Reopening workplaces – are you ready?

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Many businesses are looking forward to the loosening of some workplace practices as COVID-19 restrictions ease. However, workplaces must take important preparatory measures* before their staff return.

As COVID-19 restrictions are gradually relaxed, businesses, workers and other duty holders must work together to adapt and promote safe work practices, consistent with advice from health authorities, to ensure their workplaces are ready for the social distancing and exemplary hygiene measures that will be an important part of the transition. - National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles (Attachment A)

Employers are obligated to provide a safe workplace.

Considering Workplace Health & Safety (WHS) laws and Government advice on control measures to minimise the spread of COVID-19, employers and managers should do a new risk assessment of their workplace, and implement updated control measures to address those risks – before your staff return to the workplace.

Having effective internal controls in place is key to effectively managing your exposure to risk. In other words, it’s important to implement the right policies, procedures and systems.

Do you have policies, procedures and systems in place to address new workplace issues?

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

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 new 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? What extra measures will you take to protect vulnerable employees?

  • Physical Distancing – what does social distancing mean in your workplace? Do you need to reconfigure your worksite, 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?

  • 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. If an employee is suspected or found to have contracted COVID-19 at the workplace, you may be required to notify your state or territory WHS regulator. Check with the WHS regulator in your jurisdiction.

  • COVIDSafe App – You cannot legally require your employees to use the COVIDSafe App, but 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 minimize workplace stress.

  • 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.

Read 5 things to do in your workplace: COVID-19 by SafeWork Australia >

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

The National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) has created a planning tool to help businesses keep their workplace healthy, safe and virus-free. WorkPlacePLUS also offers free "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 implementing workplace changes and effective internal controls, please contact us today.

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

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