COVID-19 in the workplace. Do you know your obligations?

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The COVID-19 world

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided significant challenges at all levels of society, not the least being the workplace. These include but are not limited to: health and aged care centres; essential services such as police, ambulance, fire and rescue; supermarkets and the food supply chain; transport and essential logistics. Increasingly, the workplace includes an employee’s home, if that is where the employee carries out their employment. Occupational health and safety includes the mental health of employees, wherever they are required to work.


Joint Responsibility

The challenge to provide a safe workplace is always significant. It is the responsibility of authorities at all levels to provide guidelines and rules for employers. It is the responsibility, both legally and ethically, of employers to implement safe work environments and practices, and to train employees so that they can work effectively and safely, whether employment is within the employer’s premises, in the outdoors, or in the employee’s home.

It is the responsibility of the employee to endorse and implement these new safety measures, wherever they work. This will enhance not only the safety of themselves and their work colleagues, but also your clients, patients, and customers.

In short, this whole gamut of requirements and procedures is a joint responsibility, and all must play their part. Nevertheless, sometimes an issue will arise, and it must be properly dealt with. There is both a duty of care, and a requirement to observe the law.


Don’t Assume that Mild Symptoms are just a Cold

If you as an employer, or indeed, any of your employees, observe possible symptoms in a fellow worker, there is a duty to report it and to encourage proper action, rather than allow a colleague, for whatever reason, to merely shrug off the matter. This is a legal requirement.


Report and Act

If you as an employer or manager are faced with a known or suspected COVID-19 exposure in your jurisdiction, you have definitive obligations that include full reporting, deep cleaning of either specific areas, or the complete operation. This may involve a partial, or at worst, a complete business shut down for a period of time, in which case you may be entitled to claim for business interruption.


Follow it Through

If one of your employees exhibits any of the many possible COVID-19 symptoms, you are required to report this. Further, in the unfortunate event of a positive diagnosis to COVID-19, they may possibly be entitled to workers compensation, and all pertinent facts must be recorded. The employee’s health is the main priority, best left to medical professionals. However, their legal entitlements and your protections are important as well, and for reassurance, are best left to a quality law firm. You can assist the outcome by fully reporting:

  • Date, time and place of exposure
  • Work activity at the time of exposure
  • What, and to whom symptoms were reported
  • Time taken off work, and medical investigations pursued

The employee concerned may well have reported some or all of these issues to you. It is important you take ownership of the matter so that an ordered outcome is achieved: in personal health, workplace health status, and legal obligations.


Complete the Task

You are a specialist in your area of business, the health professionals likewise in theirs. You can complete this picture with sound legal advice from the experts.

Owen Hodge Lawyers. We are here to help.



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