Coronavirus (COVID-19) – What Employers should do now to be prepared

Employers should be actively taking steps to manage the risks of Coronavirus (COVID-19) to your business and your employees. So what should you do?

Keep Up to Date

Be prepared and stay informed, and make sure you know at all times the employees that must not attend work or that must self-isolate and the required periods for self-isolation.

Make sure you keep your employees and visitors aware of the latest information and requirements as well.

Key website links below for up to date information on Coronavirus and how to manage the risks:

Department of Health

Smart Traveller

Fair Work Ombudsman

Implement Hygiene and Cleaning Practices

  • If you haven't already, increase hygiene practices and employee briefings to help mitigate the threat of the virus spreading and impacting employees and visitors;

  • Provide adequate personal hygiene facilities and practices, such as designated hand washing stations, hand sanitisers, disposal face masks and gloves, minimise human contact where possible; and

  • Review your current workplace cleaning practices and upgrade these if required.

Introduce Relevant Policies and Practices

Implement a Work Health Safety - Infectious Disease/Pandemic Plan and identify a response team.

Most State Work Safe authorities have information to assist:

Safe Work Australia

Work Safe Victoria

Safe Work NSW

WorkSafe Queensland

  • Containment will be key if you have an employee that is unwell with the symptoms or presents a risk to the remainder of your workforce - require them to stay at home, implement working from home arrangements where you can, or consider appropriate leave arrangements.

  • Review and update your Contingency Plan. Plan ahead, if you have temporary or unexpected exits or disruptions, be prepared on how you will manage this to maintain business continuity.

  • Communicate. Keep your employees up to date with the steps your business is taking, to reduce the risk of panic and misinformation.

If an employee is affected by Coronavirus, what leave entitlements apply?

If your business is impacted by employees that must self-isolate, or they cannot work as usual because of the Coronavirus, there are a number of ways this can be managed, including through the taking of personal/carer’s leave, annual leave, advances on annual leave, implementing flexible work arrangements, such as directing an employee to work from home, compassionate leave if an employee has an immediate family member infected by the Coronavirus who is seriously ill, leave without pay, or access to other paid and unpaid leave.

Remember that there may be additional entitlements in a Modern Award or an Enterprise Agreement that cover your employees or terms in employment contracts you may need to factor in.

What if our business cannot operate as usual because of the Coronavirus?

If your business is impacted more significantly because of the Coronavirus and cannot operate as usual as a result, there may be scope to consider stand down arrangements, however there are strict rules and requirements for stand downs, so we recommend you obtain legal advice first before utilising such arrangements.

If you need urgent advice or assistance in managing the impact of Coronavirus in your workplace, please contact IR Legal Solutions to discuss.