EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYEE OBLIGATIONS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

In many respects the obligations of employers and employees during the pandemic do not change.

Duties Employers owe to employees:

  • Under the OHS Act 2004, employers have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of their employees while at work.

Duties Employees owe to their employer: 

  • Cooperate with their employer about any action they take to comply with the OHS Act 2004 or Regulations. 

Accordingly, CovidSafe Plans have been introduced to keep businesses open and to safeguard their employees, clients and customers.  Essentially it is another tool in an employer’s arsenal to promote and maintain safe conditions in the workplace.

Employer’s obligations include:

  • Ensure that they regularly update and monitor their CovidSafe Plan.
  • Have a QR code and ensure that employees and customers/clients are scanning into the premises.  (Employers with multiple sites require a QR code for each site).
  • Ensure social distancing is adhered to – monitor and review workspaces/customer spaces to ensure that capacity limits are known and adhered to.
  • Ensure that employees are aware that they must stay at home if they have Covid-19 symptoms and get tested – maintain records of absences, including text message of test results so that you can demonstrate your due diligence in this area.
  • If your business has a positive COVID-19 result you are required to advise the Department of Health and Human Services, WorkSafe, health and safety representatives, and employees.  In such circumstances the identity of the person with a confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) should not be disclosed to other employees unless the individual has given their permission.
  • Proactively identify risks and conduct risk assessments, including identification of mitigations to address such risks i.e., in the event of a positive COVID-19 result what would your cleaning procedure be to minimise closure of your workplace?

Employee’s obligations include:

  • Take reasonable care of their own health and safety in the workplace
  • Take reasonable care of the health and safety of others in the workplace
  • To cooperate with their employer in relation to any actions they take to comply with the OHS Act and OHS Regulations

This means employees must cooperate with any reasonable policies or directions their employer puts in place to reduce the risks to health and safety from COVID-19. This obligation applies even if they are working from home.

In accordance with the Government rhetoric ‘we are all in this together’, therefore employers and employees should be working together to maintain a safe and healthy workplace.

In finishing, by way of a reminder, the incidence of mental health/wellbeing issues has increased dramatically over the past 18 months.  With this in mind, employers and their managers should be maintaining proactive communication with their staff and checking on their wellbeing.  If employees are struggling you may consider providing them with assistance through formal Employee Assistant Programs (EAP), counselling and/or referring them to online resources.

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