Workplace Law News - Corona Virus Update

It seems in the past few days the level of uncertainty for Australians regarding what the coronavirus will mean for business, schools and like has increased exponentially. For employers, managing the demands of running a business and navigating the many and various obligations regarding your employees triggered by the pandemic is both challenging and complex.

Short term issues to consider

O’Reilly Workplace Law is working to support our clients through this difficult time. Some of the key issues to consider in managing your workforce in the short term include:

  • Taking steps to meet your work health and safety duties. All businesses have an obligation to ensure, so far as is practicable, the health and safety of their staff. Where risks cannot be avoided, they need to put in place control measures to manage this risk. What measures is your business taking around things such as:
      1. Hygiene training and supplies; 
      2. Instructions to staff about whether to come to work, when to stay away and when to self isolate; 
      3. What increased cleaning and sanitising practices are in place
      • What are the fitness for work issues that arise? What if you don’t stop an infected worker from attending for work?
      • Taking steps to ensure that you can still service your clients/customers. Whether you are providing professional services, manufacturing ‘widgets’ or building houses, what arrangements are you putting in place to continue servicing your clients/customers?:
        1. Is remote work an option? What agreements and boundaries should you put in place to manage remote work? What if staff are unproductive working from home and you want to discipline them?
        2. If staff are working from home, their home becomes your workplace with all of the associated safety obligations. What are you doing to identify and manage these risks?
        3. What about staff who have carer’s/family responsibilities? Can they care for children and work from home? What are the productivity consequences if they do?
        • Do you know what leave entitlements employees will have and when? When will employees be able to take:
        1. Personal (sick or carer’s leave)
        2. Annual or long service leave
        3. Unpaid leave

        Have you communicated with your staff about leave entitlements and set expectations?

        • If your business cannot service its clients/customers, what steps do you need to put in place with staff to minimise the cash flow drain the current situation presents?
        1. Agreements for staff to take annual leave
        2. Agreeing with employees to work reduced working hours with corresponding reductions in pay

        What medium term issues need to be considered?

        If the impact of the pandemic is likely to have an ongoing adverse affect on your business, have you considered:

        • When and if you might implement redundancies?
        • Does the pandemic present an opportunity to reconsider the make up of your workforce? Are there positions that you might take the opportunity to reconsider or remove altogether?
        • What can you do to minimise the risk of dismissal related claims flowing from redundancies?
        • What concessions might be available to you if you are a small business employer?
        • Will redundancies trigger pro rated long service leave entitlements?

        Action items for employers

        • Communications and directions to staff to minimise the work health and safety risks of the pandemic – remember, directors and officers have personal obligations under work, health and safety law
        • Communications to staff around leave expectations/availability, whether remote work will be available and what the related work from home performance expectations will be, preparing and putting in place remote work agreements
        • For remote work, taking steps to ensure employees are, so far as reasonably practicable, safe to work from home
        • Planning for the future months

        Need support and advice?

        O’Reilly Workplace Law are open for business as usual, and with arrangements to work remotely as we need in order to continue to provide our clients with support and advice during this time..

        Denise O’Reilly - Director

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