The views and opinions expressed in this article and video are those of the authors. Please use the World Health Organisation or Department of Health to stay up to date on the COVID-19 pandemic. Please also note that with the changing nature of this situation, some of what was communicated may only be relevant during the time it was stated.

 

Richard:

Good afternoon everybody, thanks for joining us. At first, we’ll just do a check to make sure everybody can hear and see. At this point, you should be able to hear what I’m saying for starters. You should be able to see a green screen that says COVID-19 Q&A 4 and you should be able to see our panellists at the moment. If you could just type in the question box just to confirm that you see and hear all of that. Once we confirm that most people can see and hear us we’ll get things underway. Maybe people can’t hear and see us.

My name is Richard and I’m the national early childhood manager but I’m based in Melbourne so I’m representing Victoria today. We’ve got Craig Griffiths who looks after our Sydney branch. Hello Craig, check everybody can hear you.

Craig:

Hello.

Richard:

And we’ve got Mel from Queensland representing our Queensland branch. Welcome, Mel.

Melanie:

Hi all, thanks for coming in today.

Richard:

We’re very lucky today, we’ve got a special guest, Jason Roberts. Welcome, Jason.

Jason:

Hi all, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Richard:

All right. Well, there’s quite a several questions that people have already sent through. Just to get started, I mean we’ve got a real mix in terms of the audience today and I know that some of them have actually worked with you previously Jason through your time at G8 Education.

But there’s quite a number that may not know you or haven’t heard of you, are you able to give us a bit of a background on yourself, particularly your experience in the early childhood field?

Jason:

Yeah. Hi everybody and hello to all those people… I don’t know who you are who I worked with, I hope you’re well, and hello to all those people who I haven’t worked with and don’t know me, I hope you’re well too.

Jason:

My name is Jason. I am English, as you can hear from my voice. I moved over here in 2014 and joined G8. I was part of the senior leadership team over there for four years and I left two and a bit years ago. Since then I’ve been working closely with the sector still, still know a lot of people and still very busy trying to help people where I can. We’ve also set up The Sector, early education news, views and reviews website which is busy, busy, busy as well. That’s a little bit about me.

Richard:

It’s a fantastic publication The Sector. I know that I get the emails will all the updates, with all the new stories every week and there’s some really good content in there. I certainly keep up to date through that publication. Can you tell us a bit more about it and your idea behind it and so forth?

Jason:

Well, I left G8 two and a bit years ago and I was like, “What am I going to do?” I mean this is a perennial question, “What am I going to do?” I was either going to work for another large early education and care provider or I was going to go back to the UK. I decided against both of those and I thought, “Okay, I’ll set up something on my own. I set up a small consultancy just supporting people, I like to help. That went well but I found that when I was outside of G8 I wasn’t so close to the action, I wasn’t so close to the news. I then started to look for places online to find consistent, quality, unbiased, unopinionated news and there wasn’t any, there was nowhere. So there is that Newtonian moment when the apple fell on my head I kind of like, “Okay, there’s an opportunity here to create a platform which is unbiased non-tribal and based in fact.” The rest is history.

Jason:

The website’s been open for 18 months now. We’ve got Freya, who many of you will know as well, is our editor based down in Adelaide and Anna who works with me up here. She helps with the business side of things and also the events. It’s been more successful than I expected. People who usually know me, I’m a quite quiet guy, I never expect things to quiet work but when they work they really work. The website seemed to have itched that scratch or scratched that itch let’s say. Long may it last.

Richard:

I mean COVID-19 is having a massive impact on our space with many of our casual workers, who some of them are listening today or watching today, are out of work, but it’s also a challenge for the centres. I guess you are really well networked, Jason, with The Sector and with your other roles that you’re involved with. Centres, even with the government assistance, the free child care, it’s still a real struggle for a lot of centres out there. What things are you aware of that centres are doing to cope with some of the challenges at the moment?

Jason:

Yeah, so the environment is complex and everything has happened very quickly and as human beings, we’re not great at adapting, particularly when our environment is filled with a deep concern for our wellbeing, our children’s wellbeing, their parents’ wellbeing, our parents’ wellbeing in this COVID-19 coronavirus environment. So having to manage the transition from an old system to a new system against that backdrop is incredibly difficult and I think people forget that. Everybody expects to have the answers today. They’re not going to come, we need to work through stuff. We have to be practical and try to be as objective as possible and manage our way through this and we’ll get there.

Jason:

Concerning the packages that they brought, abandoning the Child Care Subsidy System is a big deal. I mean no more activity sets, no more uploading enrolment or sessions or any of that, you just know precisely how much you are going to receive from the government as revenue for the next three months. If you are managing a business as opposed to managing a team if you are managing a business the most important thing to do is understand precisely how much money you’ve got coming in and exactly how much money you’ve got going out. That might sound simple but actually putting into practise is quite difficult. The problem is that if you’ve got more going out than is coming in it’s really quite difficult to get more money coming in. That leaves you one choice, and that is to try and reduce the money going out the door.

