As the population moves towards 70% vaccination against COVID-19, many businesses are slowly transitioning staff back to the office.
But it’s essential to manage this process, not only to ensure the business meets its WHS obligations, but also to ensure its operational processes are fit for a new world.
Steadfast’s head of human resources Justin Mark says everything starts with providing a safe work environment. Review your business’s sanitisation stations, cleaning roster and set rules for wiping down work spaces.
“The federal government’s Safework web site is the place to start to check your obligations. But each state has different rules and requirements. So be sure to regularly check your state’s relevant authority for updates,” he says.
“Safely transporting employees to and from work is one of the biggest challenges for many businesses, particularly when staff rely on public transport to get to work”
Safely getting to and from work
Safely transporting employees to and from work is one of the biggest challenges for many businesses, particularly when staff rely on public transport to get to work.
Different modes of transport have guidelines on mask wearing and social distancing and every business needs to be across requirements in their local area. Some employees also have genuine concerns about contracting COVID 19 while travelling on public transport and passing it on to vulnerable close contacts. So consider offering staff the option to catch Ubers or taxis or providing parking spots in public carparks close to the office so they don’t have to catch buses and trains.
“Put in place an employee assistance program to support employees who have a great degree of concern or who are highly anxious about returning to the office because of COVID,” Mark recommends.
The role of insurance
What happens in the event a worker contracts COVID-19 and alleges it is work- related?
For workers to be successful in a worker’s compensation claim that relates to COVID-19, they will need to establish they have suffered an injury arising out of or in the course of their employment and work is a substantial contributing factor to the injury.
“Most of the claims brought in NSW have related to psychological injuries such as feelings of isolation, anxiety or concern about the global pandemic. In these cases, the worker has not actually contracted COVID-19 but are dealing with mental illnesses that relate to COVID-19,” explains Steadfast technical broking manager Annette O’Brien.
Employers need to be careful calculating weekly workers’ compensation payments where a worker has been stood down from work due to COVID-19.
“Have regard to the employee’s current circumstances, and not what was occurring before the shutdowns occurred when calculating payments. Employers should also note Job Keeper payments constitute earnings when calculating weekly payments,” O’Brien notes.
At the moment, some employers will be dealing with a backlog of injured workers looking to return to work and increase their work capacity. At the same time, some employers will also have to manage staff who do not want to return to the office. “Employers need to work out how to help these workers,” O’Brien recommends.
As the COVID-19 threat diminishes, employers will need to reconsider policies regarding working from home, as well as hybrid situations where staff work from home some of the time and in the office the remainder of the working week.
Important note: this general information is provided to assist you in understanding some of the terms, implications and common considerations in professional indemnity and public liability insurance. It does not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation or needs. It is also not financial advice, nor complete, so please discuss the full details with your Steadfast insurance broker as to whether this type of insurance is appropriate for you. Professional indemnity and public liability insurance usually has a deductible/excess, exclusions and limits of liability. Policies differ between insurers.
This article provides information rather than financial product or other advice. The content of this article, including any information contained in it, has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider the appropriateness of the information, taking these matters into account, before you act on any information. In particular, you should review the product disclosure statement for any product that the information relates to it before acquiring the product.
Information is current as at the date the article is written as specified within it but is subject to change. Steadfast Group Ltd and Steadfast Network Brokers make no representation as to the accuracy or completeness of the information. Various third parties have contributed to the production of this content.