Corona Virus (COVID-19) – Your workplace obligations!
Many employers are asking about the event of a Corona Virus (COVID-19) outbreak, so in this article below we have added some general information for your review.
What are your obligations if employees are unable to work due to the virus?
If the situation worsens, employers may need to consider their obligations for each of the serious scenarios below. We recommend checking your Pandemic Policy to ensure it meets your needs.
The Fair Work Act 2009 provides that employers have a right to stand down employees in certain circumstances.
Modern awards, enterprise agreements or employment contracts may also contain stand down provisions and generally such periods are unpaid.
What if your employee unable to return from overseas or is quarantined?
Employers should choose if the employee can access their paid personal/carer’s leave entitlements or annual leave. Employers may decide that employees can take other paid or unpaid leave.
What if your employee can’t attend work because they have or are suspected of having Corona Virus or they are caring for someone in this situation?
In the first instance, employees should use their paid personal/carer’s leave entitlements. If these are exhausted, your employees might wish to consider other alternatives, such as taking annual leave or leave without pay. Happy HR recommends that employee receives a medical clearance prior to them returning to work.
What if your employees want to stay at home as a precaution?
Employees will need to request to work from home or to take some form of paid or unpaid leave. Employers should treat these requests as you would treat other applications for this type of leave.
What if your operational needs change because of a downturn or supply-chain issues?
The Fair Work Act stand down provisions are likely to apply, subject to any provisions in your employment arrangements, meaning that some employees may not be paid.
It is vital to consider if you intend to or not pay your employees during any stand down. A plan to communicate this message to employees should be done before an event not during or post but before you do this you should obtain advice if uncertain of your obligations!
Working from home – what to check
A working from home policy may be already in place. You should check that it meets your needs if employees if they are subject to quarantine. Check your business continuity plans to ensure the business can continue to operate if your employees can work remotely.
What else should you do?
Remind employees on general hygiene precautions.
Employers should remind employees and others entering their workplaces of the importance of high personal hygiene standards which are vital to protect against the spread of infection.
What should be done:
Display signage reminding people to wash their hands regularly and thoroughly “Clean hands protect against infection”. A quick splash of water will not do the job.
You could consider installing hand sanitiser dispensers in bathrooms, meeting rooms and high pedestrian traffic areas such as reception areas.
Do you need to conduct international travel?
Employers should consider whether any scheduled international business travel is necessary in the current environment. It may be that other communication options like zoom. We use this every day and we love it!
You should also review your insurance coverage for upcoming travel. Insurers have set 21 January 2020 as the cut-off date for Corona virus related claims. What this means is that this is the date the virus became a ‘known event’ for insurance purposes.
Remind employees that they should not present at work if they are unwell, and they should sneeze or cough into their elbows and not their hands. Employees who share equipment such as phones or laptops should wipe down this equipment with a sanitising wipe after use. Remind them to clean their desk each and every day.
For more information please go to the https://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/news-and-media- releases/website-news/coronavirus-and-australian-workplace-laws.