Reopening workplaces – are you ready?



Each time that COVID-19 restrictions ease, businesses look forward to the loosening of some workplace practices. However, workplaces must take important preparatory measures before their staff return.

Listen to "Returning to the workplace as COVID-19 restrictions ease" on the Speak Up podcast >

In every industry, employers and other duty holders must ensure that they are providing a COVIDSafe workplace and meeting their duties under Work Health & Safety (WHS) laws.

Best practice WHS protocols include:

  • Doing a risk assessment of the workplace.

  • Carefully planning and designing your work systems and physical environment to mitigate WHS risks and hazards (read about the principles of good work design >);

  • Speaking with your team members about the WHS risks and any significant changes being made in the workplace;

  • Ensuring you have a good emergency plan in place;

  • Providing communication, assistance, resources, and support to employees who may be impacted by work-related hazards or incidents, ensuring that resources are provided in different languages depending on the specific needs of your employees.

All states & territories now require or encourage workplaces to have some form of a COVIDSafe Plan (or similar). Read more >

Even if your workplace already has previously conducted a risk assessment, employers and duty holders preparing to reopen should do a new risk assessment and implement updated control measures to address the risks before your staff return to the workplace.

Having effective internal controls in place is key to effectively managing your exposure to risk. This means implementing the right policies, procedures and systems.

Key considerations:

▶︎ Preventing and responding to an outbreak – who’s in charge? – What is your role as the employer or the employee? What are the obligations of first aiders and WHS officers? How will you comply with the National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles? Do you have the right resources?

▶︎ Infection Control – What prevention and control measures will you implement, including hygiene and physical distancing? Will you be taking people’s temperatures or providing protective / cleaning supplies? Will you be promoting or monitoring COVID-19 vaccination? What extra measures will you take to protect vulnerable employees? Read more >

▶︎ Physical Distancing – what does social distancing mean in your workplace? Do you need to reconfigure your work site, stagger working hours and lunch breaks, or ask some employees to work remotely?

▶︎ Leave & Flexible Working Arrangements - What are your policies around accessing leave entitlements and workplace adjustments? Are you discussing these with your staff? Read more >

▶︎ Communication & Training - It is important to provide staff with regular updates and seek feedback on issues around returning to work. Employers must ensure that new information, policies, procedures and processes about COVID-19 are communicated clearly to workers and that processes are being followed. Employers must also provide instruction and training to workers on things they need to do to help manage the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the workplace.

▶︎ Reporting COVID-19 exposure - What is the employee’s obligation to report an exposure to COVID-19 or a close contact? Your WHS policy should include a requirement for employees to report COVID-19 exposure. In addition, employers must notify the WHS authority in your jurisdiction when you become aware a worker has received a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. Read 4 important WorkSafe compliance reminders >

▶︎ Contact Tracing - What form of contact tracing are you implementing in your workplace? Do you have a QR code check-in system? While you cannot legally require your employees to use the COVIDSafe App, you should encourage all employees to download and use it, reiterating that they are obliged to advise their employer immediately if they have any exposure to COVID-19.

▶︎ Mental Health & Wellbeing – How will you routinely check in with your staff to see if they are okay? Staff should be given access to an Employee Assistance Program if they are concerned about anything, such as job security, workplace stress or other health hazards. Employers should also take additional steps to minimise workplace stress. Read more > ▶︎ Illness, Privacy & Anti-Discrimination – What is your privacy policy around staff reporting illness? Do you have measures in place to prevent discrimination towards unwell employees? Personal information and cultural considerations should always be treated carefully.

Please contact us to receive a copy of our "Returning to the Workplace" checklists for employers and employees >

When your business or organisation is ready to welcome staff back, WorkPlacePLUS is here to help. For support in implementing workplace changes and effective internal controls, please contact us today.