Sleep and rest legislative requirements

The Australian, State and Territory Education Ministers have agreed to changes to the National Quality Framework (NQF). New legislative requirements will commence from 1 October 2023 relating to sleep and rest. 

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New legislative requirements from 1 October 2023

Under regulation 168 of the Education and Care Services National Regulations (National Regulations), services are already required to have policies and procedures in place relating to sleep and rest. The changes will require the approved provider of an education and care service to ensure their services:

  • include matters prescribed under the National Regulations in their policies and procedures for sleep and rest, and  
  • conduct a sleep and rest risk assessment at least once every 12 months, and as soon as practicable after becoming aware of any circumstance that may affect the safety, health or wellbeing of children during sleep and rest. The sleep and rest risk assessment is to be conducted for the purpose of preparing the service’s policies and procedures for sleep and rest. The approved provider of a family day care (FDC) service must ensure that the risk assessment is conducted in respect of each family day care residence and approved family day care venue that forms part of the service
  • ensure that bassinets are not on the education and care service premises (including centre-based care and family day care) at any time that children are being educated and cared for by the service (regulation 84D). Offence penalties apply. 

Approved providers must make any necessary updates to the sleep and rest policies and procedures as soon as practicable after conducting the sleep and rest risk assessment and keep a record of each sleep and rest risk assessment conducted.

Regulation 170 requires approved providers to take reasonable steps to ensure nominated supervisors, staff members, family day care educators and volunteers follow the policies and procedures required under regulations 168 and 169.

Sleep and rest policies and procedures from 1 October 2023

Approved providers, nominated supervisors and FDC educators must take reasonable steps to ensure that the needs for sleep and rest of children being educated and cared for by the service are met, having regard to the ages, development stages and individual needs of the children (regulation 84A). The approved provider must also ensure there are policies and procedures in place for managing sleep and rest for children (regulation 168) and take reasonable steps to ensure those policies and procedures are followed (regulation 170). 

The Education and Care Services National Law requires that all children being educated and cared for at an approved service are adequately supervised (section 165).

From 1 October 2023 new legislative requirements will require sleep and rest policies and procedures to address the matters set out in regulation 84B: 

Policies and procedures must address the matters set out below:

  • how children will be protected from any risks identified in a risk assessment conducted under regulation 84C
  • how the sleep and rest needs of children are met, including how the ages, development stages and the sleep and rest needs of individual children are considered  
  • how the health care needs of individual children are met
  • how requests from families about a child's sleep and rest and cultural preferences are considered
  • adequate supervision and monitoring during sleep and rest periods, including the method and frequency of checking the safety, health and wellbeing of children during sleep and rest periods and the documentation of sleep and rest periods.  
  • how the sleep and rest practices are consistent with any current health guidelines on the best practices to adopt to ensure the safety of children during sleep and rest
  • the induction, training and knowledge of staff at the service in relation to best practice for children’s sleep and rest 
  • the location and arrangement of sleep and rest areas at the service and how this meets children’s sleep and rest needs 
  • safety and suitability of cots, bedding and bedding equipment, having regard to the ages and developmental stages of children who will use them
  • the management of potential hazards in sleep and rest areas and on a child during sleep and rest periods 
  • the management of physical safety and suitability of sleep and rest environments including temperature, lighting and ventilation
  • communication of the sleep and rest policies and procedures to a parent
  • in the case of a family day care service that provides overnight care, management of risks relating to overnight care at each family day care residence or approved venue of the service.

For services where overnight care is provided (such as services in hospitals, where shift workers’ children attend overnight), the risk assessment must address management of risks relating to overnight care, to inform policies and procedures. 

Risk assessment from 1 October 2023

Approved providers will need to ensure a risk assessment is conducted in relation to sleep and rest for the purpose of preparing sleep and rest policies and procedures (regulation 84C). Sleep and rest risk assessments must be conducted at least once every 12 months, and as soon as practicable after becoming aware of any circumstance that may affect the safety, health or wellbeing of children during sleep and rest. The sleep and rest risk assessment must identify and assess risks in relation to sleep and rest and specify how the identified risks will be managed and minimised.

Approved providers must make any necessary updates to the sleep and rest policies and procedures as soon as practicable after conducting the sleep and rest risk assessment and keep a record of each sleep and rest risk assessment conducted (regulations 84C(3) and 84C(4)).

The content of the risk assessment should be adapted to suit your service’s circumstances, for example, risks associated with children who are sleeping may not be present in services that cater to older children who may not need to sleep.

