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COVID-19 – How Does it Impact Your Workforce and Workplace?

In response to the recent pandemic, there are a number of government-driven measures (amongst more) that are being taken, which in turn affect employees and workplaces.

These measures may impact on day-to-day operations, in how you manage absences, direct employees to remain away from work and (possibly) prepare for potential closures.

There are three key common issues that employers are recommended to consider:

  1. What and how are we communicating to employees– i.e. to explain how the workplace is managing the risk, employee entitlements and how employees are to be kept safe. This may also include includes directions to employees not to attend work and on self-isolation measures where employees have travelled overseas or been in contact with someone who has travelled overseas, additional hygiene directions, social distancing etc.
  2. What policy changes are required– e.g. work from home measures, accessing support and payments, how to interact with visitors and clients, remote access options and support.

IMPORTANTLY how will these policy changes affect your obligations to make leave payments and redundancies etc. Generally, if an employee can show they are fit for work and the employer enforces leave, the employer may be obliged to pay for this forced leave. The key is what evidence is now acceptable as fitness for work. In this new landscape, a GP’s certificate certifying fitness would be a very reasonable measure to insist on and without that, it is unlikely that paid leave could be supported.

  1. What is our emergency response– in the event of either being directed to close, or in the event that an employee tests positive to the virus. This aspect includes contingency planning for business continuity in the event of closure, positive testing or similar.

Separately and outside the scope of employment advice, there are commercial matters such as raw materials, breach of contract and cash flows that may need review.

It is recommended that the provisions of any enterprise agreements and/or employment contracts are fully considered, as each of the terms may alter specific advice.

Subject to any changes ultimately proposed by your business, consultation obligations may be triggered and require strict compliance.

For specific advice on the potential impact to your workforce and business, contact our Managing Associate Lawyer, Julia Adlem on 8410 9294 or at j.adlem@pacelawyers.com .