New health & safety toolkit to help
your business return to work
Does the thought of sifting through all the information regarding COVID-19 feel overwhelming? You’re not alone. With changes coming thick and fast, it wouldn’t be amiss for you to have thrown your hands in the air to yell “what now?”.
Help is at hand. The Safe Work Australia website now has easy to access, industry-specific guidance around COVID-19. The comprehensive updates cover everything you need to know about ensuring your workplace is COVID-safe, including guidance around physical distancing, personal protective equipment, wearing masks, cleaning, workers compensation, how to conduct risk assessments and design emergency plans. There are even case studies to help explain how to manage coronavirus risks in the workplace.
Go to COVID-19 Information for workplaces. You can either start by using the drop-down lists at the top of the page to filter through content, or you can scroll down to specific information further down the page. The resources are tailored for:
- Employers, small business or workers
- The industry you work in (there are 23 industries covered and a general section if your industry isn’t listed), and
- Relevant health and safety topics
Physical distancing measures
One of the top considerations in your return to work planning is how to manage physical distancing (social distancing). Physical distancing helps to reduce the spread of coronavirus as it’s most likely caught by breathing in micro-droplets from another person sneezing, coughing or exhaling.
Current health advice for workplaces recommends four (4) square metres of space per person while still maintaining physical distancing of 1.5 metres from others where possible. The COVID-19 Information for workplaces details how to calculate this space and any other questions you may have regarding physical distancing.
Wearing masks in the Workplace
Whilst there are instances where face masks are appropriate, current guidelines from the Australian Government Department of Health indicate there is little evidence the use of masks by healthy people will prevent the transmission of coronavirus. When using face masks in the workplace, employees need to be trained on how to wear the masks and dispose of them correctly.
For comprehensive information on these topics and other questions, see COVID-19 Information for workplaces for more information or speak to us.
Can I ensure all staff are safe by making
the COVIDSafe app mandatory?
Latest figures show over 5.6 million Australians have downloaded the coronavirus tracing app. Called COVIDSafe, the Federal Government is encouraging millions more to do so to help ease restrictions. But can employers enforce downloads of the COVIDSafe app?
What is the COVIDSafe app and how does it work?
The COVIDSafe app is a public health initiative between the Australian Federal Government and the medical fraternity to help with contact tracing of the coronavirus. The app uses Bluetooth to look for other devices within 1.5 metres which have the app installed. The date, time, distance, duration of contact and the other user’s reference code are encrypted and stored on the device for 21 days, before being deleted.
When a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, they will be asked for permission to have the data uploaded to the National COVIDSafe Data Store. The anonymised contact information captured by the app will assist the state and territory health officials to support their contact tracing process.
The app is entirely voluntary
Employers cannot legally make employees download the app. Downloading is voluntary. In addition, employers cannot recall work devices to unilaterally install the app on them.
The new biosecurity laws for the app go a step further. Employers cannot discriminate against or dismiss an employee for choosing not to download the app. Doing so can result in hefty fines and a five-year prison sentence.
Employers need to act cautiously to ensure the use of COVIDSafe by employees is voluntary. While you can encourage employees to download and use the app, you’ll need to find other ways to mitigate risk, for example, by conducting a COVID-19 risk assessment. The HR Dept can help you with that so please get in touch.
The impacts of COVID-19 on your
people as they return to work
The Government has rolled-out their three-stage plan to start easing coronavirus restrictions, including looking at transitioning employees back to their office or workspace. So, what will post-lock-down look like for your business?
After getting a good taste of the freedom and flexibility of working from home, employers might see a rise in requests to work from home. The successful trial of remote meetings via video conferencing paired with social distancing measures will now impact the way many business meetings are held.
Returning to work might leave many employees feeling anxious over their health and safety. Some may feel reluctant about carrying out certain duties. Carrying out a COVID-19 risk assessment to identify hazards and make adjustments could help reduce some of this anxiety.
The Coronavirus has impacted us mentally as well – some more than others. It’s a good time to review your health and wellness policies to ensure they support impacted employees as best as possible. Get in touch with the HR Dept for help in making any necessary changes.
JobKeeper – modifying employment terms
These are not normal times and they require extraordinary measures to help keep businesses afloat. One of these measures is JobKeeper. The Fair Work Act of 2009 has had Part 6-4C, ‘JobKeeper enabling directions’ added to help employers who qualify for the JobKeeper payment, deal with the economic impacts of COVID-19.
‘JobKeeper enabling directions’ temporarily modify employment terms and conditions. These directions could be in relation to an employee’s
- location of work
- days and times of work
- duties to be performed
- use of annual leave under certain circumstances
JobKeeper registrations opened on 20 April and from 4 May employers have been able to identify their eligible employees. JobKeeper applications close on 31 May 2020 for those who intend to claim wages for the April and May JobKeeper fortnights.
If you have registered for JobKeeper payments, remember to submit your monthly business declaration.
When staff work from home, does it change
workers comp and insurance requirements?
Regardless of where an employee works, insurance and compensation still need to be covered and understood. That means, you’re still liable for workers compensation if employees get a work-related illness or are injured when carrying out their duties while working from home.
Device, equipment and furniture insurance can be a little tricky. Make sure you’re clear on what will be covered by whom should there be any damage to, or loss of company property.
Check-in with your insurer to make sure your equipment and devices are insured when employees work from home. Employees should advise their personal home and contents insurer if they are working from home.