As Coronavirus continues to escalate in Australia, I thought it may be useful to highlight some considerations and information to help you manage the HR complexities in a situation such as this.
The purpose of this is not to create hysteria – there is plenty of that around. Rather, I hope to provide some proactive information and sensible solutions that will assist your business act on its Work Health and Safety obligations, ensure Fair Work compliance and act as an effective business continuity strategy. This is all in what will likely be a challenging period, one which has the potential to be devastating for our public health system and the resultant human impact first and foremost, but also for many businesses and their business owners and teams, as social isolation directives evolve (and due to their International success) are very likely to continue.
When determining what action your workplace might take, the following example strategies are being currently implemented across many businesses in consideration to their individual context, with the intent to reduce the spread, protect their workforce and assist with business continuity:
- Hygiene reminders in the workplace
- Sanitising the office and having products to wipe down tools and desks
- Mandatory 14 day quarantine for any employee who returns from overseas
- Suspension of any interstate or international business travel
- Splitting the workforce in half eg Team A and Team B, with no face to face interaction between the 2, to reduce the entire workforce being infected
- Working from home (either in totality, or as a % of the work week) to reduce infection resulting from the workplace or through travel to the workplace in public transport. This will also prepare for work to go on (where possible) if the predicted further social isolation measures are enforced in line with other countries who are managing to now effectively reduce the speed of transmission
- Face to face team/client meetings replaced with phone or video meetings.
These are just some initiatives that proactive businesses are adopting now as part of their business continuity plans.
Further to this the hidden, or not so hidden level of individual anxiety around Coronavirus is worth considering in respect to how this might manifest in the workplace eg conflict, stress, performance issues, absenteeism. This is something to be conscious of and being proactive by reminding employees of any existing employee support mechanisms eg employee assistance programs, or having discussions around employee wellbeing, may assist and support individuals in this space.
COMPLIANCE (Australian Workplace Laws)
When considering options, it is also critical to be across legislative requirements and Fair Work have responded to the current situation with information that is worth considering before implementing decisions. In essence, they are encouraging employees and employers to work together to find appropriate solutions that suit the needs of individual workplaces and staff. This may include taking different forms of leave, working from home, or taking extra precautions in the workplace.
Their information specifically answers:
- What happens if an employee or their family member is sick with coronavirus?
- What to do if an employee is stuck overseas or requires quarantining?
- What to do if an employee wants to stay home as a precaution and
- What if an employer wants their staff to stay home?
Answers to all of these questions can be found on this Fair Work – Coronavirus link.
If you have any questions specific to your business, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay safe, Jos