Jason:

When we think about things like that as a business, we need to think of wages, we need to think about rent, we need to think about our child care expenses and our overheads. We must try and be very systematic and try and find the formula of A plus B plus C that equal our revenue because we are not going to get any money from the government, I don’t think. There are certain situations where you can claim for a supplementary top-up to the ECC relief package, but there’ll be few and far between. The amount of money you’ve got coming in from the government will be your revenue for the next three months, for the majority of people, and that means it’s incumbent on us to make sure that what we’ve got going out the door matches it.

Jason:

Now, the biggest challenge with that, of course, is wages, because the largest part of our expenses is our team. Managing a team’s hours down in this type of environment is really challenging stuff. Emotionally it’s challenging, psychologically it’s challenging, empathetically it’s challenging. But these are the questions that are being asked by the senior leaders in the big organizations and the leaders in the smaller organisations, how can I bring my costs down to match the revenue that the government is giving me?

Jason:

The trick to it, I think, and the area I will be focusing on, is on the rent side of things actually. because the government is being quite explicit in their release of a code of conduct that the actual rent you will be paying should fall by the amount your revenue’s fallen. So if your revenue has fallen by 50 per cent, and it has because we’ve all been subjected to this new relief package, you’ve got every right to ring up your landlord and say, “I want my rent to come back by 50 per cent.” It’s really helpful. It’s a great place to start and not difficult to do. Your landlord has to comply because the Prime Minister has written it all down in the code of conduct. Easy.

Jason:

The other space to focus on is in the child care expenses space. You’ll have fewer children so you’ll need less. You have fewer children you need fewer materials. And then finally you need to look at wages, and that’s the real challenge because we’re dealing with humans and are people you care about as well. How do you get agreement and find the middle ground about reducing someone’s hours to match the JobKeepers, or to match what your revenue needs it to match to? No doubt it’s challenging and people can’t be too hard on themselves because we’ve never been through this before. There are no leaders have been through this, no Ops Managers, no Centre Managers, it’s all new. We just need to be a bit big-hearted and a bit compassionate as we find our way.

Richard:

Yeah. Thanks for that Jason. I think there’s another couple of questions towards the end with regards to finances so we might want to expand on a few of those points a little more bit later on.

Jason:

Yeah.

Richard:

We’ve got a question for me really, this one.”Now that the JobKeeper scheme has been legislated, where is anzuk with this?” Now, we’ve had a lot of questions regarding the JobKeeper payment. It’s a tricky one. We’ve had this every week since it was first announced. The short answer is, we still don’t know, unfortunately. The RCSA, our solicitors, our accountants haven’t been able to provide a definitive answer with regards to this. Look, what I can say to our casual workers out there that aren’t currently getting a lot of work is, ultimately if you would be eligible for JobKeeper you would be eligible for JobSeeker, and you can apply for that. There’s different taxation applied to that, so in terms of what you get in your pocket, for some people there may not be a huge difference. That’s because JobKeeper is taxed like your normal wage whereas JobSeeker is a bit different.

Richard:

I guess, the other part of this and what I can say in terms of why… I mean some of the detail around why we can’t provide a clear answer on this is that… Basically in the legislation, it says that long term casuals are potentially eligible, however, under the legislation, there’s a fair bit of detail there. Now, “Long term casual is basically defined as someone who is employed for 12 months or more and that is employed by the entity on a regular and systematic basis.” I’m quoting the legislation directly there, so employed on a regular and systematic basis for 12 months or more. That’s where there’s some confusion with that and what constitutes regular and systematic and what constitutes 12 months for a casual.

Richard:

On top of that, there’s also some uncertainty about whether on-hire agency casuals are even eligible. There’s a section there that when related to the Taxation Act that was written in ’93 potentially means that on-hire agency workers aren’t eligible. These are things that we’re trying to get to the bottom of, so we are working really hard on this and hopefully, in the next coming days we’ll be able to provide a bit more information. Is this something you know much about Jason?

Jason:

The JobKeepers and the casual entitlements? A little bit. I suspect I know what you know. One thing I would add it’s if a centre changes hand, for example, and casuals come over from the old owner to the new owner, the 12 months still apply. The 12 months doesn’t have to be with your organisation, if that 12 month includes a change in ownership of a business, you can also add on the time when they were working the prior business. That’s about all I know. It’s very challenging for the short term casuals out there, short and medium-term casuals, I mean anybody under 12 months, because, of course, they joined the business with the best intentions and if COVID had happened six months from now, they would’ve qualified. Someone up in government has made this decision and the line has fallen on 12 months. Very challenging.

Richard:

Okay, so we’ve got a question here for Craig. I’ll just make sure we’re showing it on the screen. “How much work is available right now for anzuk casuals, and what about OSHC and holiday programs?

