What is an Essential Worker in Australia?

Classifying 'essential workers' and their responsibilities.

Essential Employee Australia

March 31st, 2020

An essential worker, or key worker, is someone whose job is considered essential to the functioning of society, but who is usually on a low to moderate fixed income. Essential jobs differ depending on jurisdictions but typically include jobs in the education, health, emergency, and policing sectors.

Often essential workers are given an official designation letter. For a free downloadable template, have a look at our U.S. based article on essential employees.

Learn more about what an essential business is in Australia.

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian government has stated the following to be essential services that will remain open:

  • Supermarkets.
  • Convenience stores.
  • Butchers.
  • Grocers.
  • Markets.
  • Bottle shops.
  • Petrol stations.
  • Pharmacies.
  • All medical and allied health centers.
  • Shopping centers (eateries in food courts will only be allowed to provide takeaways).
  • Hairdressers and barbers (all appointments must be kept under 30 minutes).
  • Schools and childcare providers (for children of essential workers only).
  • Banks.
  • Post offices.
  • Taxis, freight and logistics, and home deliveries.
  • Trades (such as plumbers and electricians).

Essential Worker Categories:

While the Australian prime minister has told the press that any Australian who holds a job is an essential worker, only workers in key fields are encouraged to work during times of crises, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. There are 8 categories of essential workers in Australia.

1. Healthcare Workers:

Healthcare workers provide essential services that cannot be stopped or shut down for any reason. They provide vital services, such as patient care, research and testing, medication administration, and more.

Examples of Essential Healthcare Workers:

  • Doctors.
  • Nurses.
  • Pharmacists.
  • Medical researchers.
  • Social workers.
  • Caregivers.
  • Funeral home and cemetery workers.
  • All hospital and laboratory staff (including admins, food services, cleaners, and records keepers).

2. Emergency Service Workers:

Emergency service workers make sure that the public has access to healthcare and other emergency services. Emergency service workers are always required to work during states of emergency.

Examples of Emergency Service Workers:

  • Paramedics.
  • Ambulance drivers.
  • Police officers.
  • Firefighters.
  • 000 call center employees.

3. Food Service Workers:

All individuals, households, and emergency services need access to food, so businesses such as supermarkets, grocers, shopping centers, and food delivery services are still required to operate during a state of emergency.

Examples of Essential Food Businesses/Workers:

  • Supermarkets.
  • Convenience stores.
  • Butchers.
  • Grocers.
  • Markets.
  • Bottle shops.
  • Farmers.
  • Animal agriculture workers.
  • Fruit and vegetable picking and packing.
  • Food processing workers.
  • Workers in cafeterias used to feed essential workers.

4. Utility Workers:

Utility workers are considered essential in continuing to provide homes and businesses with electricity, water, and gas, as well as ensuring people have enough petrol to travel.

Examples of Utility Fields/Workers:

  • Power.
  • Fuel.
  • Water.
  • Petrol stations.

5. Transportation and Logistics Workers:

Employees supporting transportation and logistics functions are considered essential.

Examples of Transportation and Logistics Workers:

  • Delivery drivers.
  • Garbage truck drivers.
  • Cargo truck drivers.
  • Postal services.
  • Maintenance and repair technicians.
  • Mass transport drivers.
  • Dispatchers.

6. Public Workers:

Some public servants and government workers are considered essential. These workers tend to operate government-run facilities, such as Centrelink, or maintain public facilities.

Examples of Public Workers:

  • Centrelink call center operators.
  • Prison and probation workers.
  • Legal workers.
  • Workers who support, maintain, inspect, and operate public facilities (such as roads, traffics signals, and emergency locations).
  • Trades workers (such as plumbers, electricians, waste disposal and others necessary for public health and sanitation).

7. Education and Childcare Workers:

Teachers, childcare providers, and social workers are considered essential workers, particularly when it comes to caring for the children of other essential workers while they are carrying out their duties.

8. Media Workers:

Journalists and news service workers are considered essential to providing important news updates to the public. These professionals are required to go to work to provide breaking news for TV, radio, and digital platforms.

FAQs:

Are supermarket employees considered essential workers?

Yes, supermarkets have been deemed essential businesses - they supply us with food - and supermarket worker considered essential as well.

Are restaurant employees essential workers?

They may be. Restaurants are considered essential since they help with food supply, but they are not allowed to have patrons dine-in. So employees necessary to run a take-out business would be essential.