As Victorian workers return to office work, the Government’s public health directions are a reminder of the importance of COVID-compliance
When Victoria finally recorded zero new coronavirus infections, the Victorian Government announced a phased return to office work, commencing on 30 November 2020. It’s been said that at the moment we have a “behavioural vaccine” – people are doing the right thing. However, complacency is the greatest threat to our zero status. Employers must seriously consider COVID-compliance to meet the duty of care to workers, and to obey public health directions.
Compliant workplaces and public health directions
Employers must comply with the public health directions issued by the Chief Health Officer, under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic).
Workplace ‘caps’ apply to the number of employees permitted to work from the office. The circumstances in which employers can allow workers to return to work is not ‘open slather’.
The hefty fines for breaching the directions are not worth the risk; up to almost $20,000 for individuals and close to $100,000 for a body corporate.
Compliant workplace considerations for employers
Before allowing any workers to enter the workplace, employers must consider a range of issues, including:
- Do I have to record all persons who enter the workplace, or only in certain circumstances?
- Do I have to wear a face mask in indoor settings or carry one at all times?
- What preventative measures do I need to implement at the workplace to reduce the risk of COVID-19?
- What happens if a person shows COVID-19 symptoms or contracts COVID-19?
- Where fewer than 40 workers ordinarily work at the workplace, are there processes to ensure that no more than ten workers work at the workplace at any one time?
- Where 40 or more workers ordinarily work at the workplace, are there processes to ensure that no more than 25 percent of the workers work at the workplace at any one time?
- If it is not reasonably practicable for an employee to work from home, do I have to allow them to work at the workplace?
- If it is not reasonably practicable for an employee to work at the workplace, do I have to allow them to work at home?
- What details should my COVIDSafe Plan include?
These are some of the many issues that an employer must manage in consideration of its duty of care to employees and visitors in compliance with the Government’s directions.
We can help you develop your risk management framework and contingency plan to ensure your workplace is COVID-19 compliant. Contact us to find out how.
Garth Fountain-Smith, Special Counsel and Governance Professional (Consultant), can be contacted on 9670 5000.
DISCLAIMER: We accept no responsibility for any action taken after reading this article. It is intended as a guide only and is not a substitute for the expert legal advice you can receive from marshalls+dent+wilmoth and other relevant experts.