Craig:

Yeah. Hi everyone. I probably speak, I suppose, for most states and for sure Mel can vouch for this as well. I try to consolidate this question because there are a few questions that were asked that were quite similar. Essentially about two weeks ago we fell down to about 1% of what we’d usually be doing as a business nationally. This week we’ve… Last week, so I should say, we increased that up to 2%. The positive here is that, well, we are moving in the right direction, obviously, we would like a bit more to come through so we can assist you guys with more work. But essentially, like I said, it’s very, very quiet at the moment. As the same with the holiday programs and the OSHC as well, with a very similar situation. I know Victoria has just come out of a holiday and now New South Wales is just going into their holidays. We, as of current, there hasn’t been many bookings coming through from those programs so it’s maintaining pretty low levels of numbers coming through at the moment as well.

Craig:

We are trying as much and as we can to facilitate centres and their needs as well but unfortunately, there’s only so much we can do on that forefront I suppose. On the back of that question, there was another question that came through that was, “When do you think the work will pick up?” Unfortunately, I suppose, we really don’t have a crystal ball on that. The landscape is changing weekly, daily so it’s hard for us to really put a timeframe in regards to that. However, we are anticipating strong demand for casual educators and even permanent members of staff. Centres will be opening back up again. Hopefully in a few months when all this settles down but, again, that time frame is quite unknown to us at the moment.

Craig:

We are still actively, I’ll say proactively recruiting just because we know at some point this is going to change and things will go back to normal, and we really want to be on the forefront making sure that we can facilitate help centres with their needs at the time, so it’s going to be quite quick, well hopefully, it will be a quick transition. We also want to make sure that we’re able to supply educators with as much work as possible as well just to kind of backdate the time they’ve not been able to find sufficient work.

Richard:

All right, thanks, Craig. We’ve got a question here for Mel up in Queensland. Mel, “Can we wear masks to the centres we go to?”

Melanie:

Yeah, look, this can be a tricky one and its one we’ve had a lot from a lot of our educators. But at this stage, the Department of Education has not advised that this is necessary to do. The masks are more there to protect people who are already sick, to stop them from infecting others, and those who are in close contact, regular contact, with sick people such as healthcare workers. At this stage, it is not advised. If it’s something you still really want to do and feel you need to do, just have a chat with your consultant and they can speak to the centre on your behalf for that as well.

Richard:

All right, thanks, Mel. “What sort of things can educators do to protect themselves?”

Melanie:

Again, the best advice for this would be to follow from the Department of Health. That is the advice we are giving our educators, so general cleaning, washing your hands, sanitising all the time, early childhood educators are great at that, sneezing into your elbow and just trying to maintain that social distancing where you can. I know it can be tricky in the early childhood sector. But check in those guidelines just to make sure you’re following them and also check in with the centres as well, because they may have different policies and procedures around that. The government is also recommending that everyone get the flu vaccination, if possible, for health reasons. If you can go out and get that one we definitely recommend that as well based on the advice from the Department of Health.

Richard:

All right, thanks, Mel. The next question, “How is everyone going at anzuk?” Craig you are going to answer that one.

Craig:

Yeah, I am. Thank you to the person who actually asked that question, firstly. I think it’s super important that we’re asking those questions to each other, listening to each other, and giving people that support and to help the community, so thank you first of all. Well, we’re doing really well, I believe. Like the majority of organisations, we’re having to adapt, change, innovate, so that always comes with its perks and always comes with its challenges as well. I probably speak for most consultants at anzuk, we’re very grateful to work for such a forward-thinking company that build such a great culture where we do actually value each other’s relationships and support each other through that, and that comes from Daniel the CEO down. Every day he implements great fullness moments where he picks on three people across the company and they have to talk about small little things that they’re really grateful for.

Craig:

We have weekly achievements where we share that across the team nationally, no matter what it is, daily hurdles where we talk about our success and we talk about our challenges as well and learn from those challenges. As Jason mentioned before, we’ve never come through this unprecedented time before so not putting that pressure on ourselves to know the answer straight away but to work through those answers is really, really important. Also, having informal meetings as well, so actually catching up with each other away from our work. I don’t know how you do that at your desk at home but it’s one of the challenges I suppose, but actually having a coffee with each other to make sure we’re having that personal touch as well is really important. It’s this focus that really keeps us strong through this period, it’s times like these, that connectivity, that empathy and support, they’re super important for everyone and we branch that out to our educators and the centres as well. We’re really trying to add that with you guys as well.

Craig:

So if you do need that support or you just want to have a talk or have a coffee with us, we’re more than happy to put out a Zoom meeting. We’ve been that already with a lot of centres who just want to have a bit of a chinwag and talk about things and we’re more than happy to do that, stay connected with everyone so feel free to reach out to us.

