Should my staff come to work or stay home?

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, there has been some confusion across various states and territories regarding ‘essential workers’ or ‘authorised workers’. As COVID-safe restrictions vary according to your location and are continuously fluctuating, it is important to refer regularly to the government information in your jurisdiction. For clarification on whether your staff are classified as ‘essential workers’ or ‘authorised workers’, employers can refer to these links:

Employers and employees have Work, Health & Safety (WHS) rights and responsibilities regarding COVID-19. Read Coronavirus – your employer obligations >

For WHS reasons related to COVID-19, some employees may be directed by their employer or a government order to “stay home”. However, employees who want to stay at home as a precaution, but who are not directed to by their employer or as a result of a government order, need to come to an arrangement with their employer that best suits their workplace, such as making a request to work from home (if this is a practical option) or to taking some form of paid or unpaid leave, such as annual leave or long service leave.

Under the Fair Work Act 2009 and the National Employment Standards, employees have a range of protections and leave entitlements that apply to some scenarios related to COVID-19. For information on COVID-19 and Australian workplace laws, refer to the Fair Work Ombudsman website. Employers should consider whether their obligations are impacted by any applicable enterprise agreement, award, employment contracts or workplace policies.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impose unprecedented economic and employment consequences. When this crisis period passes, your staff will remember how you responded. The best practice way for employers to manage this time of change is to use common sense and be as fair and compassionate as possible. It is particularly important to exercise clear, regular communication with your staff and keep them updated.

During these difficult and stressful times, employers need to be flexible and innovative to ensure the organisation continues deliver its services. Options to consider:

  • Working from home / using teleconferencing

  • Changing work times for staff who have to use public transport (to avoid crowds)

  • Offering to pay for employee parking so they don’t have to use public transport

  • Changing employment from full-time to part-time, or permanent to casual

  • Changing employment to half-days

  • Considering flexible working arrangements

  • Providing special leave and payments above the minimum entitlements

Before making significant employment changes, please seek professional HR/IR advice.

WorkPlacePLUS is currently assisting a wide variety of businesses and organisations with COVID-related workplace issues. Read more >

For more information or tailored advice, please contact us today.