doing deep cleaning and care and educate the children in their room at the same time.
  • Hygiene: Educators and children must have hands washed on entry to the centre, before and after consuming food and drink, after going to the bathroom, after cleaning children’s faces, before and after playing with toys, AND on the hour, every hour.
  • Staggered times: Children’s starting and finishing times must be staggered to enable social distancing and transitional meal times must be observed.



Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]

Free early education and care must preserve jobs



Free early education and care must preserve jobs

The United Workers Union, the union for early education, welcomes today’s announcement of free access to early education and care for Australian families, but says more needs to be done to ensure jobs in the sector are preserved. Today’s announcement did not directly address how the Government plans to preserve the sector so it is still there when Australia is able to get back to work.

We are also concerned at the continued failure of the Federal Government to provide further guidance on health and safety for the early education sector during the coronavirus crisis. Last week the union announced a 6 point plan for hygiene and safety including mandatory temperature checks, but the continued Government silence on these issues is worrying.

Helen Gibbons, United Workers Union Early Education and Care Director says, “Yes, this announcement is welcome, but there are still many details to be provided to workers and their centres. Today Prime Minister Scott Morrison has belatedly recognised the crucial role that early childhood educators play in our communities and our economy. Across the country, educators are stepping up and supporting their community through this crisis. Without the care and education that educators provide to over one million Australian families, our economy could not function.

“Today’s announcement will be a huge relief to many families who are struggling to make ends meet, many with reduced hours and income. Those families can now be confident that they can access appropriate care and education for their young children. It is an important step towards making sure services are available for communities into the future.

“We encourage all parents who have left Centres to re-enrol their children to take advantage of the new arrangements. Centres need their families to re-enrol to access the new Government funding, to keep their doors open.”

The Prime Minister has advised that working parents providing essential services would gain access to free services first, but more clarification is needed for who would be included and excluded from this program.

During this crisis, many Centres will be relying on the Job Keeper program to pay educators’ wages and retain jobs through a period of lower enrolments.

However, not all Centres are eligible for the Job Keeper program, meaning thousands of educators may miss out.

Ms Gibbons says, “Right now Centres need to prove a significant downturn in revenue before being able to apply for Job Keeper. Many centres cannot afford to wait that long, and this money is not due to be available until May. They need support NOW.

“By the time a small Centre has lost enough revenue to be eligible for the program, it might already be too late to reverse the financial effects. This puts jobs and the community’s ability to work and support the economy at risk.

“As an essential service, early childhood centres should not have to prove a critical loss before being able to take steps to retain their workforce.

“The United Workers Union is calling for the Federal Government to make all early childhood education and care providers, as an essential service, automatically eligible for the Job Keeper program.

“We cannot afford to lose even one Centre to this pandemic. We need to take steps to make sure that centres can stay open through this crisis and beyond – to retain staff and keep the ECEC sector viable long term.

“That means making the Job Keeper program available to all providers of early education and care now.”



Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]