People must work from home if that is possible;
Subject to the workplace meeting the above headline requirements, an employer can require the employees to return to the workplace. In the absence of special circumstances, a refusal by an employee to return to work would justify disciplinary action.
A vulnerable employee with an underlying health condition may be justified in declining the instruction to return to work. The employer should obtain medical evidence supporting that position.
As schools (up to year 10) and early child care centres will be open, employers can generally expect employees with children to make childcare arrangements enabling them to attend work.
The general principle of law is that so long as an employee is “ready willing and able” to work, he/she is entitled to payment. In circumstances where employers are unable to open their workplaces (for example, a customer facing retail outlet) the employer may take the view that the employees are not able to work, due to circumstances beyond either’s control (i.e. government regulation) and therefore not entitled to payment.
Obviously, health and safety measures should be implemented for the reopening of the workplace. Employers should have a specific written plan for that covering matters such as the following.
Consider what changes there are, or need to be, to the workforce, rosters, hygiene requirements (surfaces, separation, toilets) maintenance and ventilation systems.
Who is responsible?
Again, allocate responsibility for this.
Consider daily health screening checks, discuss options with employees, put in place follow-up procedures for ill workers and, importantly contact tracing information.
Consider who needs to be in the workplace; get worker input into different ways of working, assess what other people or businesses you have to interact with, ensuring separation distances, disinfecting surfaces and shared equipment, ensuring physical separation and adequate personal protective equipment.
Consider isolation procedures, gathering and using workplace contact tracing information, clean down procedures, contacting Healthline.
Constant review and adapting plans to find better and easier ways to do things, ensure workers are raising concerns or solutions giving them opportunities for that, conducting regular reviews plan and communicating changes to workers.
Review existing critical risks and whether work practice changes will affect risk management; are any new critical risks introduced due to changes in work numbers, work practices, what new risk controls are required question.
If you have any questions regarding employer responsibilities during the various COVID-19 alert levels, please get in touch with one of our employment team.
|Claire Byrne|||||email Claire|||||P: 04 916 7483|
|Mike Gould|||||email Mike|||||P: 04 916 6302|
|Richard Gordon|||||email Richard|||||P: 04 916 7464|