Updated: Mar 11
Terri Bell & Ellie Wolfenden
The current spread of COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation and it begs the question, how prepared are we?
If you’re unsure about what this means for your business you’re not alone. There are many issues businesses may need to consider and we will be endeavouring to keep you abreast of the various issues over the coming days and weeks.
One issue employers need to keep in mind is that they are under a legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of their workers and other persons (clients, members of the public etc), so far as is reasonably practicable.
To this end, employers should ensure that:
1. All affected employees have completed or are adhering to the mandatory self-isolation requirements imposed by the Australian Government. This includes employees who have travelled from or transited through China, Iran (since 1 March 2020) and South Korea (from 5 March 2020) regardless of whether they are showing symptoms.
2. They are aware of employee leave entitlements in relation to COVID-19;
3. They are keeping up to date with the latest advices from the state and territory governments and health departments and passing necessary information to their employees. This includes making resources available to employees regarding protection measures against the spread of infection, and taking steps to clean and disinfect all “high-touch” surfaces, such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards and tablets at least once a day; and
4. They are taking steps to address and prevent any unlawful discrimination, harassment, bullying or victimisation in the workplace related to COVID-19.
Employers must also be careful that they are not breaching any workplace laws when:
- directing employees not to attend work because of the virus;
- dealing with employee requests not to attend work due to the virus; and
- making decisions as to leave entitlements for employees affected or impacted by COVID-19; and
Employers, if they have not already done so, should also start considering any policies and procedures to enable affected employees to work from home during any isolation period (or during a wider outbreak) and also consider the impact any widespread outbreak within Australia may have on its business. Businesses should also developing strategies to mitigate against the impacts and the risks including a review of your current contracts.
Terri Bell & Co can assist if you would like specific advice in relation to your obligations as an employer in relation to COVID-19, including leave requests, how to handle absences from affected employees, what policies you should have in place particularly with respect to working from home, any issues you may have with supplier contracts and the things you might want to consider putting into your contracts.
If you would like to discuss your situation, please contact Terri Bell & Co on (02) 9191 9856, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember to keep a lookout for further updates from us on this subject.
This guide should not be relied on as a substitute for obtaining legal, financial or other professional advice. It is intended to provide general information only and is not intended to be comprehensive. The contents must not be relied upon as such specific advice you should seek specific professional advice tailored to your personal circumstances before taking any action based on this publication.
World Health Organisation:
Australian Government Department of Health
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