Richard:

That’s great. The next question, “My CPR is up at the end of April. I’m a kindergarten teacher so I want to ensure it’s updated yearly. How can I do this?” Mel, I think you’re going to answer this one.

Melanie:

Yeah, look, at this stage, we are yet to learn whether CPR and First Aid courses are still deemed as essential or not. As Craig was saying, no one else has really been through this before so everyone is figuring it out as they go along about how that is going to look in the future. We have been aware of some RTOs are doing online courses such as this through Zoom. But the best advice for that would be to contact them directly, the one that you usually use. Look, if yours is coming up soon and you’re not really sure how to handle that, again, just contact your consultant and we can manage that with the centres directly because everyone is in the same boat, everyone’s having the same issues and we’re all just learning together about what’s going to be best practice. Just have a chat with your consultant and we can talk through it with you.

Richard:

Yeah, great. Thanks, Mel. There certainly are some RTOs which are running online First Aid updaters, so they do exist. You’ve just got to find them essentially. The next question, so we’re going to go back to Jason, we’ve got a couple of questions with regards to finances and budgets. Some of our viewers are keen for some more information on how to best manage they’re finances and budget at this time. Given your background, can you offer any additional advice? I know that you’ve already gone into some depth with this.

Jason:

Yeah, I would circle back to what I said earlier. We’ve basically got to throw out the rules, that’s a fact, so any old budgets that were in place they need to go in the bin immediately. You need to start from scratch and you start with the four big components; how much is coming in, how much you’re paying your team, how much you’re paying your landlord, and then everything else. Keep it simple. Keep it really simple. And then you need to work through your expenses basically because your revenue isn’t going to change. With all the will in the world, your revenue isn’t going to change, so you need to be focusing on the expenses. You start with the rent, see if you can get that back. You start with your discretionary expenses, pare them back and then you get to work on wages.

Jason:

I saw one of the questions coming through from one of the casuals, “Are you sharing the workaround to different casuals daily or are the same casuals getting the work?” Well, if I was running a centre I would be sharing the workaround. That is the only way we’re going to get through this as a team. I would understand how many hours I need or can spend and then I would try to prorate them as fairly as possible across the team. That’s where we are, that’s my advice. It’s not complicated, we need to go back to first principles; revenue, wages, rent, other, and just do our best to re-base those three to our revenue.

Richard:

Great, thanks, Jason. We’ve got another one here for you…

Craig:

Can I just answer that Rich? Sorry, is that okay?

Richard:

Yeah, absolutely.

Craig:

Obviously, Jason just touched on that about casuals and the workaround with the casuals. In anzuk, we also try to do that as much as possible. It’s just important to bear in mind that a lot of our centres that do work with us as well consistency is the most important thing for them, for the children, and the families as well. We will make the best decision obviously. They’re keeping the children at the forefront and families at the forefront as well and what’s best for them. Like I said, we will try obviously and move that around and get people as much work as possible when there is work coming in. But obviously, at the moment we’ve only got 2% coming in at the moment. But when that starts to pick up we will try our best to make it fair for everyone as long as we are making sure what the centre is wanting in terms of consistency for the children and the families as well.

Richard:

Great, thanks, Craig. Another one for you Jason, “What about as occupancies increase, how is that going to look, managing into the future-

Jason:

This is –

Richard:

… given that right now income’s fixed?”

Jason:

Yeah, again, it’s a terrific question. In the world we’re in at the moment the majority of centres have got relatively low occupancies, having been hit really hard, and are slowly building it up again. But there will come a point when parents are responding to the free childcare piece and just, “Take my kids. Just take my kids.” and they start to move through the threshold where your costs have to be higher than the revenue you’ve got from the government. There are two ways you can manage that. You can either apply for a top-up from the government, so if your occupancy does rise through a threshold and you start to lose money because you need more team and you’re earning fixed revenue, then you apply for a top-up. It’ll be processed quickly, no doubt about that.

Jason:

The other thing, which is much trickier to do is to try to manage your parent’s expectation around the availability of free child care, and that’s really hard. To do that successfully we need to have strong communication skills and strong relationships with our parents. They need to understand the reality of your financial situation and if they push their kid onto you for five days in a week while they’re sitting at home drinking tea and coffee, that’s going to cause problems for you. Tricky, so either one route, go to the government, or the other route is managed your families, and that’s all about communication.

Richard:

Yeah, a very tricky situation that will be, as occupancy start to increase-

Jason:

That’s right.

Richard:

… it’ll change the game that’s for sure.

Jason:

Probably mid-May. My expectation is around mid-May. I could be wrong. I mean we’ve all got different centres and different this and different that, but I think around mid-May they’ll be a lot of these conversations going on and they’ll be people… Yeah, they’ll be challenging. We’ve got a bit of time. What is it? Four weeks. Let’s just enjoy these four weeks as best we can.

