COVID-19 (Coronavirus): What you need to know

These frequently asked questions are SSI/Access-specific and intended to complement general information about COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus).

They reflect questions you have asked to date and other likely areas of concern. Please send any additional questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We will update and share additional questions regularly.

Important working from home update

As a result of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic and increasing concern from staff, we are offering staff the most peace of mind by implementing a model under which all staff will work from home.

This will be fully effective from Monday, 30 March, 2020, meaning the last day people can come to their offices to work is Friday, 27 March, 2020.

This applies to all full-time and part-time SSI and Access staff, including those located in regional offices or those staff co-located with MRCs or other services

For more information on the above please see FAQs below.

What do I do if I am (or someone I have come in contact with is) displaying symptoms of COVID-19?

If you have symptoms, or think you have been exposed to someone who has symptoms, or to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, immediately report your concerns to your manager, who will also notify your General Manager, and Liz Pasoski, Acting Head of People and Culture. This remains the same while we are working from home.

Please do not make your own diagnosis or decisions about work movements or changes without consulting your manager. Collectively, and in line with current government advice, a course of action will be agreed. If you believe you have symptoms, please follow the latest health department advice, get screened as soon as possible, and notify your manager.

You should self-quarantine until you are cleared and are entitled to take sick leave for this period.

What does the working from home directive mean for me?

Our offices will still be open next week for staff to collect equipment, but we don’t know whether more strict government lockdown measures will be enacted between now and then.

Staff are strongly advised to pick up equipment before Friday, 3 April, 2020 at 5:00pm. You will not be able to work from the offices during this period.

For staff who already have SSI/Access equipment enabling them to work from home, the transition to working from home should be straight forward. Meaning you can take what you normally take to work from home such as your laptop. Not your monitor, mouse, keyboard or chair.

For staff who are not yet set up to work from home, equipment will be provided in consultation with each program and based on the need for service delivery. Your manager will confirm how this will work for you in the coming weeks. In the interim, please work with the SSI/Access devices you have.

We understand that in the meantime there might be productivity and continuity concerns, and that some staff members will only be able to work from your work phone during this transition. For security reasons, staff are not permitted to use their own personal devices.

Please do not contact IT support until you have spoken with your manager about what arrangements are being made for you. The IT Service Desk remains operational for help with existing equipment but please be patient. With the transition to work from home, this team is stretched.

You will be paid as normal for the work arrangement you currently have.

While we operationalise this new way of working, we will be taking a flexible approach to the way we prioritise and deliver work. This will take into account individual and program circumstances and access to technology.
Please consult with your manager about your individual circumstances

What if I am a casual employee?

We are currently reviewing how our programs will be supported by casual staff over the coming weeks and managers will advise on the new work arrangements.
Casual staff will be paid for shifts that are currently rostered. Government support is also available through Newstart for casual workers.

What are our leave entitlements?

The Crisis Management Team has made interim adjustments to leave entitlements to help all staff navigate a number of scenarios.

For staff on fixed term and permanent contracts:

  1. Self-quarantine – in the event you are directed to self-quarantine by SSI as result of suspected exposure at work you will be asked to work from home and continue to be paid. However, if you are directed to self-quarantine as a result of showing symptoms you must use sick leave.
  2. Personal/carer leave – as a one-off gesture we are doubling personal/carer leave for all staff from 10 days to 20 days per year. This leave is available immediately and is valid until December 31 2020. People and Culture will advise how to process and categorise this special leave in the coming days and leave balances may take some time to update in Connx/Preceda. All personal/carer leave still requires the normal process (Connx/Preceda) and documentation (medical certificates).

For casual staff:

3. Casuals – if shifts are cancelled due to self-isolation or office shutdown all rostered shifts will be paid. Government support through Newstart is also available for casual workers.

What if I run out of personal/carer’s leave?

If you run out of personal/carer’s leave, including the extra 10 days, you will be required to follow the normal process of taking annual leave, then long service leave (if applicable) and then leave without pay.

Will the move to working from home change the way we work?

During this time, we are moving to more of an outcomes-based, rather than time-based, working approach, which will be managed by your direct manager through a work plan.

In line with this, SSI will cease the submission of timesheets and, as a result, fortnightly ADOs.

We expect staff to use their judgement and work with managers to determine the level of flexibility their individual circumstances require. You may also choose to alter the way you spread out your work hours. Please discuss these kinds of changes with your manager.

