Friday, March 13th, 2020 #MEAAMedia News
MEAA Online

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is posing significant challenges for MEAA members in all industries.

At this stage in the health emergency, MEAA’s message to all members is one of harm minimisation: protecting the health of those working in our industries; and helping rather than penalising those impacted by the virus.

We remind all employers and contracting parties of their clear responsibilities to provide safe and healthy working environments for those working on their premises or in their name. MEAA will step up its monitoring of workplaces potentially affected by the virus as this health emergency unfolds. Our priority is our members’ personal health and wellbeing.

For journalists assigned to cover coronavirus, there are additional professional pressures to concerns about their own and their families’ health. During this time we urge all members to take care of themselves, by being aware of overwork, and to follow medical advice on self-isolation if they believe they have been exposed to infection.

The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma has published useful resources for journalists covering coronavirus, which are available here.

MEAA welcomes media employers who have been on the front foot to make contingencies for potential quarantine periods, while continuing a ‘business as usual’ approach. This is consistent with government public health advice.

Journalists permanently employed at large media organisations which have union collective agreements in place will in most cases be entitled to paid sick leave and carer’s leave. MEAA urges all media employers to show maximum flexibility in making leave available to affected staff, and to show restraint with respect to standing down employees and terminating contractor services.

Casuals and freelancers are not automatically protected under Australian workplace law with the same paid leave entitlements as permanent employees. More information on your employment rights is available from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The bottom line must be to minimise loss of employment and financial disadvantage for all workers in the media, entertainment and arts industries.

MEAA believes that under these circumstances, contractors and employees should have the same rights, protections and entitlements. MEAA however acknowledges that the full extent of coranavirus is not yet known.

MEAA urges action at two levels, for employers and for governments.


Beyond occupational health and safety obligations, MEAA implores employers:

•  to implement formal and informal leave arrangements in cooperation with staff, especially where casual employment is concerned;
•  maximise opportunities to work from home for those able to work;
•  compassionately review carer leave arrangements for workers caring for an infected or quarantined person;
•  ensure continuity of employment is unaffected by breaks in duties caused by the virus; and
•  look for alternative work to be performed where employees or contractors cannot undertake duties at the usual place of work.


Ultimately, MEAA members and the community at large expect federal and state governments to manage issues proactively.

MEAA strongly supports the ACTU’s call for a further two weeks leave to be made available to employees and that equivalent entitlements be extended to individual contractors who are impacted by the virus.

Many media workers are already working at the economic margins as a result of intermittent work and relatively low levels of income security.

The capacity of this virus to incapacitate whole sectors is perhaps unrivalled. We urge those in control of public purses to use their best instincts and imagination to chart a course through these difficult times.

MEAA members seeking more information, advice or assistance about coronavirus should contact MEAA Member Central on 1300 656 513.