Richard:

I reckon you’re on the money there with mid-May. I mean we don’t know, none of us has a crystal ball but if you think the way the COVID-19, the curve is really flat-lining if it continues to go that way, I mean there’s going to be hardly any cases in a few weeks. People are going to want to get back to work and send their kids into care, aren’t they?

Jason:

Quite right. This the psychology that we’re moving into because everybody knows the curve has flattened and they’ll be an expectation that things open up again. They’re sick and tired of managing three kids under five at home, with their wife. It’s just too hard. The politicians will be under a lot of pressure, I think. It’s just a question of when they’ll yield so mid-May, four weeks from now, halfway through the school term, mid-May.

Richard:

Of course, you’ve got one under five too, one over and one under?

Jason:

I’ve got two under five. My goodness, it’s getting quite challenging just with two.

Richard:

Yeah, I can relate to that. I’ve got two under… Well, I’ve got a seven and a six-year-old and a three-year-old so they’re certainly keeping us busy at home as well.

Jason:

There we are.

Richard:

All right. The lucky last of our prepared… oh, when I say prepared, the questions that came in before we started. This is for you Jason again, “Do you think that the government will continue with free childcare after COVID-19 is a thing of the past or after September, after the initial period that they’ve said it’s going to be in play for?”

Jason:

Yeah, it’s also a fantastic question. The ECC relief package, which saw our revenues cut by 50%, that expires, allegedly, on the 28th of June. There is scope for it to be extended to the 30th of September but the first line in the sand is the 28th of June. Assuming that we reach that mid-May and things start to get better, my sense is that by the time we get into July we would have reverted to the old system. I do not think this is forever. This is temporary. It is temporary as far as I know and far as I’ve spoken to most senior people about this, their expectation is that we will return back to the CCS System probably early July.

Richard:

Great, thanks, Jason. What we’re going to do now is we’re going to open things up to live questions. As I mentioned earlier in the little question box if you’d like the post a question for Jason or for any of the panellists if you put that in there… Panellists I’ve sent you through some questions so if any of those you fancy answering, just go ahead and do so and I’ll continue to send through any other questions that come through.

Jason:

Okay, I’m going to have a go at the flu vaccination question. I’m no expert in this realm, but I know we wrote an article on it, Freya wrote an article on it last week. The original rules were a recommendation that the flu vaccination was to be had by all ECEC employees, professionals, team members, whatever. That recommendation is still in place. It is not mandatory. It’s really important to recognise that. It is not mandatory, it is a recommendation at this juncture.

Richard:

Right. This one that’s just come through there that I might have a go at. This one’s from Michael, “I have worked at a lot of government schools as a CRT, are there any digital teaching opportunities in the meantime while schools are closed.” Now, this is early childhood Q&A session but we obviously work very closely with our CRT team. Now, ultimately… Again, this is one of these questions that we don’t really know but we’ve been doing a lot of work around this because the thing is with schools, depending on the year level, they are having to go-ahead to a certain extent with business as usual which means… Let’s say you are a year 10 maths teacher, now that year 10 maths class still has to learn, they’ve still got exams towards the end of the year, so if that teacher is sick and is unable to deliver online teaching, they respectively need another teacher to come in and deliver that.

Richard:

We believe there will be some opportunities. It’s really the first day back to school in Victoria and New South Wales haven’t gone back yet, but we do anticipate there will be some opportunities, maybe not as many at this point until there are more children attending schools. But similar to the early childhood sector, we think it will start to pick up as the term progresses. Does anybody have any other question or do any of our panellists want to answer any?

Craig:

Yeah, there’s one that came through that said, “How will you decide which casual will be offered JobKeeper?” I suppose they refer back to the conversations we had earlier on in the webinar, in the question basically. We’re still working through that at the moment. There’s a bit of ambiguity in terms of what has been put out by the government and the wording is around so we are still working out what is classed as regular work, how often over that year an educator has to be employed with the casual agency. So, we don’t have a definitive, sorry, answer on that one as current but we are working on that and as soon as we know we’ll inform you.

Richard:

Thanks, Craig. Does anybody want to have a go at any of the others?

Melanie:

I can see the question just about the educators talking their work has slowed down and if we can offer any work for them in that stage. Look, I think Craig did touch on it earlier. Our coming in has been very quiet, to be completely honest with you, but we are still proactively registering educators and bringing people on board so A, they can access some online learning that we’re doing for all of our educators to keep you up-skilled during this time and also that once work does pick up again we can get you out as quick as possible. Short answer, there’s not a lot coming in right now but we’re still moving forward with the rest of it so when it does come in you’re ready to go out and get working basically.

Craig:

Just following on from Mel there, we actually are developing an LMS, learner management system. That is going to be basically pushed out over the next weeks and we’re going to try and make that accessible to our educators for professional development basically. That’ll also be spoken through the centres as well and the directors to help their educators. Even if they’re unable to particularly help their educators with work, at least we’re able to assist them and the educator with ongoing learning and development as well.