A risk assessment must consider the matters set out below: 

  • the number, ages and development stages of children being educated and cared for, including at each education and care service and FDC residence or approved FDC venue of the service 
  • the sleep and rest needs of children at the service (including specific health care needs, cultural preferences, sleep and rest needs of individual children and requests from families about a child’s sleep and rest) including at each education and care service and FDC residence or approved FDC venue of the service 
  • the suitability of staffing arrangements required to adequately supervise and monitor children during sleep and rest periods 
  • the level of knowledge and training of the staff supervising children during sleep and rest periods
  • the location of the sleep and rest areas, including the arrangement of cots and beds within the sleep and rest areas, including at each education and care service and FDC residence or approved FDC venue of the service 
  • the safety and suitability of any cots, beds and bedding equipment and having regard to the ages and developmental stages of the children who will use them.

Note that bassinets must not be on the education and care service premises (including centre-based care and family day care) at any time that children are being educated and cared for by the service.

  • any potential hazards in sleep and rest areas or on a child during sleep and rest periods
  • the physical safety and suitability of sleep and rest environments, including temperature, lighting and ventilation at each education and care service and FDC residence or approved FDC venue of the service 
  • for FDC service, that provide overnight care to a child, any risks that the overnight care provided at the family day care residence or approved venue may pose to the safety, health or wellbeing of the child.

As previously identified, for services where overnight care is provided (such as services in hospitals, where shift workers’ children attend overnight), the risk assessment must address management of risks relating to overnight care, to inform policies and procedures. 

Prohibition of bassinets from 1 October 2023

Regulation 84D requires approved providers, nominated supervisors and family day care educators to ensure that bassinets are not on the education and care service premises at any time that children are being educated and cared for by the service. All bassinets are covered by this prohibition.

There is no definition of a bassinet under the National Quality Framework (NQF). The common design and characteristics of a bassinet may include, but are not limited to:

  • Size- smaller than a regular cot
  • Shape- may be basket- like, oval or shaped like a regular cot  
  • Structure- may have handles, foldable or fixed legs or casters or ability to glide/rock
  • Portability- easy to carry or move and may be attached on a frame or a pram
  • Purpose- specifically intended for infants under 4-6 months old (before they show signs of rolling) and may be a stand-alone item, or an accessory (for example as a fitting on a pram).

Is it a bassinet?

Many terms can be used to describe bassinets.  This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Moses basket
  • co-sleeper
  • bassinette
  • cradle
  • bedside sleeper
  • carry cot
  • bassinet fitting (on a pram)
  • portable bassinet

Unlike cots or portacots, there are currently no mandatory Australian safety standards for bassinets. The following are examples of what a bassinet may look like:

 

Note: The images are examples only and do not include every example of a bassinet.

Portacots

A portacot may be called a portable cot, port-a-cot or folding cot. Portacots that are designed to meet Australian standards can be a safe sleeping environment for infants when they are in good condition, set up properly and placed in a safe location. According to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) guidelines portacots are generally less robust than standard cots, so they should be regularly checked for signs of damage and to make sure that the folding and locking mechanisms work correctly. Infants can become trapped and strangled if cots accidentally collapse when they are not properly assembled and locked into place. Risks associated with using portacots should be addressed in sleep and rest risk assessments.  

Visit the ACCC or Product Safety Australia for more information on equipment standards and safety.

Prams and strollers with bassinet fittings

Prams and strollers sold in Australia are required to meet the Australian standards for prams and strollers set out by the ACCC. As stated by ACCC, a pram is a wheeled vehicle with a body of box-like or boat-like shape designed to carry a baby or child weighing up to and including 9 kg, primarily in a fully reclined position. There are also combination prams/strollers on the market. These can seat children in upright, semi reclined and fully reclined positions. These are considered strollers under the mandatory standard. Prams and strollers are to be used for transporting children; best practice guidance does not consider a pram or stroller a safe sleep surface or that they provide a safe sleeping environment. Prams with a built-in bassinet or a bassinet fitting are required to meet the Australian standards for prams and strollers.  If a bassinet fitting is removed from the pram, it is no longer considered a pram or part thereof and is taken to be a bassinet.

What can services do?

Approved providers, nominated supervisors and family day care educators must ensure that every reasonable precaution is taken to protect children from harm and from any hazards likely to cause injury. When making decisions about sleep and bedding equipment and to inform your professional judgement:

  • conduct thorough risk assessments for all sleep environments and equipment to ensure children are safe during sleep and rest
  • consider sleep and rest needs of each child including any specific health care needs
  • consider best practice guidance for sleep and rest practices and safe sleeping environments including sleep and bedding equipment
  • ensure there is adequate supervision and monitoring of children during sleep and rest periods
  • ensure sleep and rest policies and procedures meet prescribed requirements, are followed, reviewed and up- to-date
  • seek advice from recognised authorities such as Red Nose Australia, ACCC and Kidsafe
  • contact the regulatory authority in your state or territory. The regulatory authority is responsible for monitoring compliance under the NQF.
     