It is important to remember that normal leave processes apply. This includes personal/carer leave and annual leave.

What are the next steps?

In the coming weeks, business contingency planning will continue with every program. We expect then to have more clarity on the individual operating model for all programs with staff working from home.

During the week commencing Monday 30 March, SSI staff will have apps for SSI Central (intranet) and Skype for Business (video conferencing) automatically uploaded to their work phones. For anyone who does not have a work issued mobile, you need to get in touch with your manager as soon as possible to arrange access to one.

How long will working from home last?

This situation is unprecedented, just like you, the organisation is navigating uncertainty. We are unable to say definitively when operations will resume as normal.

This operating arrangement will be reviewed regularly and could last for several months.

We know how important it is to keep all staff up to date and connected, and so we will be communicating with you regularly while we all work from home.

In the coming weeks, your senior leaders will be in touch with a suite of resources, designed to foster social connection, wellbeing and productivity. These will include a workplan template and an engagement plan.

What if I have a question about IT or office equipment?

Please read the IT Support FAQs that were provided with the working from home toolkit. 

For questions about IT or office equipment, please don't contact IT Support until you have spoken with your manager about what arrangements are being made for you.

IT Support remains operational for help with existing equipment but please be patient. With the transition to work from home this team is stretched.

Are we still receiving new arrivals?

On March 18, the UNHCR has announced the temporary suspension of resettlement departures or refugees. As resettlement remains a life-saving tool for many refugees, UNHCR and IOM are appealing to States, and working in close coordination with them, to ensure that movements can continue for the most critical emergency cases wherever possible. The suspension is now in full effect. For more information read the UNHCR press release here.

As of March 15, 2020, any new arrivals were required to follow the Government mandate to self-isolate for 14 days. We have been in regular contact with the Department of Home Affairs which has assured us isolation is just a precaution and the risk of new arrivals testing positive is very low.

This isolation is no different to anyone else arriving into Australia, so we are presuming new arrivals are healthy. However, we will limit unnecessary contact with clients where possible.

HSP staff with questions or concerns should get in touch with their line manager.

What does this mean for my clients?

We are working through what working from home means for our clients with each program. We know that most government departments have changed some of their protocols, and relaxed certain KPIs and output measurements.

We know this time is also uncertain for our clients. As a client-centred organisation, we are currently developing a suite of resources for our clients and the community to navigate the challenging time ahead. These will soon be available through the SSI and Access websites.

As always, the model for all engagement with clients is under our Trauma Informed Framework. This is now more important than ever.

We know that the events of the last few weeks have been especially re-traumatising for many clients. As support services may differ between programs, speak to your manager about any support services available for clients.

What resources are available in-language?

The communications team has created a series of posters communicating the office closure in 14 languages. These will be provided to both the administration team and Access by Friday, 27 March, 2020. 

The Communications Team has worked in collaboration with the Clinical Practice Unit and Trauma Informed Framework Team to create a space on the SSI website that will link to resources in language from government departments and other mental health and wellbeing resources.

We also included a letter in the working from home toolkit that has key information that case managers can verbally communicate to clients in-language. We encourage where possible that case managers communicate with their clients as normal.

If you need one of the tools translated in-language please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In most cases we will be conducting our services as normal while we are working from home, so we encourage you to communicate with your clients through the normal processes you follow. 

What is social distancing?

We are encouraging staff to practise social distancing. Social distancing includes staying at home when you are unwell, avoiding large public gatherings if they’re not essential, and keeping a distance of 1.5 metres between you and other people whenever possible.

You should continue to practise good hygiene by using sanitation stations, thoroughly washing your hands and ensuring minimal contact with clients and staff, such as no hugging or hand shaking to discourage touching.

Where can I get more support?

For any staff who may be struggling with current events, we encourage you to speak to your manager, and access our employee assistance program.

You and your immediate families have access to a free and confidential counselling service through our Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Both Access and SSI and staff have access to EAP 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

SSI staff can call 1300 361 008, and Access staff can call 0407 086 000 to speak to someone about the service.

Where else can I find more information?

We would advise all SSI and Access staff to seek information about COVID-19 from the Australian Federal Health Department to ensure all information is up-to-date and correct. You can call the Federal Health Department’s Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 if you are seeking information on novel coronavirus - 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you would like to access multilingual resources please visit the NSW Health website here.