5 Key Considerations when Reactivating your Workplace post-COVID-19

Posted on 14/5/2020

HR & Recruitment

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Overview:

Following the Federal and State government's recent release of roadmaps for easing restrictions, employers will need to formulate a plan to reactivate their workplaces.

The new roadmaps  won’t necessarily result in a return to “business as usual” for many industries. As employers prepare to transition employees back to work, there are a number of key obligations, considerations, challenges and opportunities to keep in mind:

 

Work Health and Safety Measures

Ensuring you are taking all reasonable and practicable steps to ensure the health and safety of your employees is a primary legal obligation as an employer. Significantly, safeguarding the well-being of your employees’ is paramount in your plan to resume normal operations. A workplace risk assessment should be undertaken to ensure sufficient measures are taken to ensure health and safety – in particular steps relating to continued social distancing and increased hygiene measures. SafeWork Australia has released a resource kit for Australian employers providing guidance, checklists and posters.

 

The COVIDSafe App

Many employers want their employees to download the Federal government’s recently released contact tracing app, COVIDSafe. Keep in mind, that while you may strongly encourage your employees to download the COVIDSafe app, legally you cannot ‘require’ or direct your employees to do so. The best course of action is to communicate the the important role it plays in preventing a resurgence of COVID-19 in Australia and ensuring everyone’s safety – but ultimately, an employee cannot be directed to download it or treated adversely if they refuse.

 

Working from Home

Over the past two months, many workplaces have made the shift to having some or all staff working from home. The relative ease of implementing such arrangements, whilst staying connected to our teams with such platforms as MS Teams and Zoom, has meant more employers are now reassessing the need for all employees to be office based at all times. This “new normal” has meant that businesses are more open to working from home arrangements on an ongoing basis. Importantly, effective working from home arrangements need to be properly supported by policies, guidelines and infrastructure to ensure success and clarity. Download our Work from Home Policy template here.

 

A gradual return to normal hours

Not all workplaces will gear up to full capacity immediately, once restrictions are lifted. It is likely that for the majority of businesses, there will be a transition period until normal business resumes. Consequently, normal working hours for staff are unlikely to recommence during this phase. Your rights and obligations as an employer to vary employee’s working hours will depend on:

  • whether JobKeeper is in place,
  • which Award or Enterprise Bargaining Agreement is in place, and
  • specific employment contracts.

It is best to seek professional HR advice when looking at varying employees’ working hours.

 

Restructures… and Redundancies

Your team and business’ agility and adaptability to a “post COVID-19 world” will be critical to ensure its recovery and ongoing success. This may trigger a need to closely review your current organisational structure and ensure you have the right positions and the right people to support your business’ reactivation and recovery. You may have had time over the last couple of months to reflect on what resources your business truly needs in the future. The pandemic’s significant economic impact has highlighted the need to take necessary measures to ensure the ongoing financial viability of your business. Whilst always a last resort, following a review or restructure of your organisation, you may be faced with the unavoidable decision to reduce headcount and make certain roles redundant. Carrying out a fair and lawful redundancy is complex, with many risks along the way. Make sure you seek professional HR advice before proceeding down this path.

 

If you require any further guidance or support when returning your operations back to the workplace, please get in touch with Cecilia White, Director of Perks People Solutions.

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