Best practice guidance from recognised authorities (such as Red Nose Australia)

The approved provider must ensure the service’s sleep and rest policies and procedures address the matters prescribed under the National Regulations (regulation 84B) and due to the unique context of each service, the content of individual service sleep and rest policies and procedures needs to be tailored to the specific service environment. Policies and procedures should be collaboratively reviewed and communicated regularly and must be consistent with current health guidelines on best practices from recognised authorities (such as Red Nose Australia).

Red Nose recognises continuous supervision, in which an educator is in sight and hearing of a sleeping child at all times, represents best practice. There may be exceptional or extenuating circumstances or certain service settings where continuous supervision is not achievable at all times, for example, if an educator working alone is attending to another child’s needs. As part of the new sleep and rest risk assessment requirements, approved providers must assess and mitigate risks to address such circumstances to ensure children are adequately supervised. In all cases, safe sleep practices and regular physical checks must continue to be implemented. To learn more about regular physical sleep checks visit Red Nose Australia.

Best practice guidance for safe sleeping environments and bedding should also be considered in decisions about appropriate bedding and equipment for each child. Red Nose recommends that for children under 12 months of age:

  • Always place baby on back for sleep,
  • Keep baby’s head and face uncovered,
  • Sleep baby in a safe environment – in a safe cot, with a safe mattress (firm, clean, well-fitting and flat).

Children's mattresses should be firm and flat with secure bedding and free of loose or soft items. Red Nose recommends that once a child has the capacity to climb out of a cot, they should be transitioned from the cot to minimise risks of falling.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) sets out standards and requirements for sleep and bedding equipment such as portacots. Visit the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) or Product Safety Australia for more information on equipment standards and safety.

As part of the new sleep and rest risk assessment requirements educators must consider risks to children’s health and safety and hazards in the sleeping environment such as access of a child to other parts of the environment as they wake including items that could pose a risk such as blinds, cords or other objects, and access of other people to the sleeping environment and sleeping children. Visit Kidsafe Australia for more information on safety.

The identification, assessment and management of risk is critical to providing safe education and care environments. ACECQA has developed a Sleep and rest risk assessment template that can be used by services to identify risks and to stratify these on the basis of likelihood and potential consequences. By applying the risk matrix, services can determine their individual priorities for risk management, and incorporate strategies to reduce, mitigate or eliminate the risk.

ACECQA has also developed Sleep and rest for children policy and procedure guidelines.

These are guidelines and information for approved providers and services to develop their sleep and rest for children policy and procedures.

To adequately fulfil their roles and responsibilities, nominated supervisors and educators should regularly receive information and undertake training on best practice approaches to safe sleep and rest and on the service’s sleep and rest policies and procedures.  
 

Safe Sleep and Rest information video (March 2024)

Overview of changes to sleep and rest requirements.

About the 1 October 2023 changes to safe sleep and rest legislation and regulations. Red Nose and ACECQA provide information and answer common questions.

 

 

 

References to relevant legislation

Section 5 of the Education and Care Services National Law https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-2010-104a#sec.5

Regulation 124 of the Education and Care Services National Regulations https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/sl-2011-0653#sec.124

Regulation 84C of the Education and Care Services National Regulations https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/sl-2011-0653#sec.84C.

Further considerations

  • Ensure that children who do not wish to sleep, are provided with opportunities for play, while those children who do wish to sleep are able to do so, without being disrupted. If a child requests a rest, or if they are showing clear signs of tiredness, regardless of the time of day, there should be a comfortable, safe area available for them to sleep or rest.
  • It is important that opportunities for rest and relaxation, as well as sleep, are provided.
  • There is a range of strategies that can be used to meet children’s individual sleep and rest needs.
  • Look for and respond to children’s cues for sleep (e.g., yawning, rubbing eyes, disengagement from play, crying, decreased ability to regulate behaviour and seeking comfort from adults).
  • Avoid using settling and rest practices as a behaviour guidance strategy because children can begin to relate the sleep and rest environment, which should be calm and secure, as a negative setting.
  • Acknowledge children’s emotions, feelings and fears and minimise any distress or discomfort with regards to sleep and rest.
  • Understand that younger children (especially those aged birth to three years) settle confidently when they have formed secure attachments and bonds with familiar educators.

Resources and further reading    

More resources can be found on this website: 

Red Nose resources:

  • Visit Red Nose at for more information and resources.

Other resources: