Over the past few weeks news about the spread of Coronavirus has dominated most media sources. Some of the most recent cases which hit close to home for businesses:
- Real Estate agency closes office as a precaution – couple attended auction despite being diagnosed with the Coronavirus.
- 20 workers at an Iron Ore mining operation in WA placed in isolation as precaution against Coronavirus.
While the coronavirus is novel, there is no doubt that it is spreading across borders and can or may impact businesses. If you haven’t already put in place a risk management plan to protect your business, clients, and employees, now is the time to consider what steps your business may need to take.
Employer Obligations and Considerations
If an employee is unable to work as a result of either having contracted the virus or self-quarantines as a result of exposure to the coronavirus, the employee is entitled to any personal/carer’s leave they have accrued. If the employee has no personal/carer’s leave accrued, unpaid personal/carer’s leave would be appropriate.
Employers must consider legal obligations under the National Employment Standards, work health and safety legislation, workers compensation, human rights, and privacy. If an employee is exposed to the virus or contracts the virus as a result of work, the employee may be entitled to workers compensation.
Below are some tips for employers to prepare and plan in the event of a pandemic
1.Providing a safe workplace
Employers have an obligation under work health and safety laws to provide and maintain a safe working environment. Each business has varying degrees of interaction with the public and as a result will have different safety requirements – you must take into account the level of risk your workplace may face and what steps you need to take to eliminate or reduce the risk of virus spreading in the workplace.
Take steps to educate employees as to the symptoms, and precautions required to avoid the spread of the virus within the workplace. Information can be found through the Department of Health.
If your employees are in a customer/client facing role, encourage them to practice good hygiene. The provision of hand-sanitizers in the workplace should be considered.
3. Control and contain
Ensure employees who display any symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus stay home. A medical clearance from a medical practitioner is recommended before returning to work.
If possible, consider whether temporary working from home arrangements can be accommodated.
4. Prepare an action plan
Establish a plan (policy/procedure) for dealing with infectious diseases and pandemics. Refer to your State/Territory Health department website for resources.
Consider how you will operate in the event of exposure in the workplace – staffing needs, working from home, virtual meetings, etc.
Employers should nominate and train a responsible person for issuing communications.
All communications should be clearly imparted to employees. Employees should also be provided with regular, up to date training and information.
The responsible person should ensure that steps are taken to ensure employee emergency contact details are up to date and accessible in an emergency.
While for some employers it may seem ‘over the top’ or too early to implement, we recommend employers at least start to have some serious conversations in the workplace around ‘what if’ scenarios.
If you have any questions relating to your employer obligations and duties in relations to managing the spread of infectious diseases, or other work health and safety matters, contact our team.
The information contained within this article is for general advice only, to obtain specific advice for your business contact us on 1300 116 400 or email [email protected] To find out more about Workplace Partners visit us at www.workplacepartners.com.au