Richard:

Yeah and I think that online LMS I think that’s already in operation. We’ve got already a couple of courses a week running through that but that’s going to ramp up in the coming weeks and of course, those courses are free. For kindergarten teachers and for school teachers that have to do a certain amount of PD, I mean what an opportunity there is there to get some PD out the way while the work is a bit low.

Jason:

Yeah. Can I just add something there? Yep, I think you’ve hit on something really important that this is kind of God-given, once in a lifetime opportunity to develop ourselves, because we’re just not as busy as we were. So let’s use that excess bandwidth to try and develop ourselves. The guys talked about courses, I see in there there’s a couple… “I heard that the government is doing short six months grad courses and where do I find out about these courses?” Well TAFE New South Wales is doing a series of free courses. They’re all short courses and the other TAFEs around the country as well. That is the first place to look if you are looking for courses outside of anzuk for example, outside of their LMS. If you want to look at the institutions, go to TAFE. All of them has been funded to provide heavily discounted courses on a range of subjects, not necessarily just ECC. Yeah, it’s important, use this time, use it.

Richard:

Great advice. Where there any other questions there? I think we’ve covered quite a lot. Helen just wrote, “Thanks Jason for that one.” Thanks, Helen. Any others there? We’ve actually answered quite a lot. If anybody’s got any other questions fire them through. Here’s one. It’s quite a big one.

Jason:

Yeah, this is a repeat question. I saw this question was popped up a little bit earlier. “A part-time worker who’s recently started working in February only works two hours a week compared to a casual worker who works full time since July 2019. Part-time worker gets JobKeeper payments but the casual worker doesn’t. What are your thoughts on this?” Well, we touched on that earlier. It’s not equitable, it’s not fair but it’s the way the system is being structured. If you’ve got that full time or part-time tag you’re able to participate and no one could’ve foreseen that’s where they were going to land. It’s just the way things are, unfortunately. Very challenging to manage if you’re not part of the lucky few. Our heart goes out to you obviously but that’s just how the way it is.

Richard:

Yeah, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there Jason. Unfortunately, yeah, this situation some people… If you happen to be a supermarket worker, well there’s plenty of workarounds. If you’re an early childhood casual worker then, unfortunately, there’s not a lot of workaround at the moment. There’s a lot of sectors in a similar boat. I mean we’ve seen the queues out of Centrelink. There is really a huge number of people in the same boat, it’s just very unfortunate for a few. The centre out there themselves, as you’ve talked about Jason, is really struggling as well. anzuk is a business, very challenging financially. We’re not set up to be running at 2% of our revenues. Lots of companies are in a really tricky financial position, as a lot of individuals. The best thing to do is to speak to Centrelink or get on myGov website and contact Centrelink and see what you are eligible for if you’re currently not working.

Jason:

That’s right. And then if you are a casual, my strong advice to you is to be proactive, to stay close to anzuk, to stay close to your former employers or your current employers. Stay close. Be open to opportunity, be available. Don’t withdraw. You need to stay on your front foot because this will pass and those at the front of the queue will be picked first. Don’t give up hope, you’ve got to keep going.

Richard:

Yeah, 100 per cent. Interestingly, we’ve talked about this in the previous webinar, the importance of staying in contact, in keeping your availability up to date because we haven’t experienced a situation like this before. We have been through many situations where the work has fluctuated, where there’s been a period where there’s been less work and then there’s all of a sudden there’s a period Where there’s a huge need for work and those people that stay in contact and keep their availability up to date, they’re usually the ones that benefit and get back into work faster. Certainly, keep that in mind. As we come out of this, as occupancy increases within childcare centres, the centres will end up in a situation, and it turns quite quickly, where they need staff and it all happens at once.

Richard:

There are thousands of childcare centres and if they all need one staff member tomorrow that’s a huge demand for staff that just occurs overnight. That will happen, it’s just a matter of time.

Jason:

And for the managers out there who are managing centres, the priority is, of course, around the budget and the financing to make sure that what comes in equals what goes out, but also to be proactive with your application for JobKeepers. The JobKeeper portal has all been updated now. We wrote about it yesterday and they’ve done a great job. The 20th of April is the point in time when we have to register. So once that 20th of April comes we need to be on that website first thing in the morning uploading our employees that we were claiming for, ensuring eligibility is X, Y, Z and getting it into the system. 20th of April needs go into the diary, it’s an important day.

Richard:

Just had a few more questions all come through at once. If you guys can take a look at those and see if you an answer any of them. It’s a bit like the work when it rains it pours. All the questions are pouring through at the moment.

Craig:

The question around the 417 visas, I’m not sure if a bit is missing off the bottom on that one. It says, “I’m currently on the 417 visas. There’s recently been a new visa released to extend your visa by working in critical… ” Can you just elaborate or explain what that question is?

