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  • Royal Life Saving

COVID-19 Pandemic, JobKeeper and impacts on the aquatic industry


- This position is current as at 4pm (AEST) on 2 April 2020

- Our position must be considered against our remit as a national peak body,

with a key focus on reducing drowning and promoting safe aquatic participation

Royal Life Saving estimates that the Australian Government JobKeeper payment represents a $700m lifeline for many businesses and employees across aquatic facilities and swim schools.

Royal Life Saving continues to closely monitor the COVID-19 Pandemic through official sources, including the Australian Government Department of Health, and State/Territory Government Departments of Health.

Governments moved to close all public aquatic facilities and swim schools by midnight on 25th March 2020. We recognise the importance of this measure in managing social distancing and pandemic control.

At the time, Royal Life Saving estimated that more than 1,077 aquatic facilities, the majority of which are owned by local councils, and more than 1,176 swim schools, including many small businesses, would be required to close immediately.

We estimated that approximately 67,000 frontline workers would be affected, and noted that almost half of the workforce are casual employees and three-quarters are female, and that 40% are between the ages of 18 to 24 years.

On Monday 30th March 2020, the Australian Government announced that it will provide a wage subsidy to around six million workers who will receive a flat payment of $1,500 per fortnight through their employer, before tax for a period of six months. The JobKeeper payment is intended to keep Australians in jobs as we all deal with the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Royal Life Saving has modelled the potential impacts of the JobKeeper payment on the aquatic facilities, including swim schools, and found that:

- An estimated 21,000 full-time, part-time and self-employed staff, and 14,800 casual employees, in the aquatic industry may benefit from the JobKeeper scheme

- This represents approximately $107m per month, or $700m over the six-month period

It is currently unclear how Local Government Authorities will be treated under the scheme, which means that employees working in council-run facilities may be ineligible for payments.

The Local Government-run component of our industry impacted at this point is estimated to be:

- 8,700 full-time, part-time and self-employed, and 6,000 casual employees in industry, who could potentially benefit from the JobKeeper scheme

- This represents approximately $44m per month, or $288m over the six-month period

The above calculations include adjustments for seasonal variation, casual workforce turnover and assumes that all businesses take up the scheme. This does not include the thousands of small businesses that support aquatic facilities in the supply of goods and services.

This continues to be a challenging time for many working or relying on the aquatic industry, including swim schools. This industry makes a substantial contribution to community health and wellbeing.

This wage subsidy may assist in supporting, retaining and retraining the workforce. This should help with facility maintenance and preparations for when millions of people will return, desperate for a swim and to enrol their children in swimming and water safety lessons.

Pool maintenance during this period is critical. Royal Life Saving continues to urge State, Territory and Local Governments to take all necessary steps to ensure that these vital swimming pools and swim schools are maintained during this period of closure. Pools left to fall into disrepair are very difficult and costly to re-instate. They are prone to damage and failures. Long-term closures will have significant impacts on health, safety and wellbeing.

Royal Life Saving will make available various online learning and development programs for aquatic industry professionals to support them to retain and build skills, ready for when swimming pools re-open.

Renewal dates for CPR, First Aid and Pool Lifeguarding certifications and accreditations related to the aquatic industry that lapse between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 have been extended.

For over 125 years, Royal Life Saving has advocated that swimming and water safety lessons, a daily swim for fun, fitness and good health, and the aquatic and swim school sectors are essential.

Our challenge today, and in the coming days, is to ensure the welfare of staff, family and those close to us.

At this difficult and evolving time, it is essential that we all continue to follow the public health guidance provided by Governments at Federal, State and Territory levels.

Justin Scarr

Chief Executive Officer

We declare the following:

- Our Members deliver education and training services to schools,

pools and community

- Two Members operate public aquatic centres

- Two Members operate three swim schools

- We receive Government funding which supports our efforts to develop industry

safety guidelines

- We love aquatics, are committed to industry and community safety is paramount

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