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21 April 2020

Managing risk during COVID-19

Business Advice | 4 minute read
Sarah Mouritz

Author: Sarah Mouritz

Sarah Mouritz from McKays Solicitors, is an experienced commercial lawyer specialising in employment and industrial relations.

As a business owner you may have started 2020 with a vision to grow your business. However, in the ever-changing landscape we are now faced with, those plans may have been disrupted. Now, you are probably focusing on managing risk to your business and to your employees during times of uncertainty.

In this blog, I will cover a few simple steps you can take to help mitigate risk to your business and ensure you’re complying with any directions from the government in regard to workplace health and safety.

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Risk management strategies

Ensuring you are keeping on top of your workplace health and safety responsibilities and obligations is always important, but now, it is even more so. The following are steps you can take to help mitigate risk to your business and your employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Identify vulnerable staff members

The first step is to identify if any of your staff meet the ‘vulnerable group’ criteria. These people are:

  • People over the age of 60;
  • People with autoimmune diseases;
  • People with a pre-existing chronic disease.

2. Make declarations

Ask your employees to declare if they are at risk or if they fit any of the guidelines to self-isolate. For example, has a staff member come into contact with any person diagnosed with coronavirus? Or, are they suffering from symptoms which include fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue and shortness of breath?

3. Implement hygiene procedures

Implement hygiene procedures and ensure that all employees have access to facilities to wash their hands and/or are using preventative products such as hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes or disinfectant spray.

4. Minimise access and person-to-person contact

Consider opportunities to minimise person-to-person contact. For example, reschedule any non-essential meetings and gatherings where possible and limit the number of onsite visitors. Staggering the times that field staff visit the office can also help your staff comply with social distancing requirements.

5. Monitor the situation and direct employees accordingly

Monitor the situation and government advice. Make sure your staff are complying with the procedures you have put in place, and those of the worksites they are visiting. And, keep your procedures compliant with regulations by staying up to date with the changing circumstances.

6. Implement disciplinary action

Implement disciplinary action for employees who do not take the above seriously or are breaching your policies in relation to this issue.

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Changes to fair work commission

The Fair Work Commission is currently rolling out temporary variations to some Modern Awards with the aim to assist employers in consulting with their workforce during this time.

The Fair Work Commission intends to update 103 Modern Awards during this time. Make sure you keep up to date with any changes to the Modern Awards applicable to your business and ensure that you seek advice where necessary.

The key variations will cover:

  • Operational flexibility – The ability to ask employees to do work which would not be ordinary covered in their Award classification; and
  • Reduction in hours of work – An employer may direct employees to work reduced hours in limited circumstances.

Important resources

Keep up-to-date with the changing situation through reliable sources such as:

Fair Work Ombudsman Coronavirus Resources:

On this site, you will find:

  • Information about changes to Awards;
  • Information about ‘standing down’ employees;
  • Information about workplace health and safety;

Visit the site here.

Coronavirus Health Information Line - 1800 020 080

Call this line if you are seeking information on coronavirus (COVID-19). The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Australian Government Department of Health

On this site you can access information about:

  • How the Australian Government is monitoring and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • The latest official medical advice and case numbers;
  • How you can slow the spread of COVID-19;
  • What to do if you have symptoms.

Visit the site here.

World Health Organisation

On this site, you will find:

  • Situation reports;
  • Advice on how to protect yourself;
  • General worldwide information about COVID-19;
  • Frequently asked questions and answers.

Visit the site here.

State government websites

Websites such as Queensland Government and Queensland Health provide the latest information for your state in terms of health updates, warnings and enforced restrictions.

This is general advice only. There may be provisions in your Award or Enterprise Agreement (as applicable) which will affect the below. For further advice, please contact me at: sarah@mckaysgc.com, or, speak to your lawyer.

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