March 2020

FAQS for the APS in relation to COVID-19


Who should self-isolate?
The Ministry of Health and Social Development has set out the criteria for self-isolation for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus at:

What happens if employees need to self-isolate?

Officers should follow the guidance set out by the Ministry of Health and Social Development and/or their doctor.
This includes those with symptoms before being tested, awaiting testing or following a positive result. Special leave with pay should apply when an officer is advised to self-isolate. Medical or Ministry of Health and Social Development’s advice should be followed.

Should self-isolation be recorded as special leave with pay or sick leave?

Special leave with pay should apply when an officer is advised to self-isolate.

Who should self-quarantine?
The Ministry of Health and Social Development sets out the criteria for self-quarantine for those who are a close contact of a confirmed case of coronavirus at:
If medical/Ministry of Health’s advice is that the officers should self-quarantine, and they are not ill, then the ministry/department should implement a working from home arrangement.

What if an officer who is required to self-quarantine does not have the facility to work from home?
If an officer has been advised to self-quarantine, and he/she is not ill, but he/she does not have access to remote working, ministries and departments should explore every possible avenue of making a suitable arrangement. Managers should maintain regular contact with officers in self-quarantine and continue to explore opportunities for work which can be performed at home both inside and outside the organisation as critical services come under increasing pressure.

Should officers in self-quarantine return to work if a negative result for coronavirus is returned following testing but still have symptoms?
Medical or Ministry of Health and Social Development’s advice should be followed. If officers are still feeling unwell following a negative diagnosis, they should notify their manager and apply for certified or un-certified sick leave under existing rules and guidelines.

How should advice of the need to self-isolate and self-quarantine be recorded?
Appropriate medical/Ministry of Health and Social Development confirmation of the need to self-isolate/ self-quarantine and/or a diagnosis of COVID-19 will be required. In the event that written confirmation is not available, the recording of medical or Ministry of Health and Social Development’s advice to self-isolate/ self-quarantine will take the form of a self-declaration. This does not mean that officers can voluntarily choose to self-isolate/ self-quarantine. Medical/Ministry of Social Development’s advice will be required. However the reporting of same will take the form of a self-declaration.

What if an officer contracts COVID-19 whilst on special leave with pay?
If the officer were already on special leave with pay as a preventative measure, and subsequently falls ill, then the special leave with pay will continue, rather than sick leave, once the officer is medically diagnosed (including a medically presumptive diagnosis) with COVID-19. However, the continuation of special leave with pay will require medical confirmation from a doctor for the duration. Special leave with pay should continue to be recorded. However, the rules of sick leave will apply.

What happens if, after the period of self-isolation, an officer does not have the COVID-19 virus?
When the recommended period of self-isolation is passed, please follow medical advice and/or Ministry of Social Development’s guidelines on return to work.

What happens if a colleague in my workplace is diagnosed with COVID-19?
The Ministry of Health and Social Development will inform any officers via the contact tracing process who have come into close contact with a diagnosed case. The Ministry of Health and Social Development will also advise the PS/DH. The instructions of the Ministry of Health and Social Development should be followed and officer confidentiality is essential at all times.

What if an officer does not have COVID-19 but has another illness?
Any non-COVID-19 illness will be recorded as ordinary certified sick leave and the usual rules governing sick leave will apply.

What if an officer has returned from travel in a GOA advised restricted area?
The officer will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days or shorter period if the officer were scheduled to complete a portion of his/her vacation leave on island.

What about officers who are at high risk for serious illness from Covid-19?
There are some officers who may be at more risk of serious illness from COVID-19. The current advice on such officers is available from the Ministry of Social Development. Protective self-separation is recommended for an officer who is at high-risk of severe illness from COVID-19, when the virus is circulating in their community. This means being extra vigilant with washing hands and avoiding large groups of people both indoors and outdoors.
The PS/DH has a duty to ensure officers’ safety, health and welfare at work as far as is reasonably practicable. On this basis, the PSs/DHs are advised in the first instance to provide officers with advice in relation to social distancing and to encourage staff to take every day preventative actions to minimize their risk. The PSs/DHs should advise officers to self-declare if they believe that they are at higher risk and priority should be given to facilitate this group in terms of flexible working arrangements, including working from home.

What are flexible working arrangements?

Where officers can work from home this should be facilitated to the maximum extent feasible. Steps should be taken to increase the scope for remote working and all opportunities and flexibilities need to be exploited.

This could include flexible shifts; staggered shifts; longer opening hours and weekend working. These measures will help to keep employees working while they are also managing caring responsibilities.

As part of the national response to COVID-19, all public officers must work together to meet critical needs which are evolving as the situation unfolds. We need to be flexible in how we tackle this and find ways to deliver the critical public services needed to support our communities. We all have a part to play in seeing this crisis through, and this will involve finding creative and innovative ways to deliver public services.

Guidance for public officers in relation to COVID-19 self-isolation and self-quarantine notifications
If you fall into any of the self-isolation categories:

  1. Contact your manager before 9.00 am on the first day of isolation/self-quarantine to update him/her on the situation.
  2. If you are advised to self-isolate/self-quarantine you will be required to give your manager the following information: a. Date of commencement and number of days advised to self-isolate/self-quarantine b. Advice received from: Dr MSD Hospital Other (you will be required to specify what that is)
  3. If you have been advised to self-isolate/self-quarantine as a precaution but you are well, you will be asked to work from home where possible
  4. You may be asked to sign a self-declaration on return to work, including written confirmation of the above details.
  5. By applying for special leave with pay, you agree that in the event of noncompliance with the provisions of special leave with pay (including the requirement to provide confirmation of self-isolation/self-quarantine/diagnosis of COVID-19) existing procedures, including disciplinary measures may be invoked.
  6. If your manager is not available, please contact another manager in your area or your HR team. In rare situations where that is not possible, make a note of the date and times of call made and continue to try to contact your manager(s) until contact is made.
  7. The manager reserves the right to request further confirmation.

Guidance for managers when notified of COVID-19 self-isolation or self-quarantine

  1. If a manager receives a call from an officer advising that he/she may need to self-isolate/self-quarantine the manager should in the first instance ask if the person has to self-quarantine as a precaution and if he/she is well enough to work. If he/she is well enough to work he/she should be asked to work from home.
  2. If the officer has been notified to self-isolate and is not well enough to work, the manager should ask the officer the questions below. The manager should take note of the details provided.
  3. Questions: a. Date of commencement and number of days advised to self-isolate b. Advice received from: Dr MSD Hospital Other (you will be required to specify what that is)
  4. Managers should make officers aware of the need to stay in regular contact.
  5. Managers should alert the officer to any follow-up actions that are required on his/her return to work (for example, completion of self-declaration form).
  6. The Permanent Secretary/Department Head should notify Public Administration of all officers who are required to self-isolate/self-quarantine. They should also ensure that the self- declaration forms which are completed by officers, on their return to work, are sent to Public Administration timely.