Craig:

Okay. I guess that somewhat. Yes, ordinarily I would say during this period it is awareness of period where work dips down. Ordinarily, it’s good to register with multiple agencies just to make sure that you’ve looked after and that you have enough work coming through. Unfortunately with this current period every agency, every centre is in exactly the same position. Across the market, across the sector in early childhood, across all the states nationally, it’s the same. Ordinarily, I would say yes, 100% do that but right now I guarantee most agencies are in a very, very similar situation as well as centres. It’s probably not a good use of your time at the moment, as Jason said, it’s good to be proactive but maybe if you’re really struggling financially then to look at other maybe avenues that you now are booming may be in such a short a period but you can get some income coming in.

Richard:

Yeah, and look, the interesting thing at the moment is at anzuk all our staff is currently still working which we’re really grateful for but the majority of our competitors, their consultants have either been moved into other sectors such as healthcare or they’ve been stood down and out of work right now. Yeah, I don’t know that registering with another agency right now will be that beneficial, unfortunately. Sometimes you’re better off maintaining our relationship, certainly when there’s an abundance of work around that relationship’s important because it’s often… if anzuk is sending you to a centre, you do a good job at that centre they typically ask for you back and if you’re not available they’re going to ask for somebody else. So having your agent or your consultant who’s there to advocate for you and help manage that with you is of real benefit. Are there any others there that we can answer?

Jason:

Can I just have a go? There was a question, again, about vaccinations and I think the lady or gentleman sent through a link from the AEU Victoria, Australian Education Union’s website referencing this 20th of May… I think it’s the 20th of May… May 2020. Now, you must appreciate that that statement on the AEU website is out of date. The advice has subsequently been updated by AHPPC, so I’ll read it, “One such recommendation time was that from 1st May 2020 visitor and staff should not be permitted to enter into the facility if they have not had a flu shot.” That is now being taken out. The information has since been amended to remove the reference to the 1st of May 2020 and to revise the recommendation to say that a core risk minimisation measure is that children, staff and parents should receive a flu vaccination but it’s not mandatory.

Jason:

I know this is the case because we’ve had to update our article to reflect the new advice. After all, a number of our readers raised it with us. The AEU just haven’t got there yet, so it’s not accurate. Important one.

Richard:

Mel, Craig, are there any others there that you can answer?

Melanie:

I did like the question around supporting children in OSHC with maintaining that social distancing while still having them engaged and learn and I think this could apply to early childhood as well. I mean that can be tricky, children don’t really fully understand but as an educator myself, we know the best tool is to educate them in an age-appropriate way. You know your children the best way and you know what they are capable of understanding and making it fun. Making a game out of it in some way. I’ve got an early childhood brain so the OSHC might be a little different, but that would be my suggestion, is educating them why, making a song about it, about how to stay away or counting, “All right, let’s count 10 steps away from each other. Who can do that?” Turn it into a learning opportunity while still… that you’re still trying to keep them safe. Unfortunately, it’s not going to work all the time. We know what children are like. But that would be my suggestion for that way. If anyone else wants to jump in and add to that please do feel free because I feel everyone could use some ideas around that.

Richard:

Thanks, Mel. Craig, you must be able to have a go at another by now.

Craig:

I’ve been trying to read through them, trying to find out which ones haven’t been answered already.

Richard:

This one here just to follow up on our LMS so I’ll just post that through. I don’t think I posted that one.

Craig:

Okay. There have been a few nice comments from people appreciating the time. Thank you and thank you for listening as well. If you do happen to have a question feel free to reach out to us. This question, “Is the online LMS you spoke about to centres to use for their educators if you have relations anzuk?” Absolutely. Yeah. Through this period we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to support our educators and our centres, whatever that means we can do to help you through this period. That’s something we’re 100% offering up to centres. We’re just working through how that’s going to work and how that’s going to be programmed and utilised but yeah, we’ll definitely in touch regarding that or feel free to reach out to us as well. We want to learn to still continue with the educators and as much as possible with the children.

Jason:

I might have one. I see there a question in here… Where are you? “When will we be notified if we are eligible for JobKeeper? When will we be notified we’re eligible for JobKeeper?” Actually, you won’t be. Your centre manager is responsible for determining who they think is eligible for JobKeeper. They will then come to you or you can go to them and your job is to fill out a form. There will be a form that you have to complete with details of your circumstances. You submit that form to your centre manager and your centre manager will then lodge, or the owner of the business if that’s a different person, will then lodge that information on the ATO’s website.

Jason:

But no one’s going to necessarily tap you on the shoulder and say, “You’re eligible.” You’re not going to receive a text message saying, “You’re eligible.” You’re going to have to go to your manager or your employer and say, “Look, I think I’m eligible, am I?” They’ll say, “Yes.” They’ll give you a form, you fill the form, you give them the form, they send it off and then you’ll get the money.

