COVID-19: How do I keep myself and others safe as a support worker?

Guidance and information on reducing the impact and spread of COVID-19 for people employed to provide care and support to people living at home.

Last updated: 14 September 2021

As a person employed as a support worker, including some family/whānau/āiga carers, you make a significant contribution to the quality of the lives of the people you support. Yours is a key frontline role that is made even more challenging during New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While physical distancing is generally required by the response to COVID-19, essential personal care services which require close contact, such as toileting, washing and feeding, need to continue to be provided as usual.

As a support worker you are strongly advised to get vaccinated, to protect yourself and your family, as well as the people you care for. If you have not yet been vaccinated, you can book a time to receive yours on the Book My Vaccine website, or by calling the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26. All calls are free, and the team are available from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week. You can ask for an interpreter if you need one.

In addition, as a support worker you should:

  • not work if you are sick, and get tested if you have any cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms ― such as a cough, sore throat, or a fever
  • not work if you have been at a location of interest (please check COVID-19: Contact tracing locations of interest to find out where the locations of interest are, and follow the advice given if you have been at one), or if you are a close contact of a confirmed (or probable) COVID-19 case
  • practice good hygiene, by regularly washing and thoroughly drying your hands, and always coughing and sneezing into your elbow. It’s also important to keep high-touch items and surfaces clean. You can continue to provide essential home help (such as house cleaning) if the right personal protective equipment is available, and as long as providing this help will not place the person you are supporting or caring for at risk
  • maintain physical distancing where possible
  • use personal protective equipment (PPE) as appropriate
  • keep a record of all your visits for contact-tracing purposes. If you are called by a contact tracer, please take or return the call as soon as possible.

If a person you are supporting or caring for has dementia or an intellectual (learning) disability, the requirements and changes that have resulted from the response to COVID-19 may have added stress and pressure to their life.

Find more about how you can help the people you care for cope with the situation:

Taking care of your wellbeing as a support worker

As a support worker, your emotional and mental health is important. It is common to feel stressed, but there are some things you can do to feel better.

  • Reach out to your usual support, like family, whānau and friends and talk about how you feel.
  • We recommend sticking to a routine such as having regular mealtimes, bedtimes and exercising.
  • If you feel you are not coping, it is also important to get extra help. For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can call or text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor. Read more on the Mental health and wellbeing resources page.

Providing a safe working environment for support workers

Employers of support workers must have appropriate guidelines and systems in place aimed at keeping support workers safe in their workplace. This includes following the appropriate workplace health and safety guidelines, and notifying the support worker if the person they care for is sick.

Please note that the advice on this page applies to all Alert Levels.

If you are a family, whānau, or āiga carer, you can find more specific advice at COVID-19: Information for family, whānau, and āiga carers.

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