COVID-19 UPDATE

UFUSA Covid19

State Government Payment In lieu of Leave Initiative to assist with hardship

The UFU is currently being consulted about leave provisions under the COVID-19 pandemic arrangements, which have been authorised by the Premier for public sector employees in SA, to assist families experiencing hardship. 

The Commissioner for Public Sector Employment released a Supplementary Determination in March 2020 which includes an economic stimulus package providing for applications by public sector employees for pay in lieu of recreation and/or long service leave to be made. 

Prerequisites include that a family member (as defined) has lost their employment and that the applicant employee is experiencing financial hardship as a result. A minimum of 2 weeks entitlements will be required to be maintained. Payment will be paid as a lump sum and taxed at a flat rate of 34.5% 

The MFS advised this week that they have developed a form for this purpose amended to suit the MFS administrative and approval processes and sought our feedback. We are advised that there is no difference in the eligibility or intent of the form with the only key difference the process undertaken to obtain accurate leave balances and the approval chain. 

Applicants will see that there is a requirement to declare their acknowledgement that the request for payment in lieu of leave will potentially result in future leave being taken as leave without pay. While supportive of the initiative, our union has sought clarification from management about circumstances in which any future leave would be required to be taken as leave without pay. 

We await a response and will encourage this initiative to be implemented as quickly as possible in order that those in need can gain access to the payment in lieu. The MFS has agreed that it is important that any member making an application under these provisions does so with full knowledge of any potential consequences and we anticipate a response shortly. 

Our union also urges members to seek independent financial and/or taxation advice before electing to receive payment in lieu of accrued leave. 

Retained Firefighters Staggered Return To “Presence Training” Nights 

Most stations in Regional Operations have now returned or are in the process of returning, to “presence training” nights based on arrangements contained within the station risk assessment plans developed by the MFS.

Where this is not the case, the plans are being reviewed as expeditiously as possible and consultation is taking place with a view to ensuring members can return to training as soon and as safely as possible. 

A reminder that the MFS has agreed that members who are immunocompromised or have family members who require special consideration will not be required to return to On Station training nights at this time. 

Please don’t hesitate to contact us at the union office on 8352 7211 if you are experiencing any issues in relation to this matter. 

Relaxation of Restrictions 

As we follow the “Roadmap to Recovery” and restrictions are progressively relaxed, members are urged to continue to rigorously follow the health and safety guidelines which will help to continue to safeguard members, our families, and our community. 

SICK LEAVE ANOMALIES 

Our Union has received correspondence from MFS management stating that the ‘Sick Leave Project’ has been completed. 

As many of you would be aware, the continued displaying of inaccurate sick leave balances on your payslip has been an on-going issue for quite some time now. 

The MFS states that the project has been finalised and members are being contacted regarding any issues with their sick leave balances as a last outstanding action. 

If you have been contacted by the MFS regarding your sick leave balance, please do check and double-check your payslips to ensure that the information provided by your employer is correct. 

Where possible, compare your payslip to any other records you may have, whether they are calendars on the fridge, your personal diary or entries on your phone. 

If you believe there is a discrepancy, please contact the MFS Workforce Rostering team ASAP via samfs.sickleave@sa.gov.au as soon as possible. After contacting the Workforce Rostering team, if the matter remains unresolved, please contact the Union Office on 08 8352 7211

HEALTH AND SAFETY REPRESENTATIVE / UFU SHOP STEWARD ELECTIONS 

In the coming months, the UFU will be conducting Work Health and Safety Representative (WHSR) elections for Stations and Worksites which do not currently have a formally elected HSR / Shop Steward. 

The Rules of the United Firefighters Union of South Australia provide for the election of Work Health and Safety Representatives, in accordance with the “Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act” (or its successors – currently the Work Health and Safety Act 2012) and that upon election as a Work Health and Safety Representative, that person automatically becomes a UFU Shop Steward within the meaning of the Rules. 

WHSR Training is provided in paid time to WHSRs by a recognised training provider and the legislation provides for the employer to ensure there is a WHS noticeboard in your workplace.

If your Station WHSR / Shop Steward position is vacant, please start contemplating and discussing who is able and willing to take up the role, it may even be you! 

Please keep an eye on future Wordbacks and your email for the Call for Nominations and for nomination forms. 

Reminder: A meeting of WHSRs is being conducted by videoconference next Tuesday, 2 June 2020 discussing issues such as appliances, PPC, training, and diesel particulate matter. 

WORKERS COMPENSATION – LUMP SUM PAYMENTS. 

An injured worker who has recovered from their injury and has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) may potentially be able to pursue a lump sum payment under section 58 (non-economic loss) and section 56 economic loss of the Return to Work Act 2014. 

Explanatory Note

Non-economic loss (NEL): If the whole person impairment (WPI) percentage for a work injury is 5% or above a worker will be entitled to a lump sum payment for non-economic loss. 

Economic loss (EL): If the whole person impairment percentage for a work injury is 5% to 29% maximum, a worker will also be entitled to a lump sum payment for economic loss. This is in addition to the lump sum for non-economic loss. However (EL) only applies to injuries that occurred after 1 July 2015. There is a payment for (NEL) lump sum payable for noise induced hearing loss but no (EL) payment. 

There is no entitlement for a psychiatric injury or consequential mental harm under S 56 (EL). There is under S 58 (NEL) but only if a worker is assessed as having 30% WPI. 

If a worker, irrespective of who they have worked for in SA since 30 September 1987 to present, has sustained workplace injuries they are entitled to pursue a (NEL) if it’s found that they have 5% or more WPI. 

For injuries sustained after 1 July 2015 they can also pursue a claim for (EL) 

Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) essentially means that the injury has stabilised and is not going to get any better or worse in the foreseeable future. Normally a treating GP or specialist will determine if the injury has reached MMI. 

What this fundamentally means for injured workers is this: 

If a worker sustains an injury at work and it is compensable and they receive payment for lost time and reasonable medical expenses and then at a later date (generally about 12 months after the injury) an accredited doctor under the Return to Work SA (WP) assessment guidelines finds that the injured worker has more than 5% whole person impairment then they are entitled to a lump sum payment. 

The injured worker has the right to choose a doctor of their own choice to assess them. 

According to information published by Return to Work SA, “A permanent impairment is defined as a loss, loss of use or derangement of any body part, organ system or function that has reached maximum medical improvement”. 

If a worker receives a lump sum payment and then re-aggravates the injured bodily part/s they are still entitled to pursue weekly wages if any work time is lost and reasonable medical costs are claimable (as long as the designated period of 2 years is still open for weekly payments, and 3 years for medical expenses; that is, from the operative date from when an injury is accepted by SAFECOM.) 

Workers Compensation can be a complex matter and is based on the individual circumstances of a claim, so it is important to seek advice ASAP when making or pursuing a claim for a work injury. Please do not hesitate to contact our union office on 83527211 to speak to our Workers Compensation Officer Les Birch if you find yourself in this situation. 

A comprehensive pamphlet on Lump sum payments is available from the UFU which we can provide via an email attachment or by post, on request. 

In solidarity,

COVID-19 UPDATE

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