Richard:

Yeah, just to expand on that. That might have been an anzuk casual staff member that sent that through. Just as Jason has said there, that’s the process. We’ve essentially got to apply for it on your behalf or your centre has to apply for it on your behalf depending on… I can’t see who that question has actually come from but look, as I was talking about earlier with the JobKeeper, there’s several… unfortunately, that legislation has been… It has been passed through parliament. There’s still a lack of detail and our solicitors… We’ve had legal advice from multiple solicitors now and there’s nothing definitive around exactly who’s going to be eligible and who’s not eligible. It’s very tricky for us as a business, is we’ve shortlisted 2800 educators that are potentially eligible based on the 12-month rule, they’ve worked for us for 12 months or more. But at least a third of those it’s really grey as to who would be eligible and who wouldn’t. That’s assuming that on-hire agencies like anzuk are actually going to be able to claim the JobKeeper.

Richard:

We can’t get clarification on that either. As I was saying before, there’s some conflicting legislation and tax law that… Jason’s publication, The Sector, published a great article, I think yesterday. It goes into quite a bit of detail about eligibility around that. There’s a link there to the actual legislation and to the fact sheets. You can go through and read all of that and you’ll see that there’s a lot of legal jargon and a lot of it is open to interpretation and this is something that is happening. This stuff’s been released by the government and then us as a business or the childcare centres as businesses then have to go and interpret it. There’s no precedent around this. There’s no way that we know that works because of what’s happened in the past. Normally with this sort of thing people come to us and we know because we’ve done it before. Nobody knows because nobody’s done it before unfortunately.

Richard:

Just bear with us. If we paid 2800 people the JobKeeper allowance without getting that money from the government and without ensuring that they were eligible or we were eligible to claim that, we would fold overnight in a situation where we had to pay all that money back or a situation where all our educators had to then go and pay it back. So it’s important that we get it right and we need to be fairly certain around that before we can go any further. The short answer is we don’t know when we can provide more information. We’re hopeful that that will come out in the next couple of days. I hope that helps.

Jason:

Just quickly add somewhere, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. It’s picked up in some of the questions that come through and it’s very challenging to make business or life decisions when you don’t know the facts. That is part of our mission at our little website, is to try and convey the facts, not opinion, not what I think or they think, the facts to our audience and to our readership. If you want information about flu vaccinations please go to the website, go to the COVID section. If you want information about how JobKeeper worker from an ECEC perspective, please go to the website. It’s a really detailed article that Richard referred to. This isn’t a plug, I’m not that type of guy. I’m just saying there are resources out there that we can trust and are being updated daily for people like you. It’s really important and that’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. Over to you Craig.

Craig:

Thank you. There’s another question I saw come through is, “The government have set up the JobSeeker… If I just apply for just a job to get me through, how this affects me working for anzuk.” And the essence of the answer is it won’t. The only, I suppose, the time it will affect you is once anzuk can help you find work or you start working again, you just have to notify the department and let them know that you have actually started work again.

Richard:

Right, thanks, Craig. We’re almost running out of time. Some more questions are coming through. If we’ve got time grab those…

Craig:

Yep, there’s one there where I can see, “Are temporary residents eligible for JobKeeper?” As far as I know, you have to be an Australian resident from what I-

Jason:

Yeah, that’s accurate.

Craig:

If you’re on a 417 or 457 working holiday, I’m pretty sure… sorry, 417 I should say, you’re not eligible to receive the JobKeeper.

Jason:

That’s correct. The language is they have to be an Australian resident or a resident for tax purposes and them surplus 444 visa holder.

Richard:

This one here again referring to the LMS. You’d be able to access the LMS through our PD page, professional development page on the anzuk website or via the professional development section on the Ready 2 Work app, if you’re a registered and active casual worker. They’ll be links via those two sources. “What is the website Jason speaks of?” Sorry, I missed that. Jason?

Jason:

www.thesector.com.au.

Richard:

Just back to the LMS, when I said the other day that we already started that, I’m not sure that PD has been run through the LMS or it’s been run through particular learner management software or system that… Basically, there’ll be emails that go out to certainly all our educators when we’ve got that completely up and running fully because there is content being loaded onto that literally as we speak. So that will happen imminently but yeah, you’d be able to access that via the website as well. It may not be on the website right this second but it will be in the coming days, so just to clarify there.

Richard:

Well, it’s after three o’clock folks so we’re going to have to end it there but, look, thanks to everybody for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure. A special thank you to Jason for joining us. Your expertise has been really helpful for a lot of people so thanks very much for that. Also to Craig and Mel for joining us from Sydney and Brisbane. Have a great week guys. We will have more information being provided in the coming days and we’ll be running another webinar at the same time next week, that is 2 P.M. on Wednesday next week. Make sure you sign up for that. We’re hoping to have another special guest next week so we’ll let you know once all that’s confirmed. Have a lovely afternoon and we’ll be in touch. Keep safe. Thank you, everyone.

Craig:

Bye.

Jason:

Bye.