COVID-19 for employers

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been receiving numerous queries about employers' rights and obligations with respect to pay, leave, and working from home. We have developed the below resources which we hope will assist with managing your organisation's employees during this challenging time.

 

With many employers already having made the move to home-working and others set to do so, employers need to understand their obligations from a work health and safety perspective. Given employees could be required to work from home with little notice, generally speaking, this has not and may not allow for the usual comprehensive risk assessment of the home workplace to be conducted.

However, even when working from home is arranged on short notice, in response to the unfolding coronavirus pandemic, employers still owe obligations to employees, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure the working environment is safe and without risks to health. An employee who suffers an injury while working from home could bring a workers' compensation claim, whether that be a physical injury (think RSI or tripping over a cable) or a psychological injury (arising out of say, isolation and anxiety).

In the current climate, there will be little ability in practical terms, to conduct the same level of assessment that you as an employer may ordinarily conduct before approving requests to work from home. Perhaps you are used to employees having to complete a fairly comprehensive working from home checklist including supplying photos of their home working set up. Given the unfolding situation, we suggest that employers, where possible:


  • Give guidance and information to staff about how best to set up their home workspace to be safe. The factors will vary depending on the type of work they are performing from home. In most cases, the minimum requirements will be to ensure their home workspace is ergonomically sound;
  • Request employees to undertake a self-assessment of their home set-up using simple checklists, and ensure employees know who to contact if they have any concerns or questions about their home set-up; and
  • Keep connected with employees while working from home to ensure employees do not feel unduly isolated.
We've prepared some Guidelines that employers can issue to employees who are/will likely be working from home. This is not as extensive or comprehensive as we would normally recommend, but it is a simple and effective way to take practical steps to minimise the risks of injuries occurring whilst the ever growing number of employees set up camp at home.
If you are interested to hear more about cybersecurity issues in the COVID-19 outbreak, please see the following article published by our Litigation & Dispute Resolution group: https://mccabecurwood.com.au/covid-19-pandemic-cyber-security-protocols/

Contributors

Liliana Freeman Lawyer