COVID-19 Employer Information

In the last week, the COVID-19 virus situation has escalated swiftly. The local and global situation is changing daily and we are starting to see the huge impact that the virus is having on workplaces, particularly those with employees.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has updated their information on Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws to provide advice to employers on managing the situation. The advice is general in nature and reminds employers that the usual provisions of the Fair Work Act apply.

It is important to note that the Fair Work Act does not have specific provisions or rules for a situation like this that has such a vast impact on business and employers.

Employers and employees need to come to their own arrangements. Employers must communicate with employees what their policies will be in this situation, making sure that they are lawful within the Fair Work Act provisions. 

The Fair Work website provides guidance for the following:
  • Health and safety in the workplace.
  • Directing employees to stay away from their usual workplace.
  • If an employee or family member is diagnosed with coronavirus.
  • Quarantine and self-isolation,
  • If an employee wants to work from home as a precaution.
  • If an employer wants employees to stay home as a precaution.
  • Working from home.
  • Casual employees and independent contractors.
  • Redundancy and reduction of hours.
  • Employee travel.
Working from Home

Some employees are already used to working from home some of the time. However, for many employees, this situation will be the first time they are required to work remotely. Not all employees have a home setup that allows for easy work from home. Employers will need to discuss the practical aspects of workspace, internet, phone and team communications. Office equipment may need to be transported from the office to the employee’s home.

New apps such as Slack and Zoom allowing for easy communications and video conferencing may need to be implemented. Maintaining regular connection and interaction between employees and management is essential at this time.

One of the biggest challenges for employers having to change the work setup for employees without notice or preparation will be how to measure productivity and how to ensure that employees are actually working as usual while at home. There may be a temporary decrease in productivity while business and employees adjust to the new way of working, however employers will need to implement practices that allow them to assess the productivity once the initial change in work structure has settled.

Managers will need to maintain connection with employees and provide plenty of direction, and for many they will need guidance on setting boundaries and continuing to treat the work professionally. This could be a big issue for people who also have children and teenagers at home while schools are closed. Managers will also need to encourage workers to reach out and maintain connection as feeling isolated while working from home may be a new issue and uncharted territory for many workers.  

Bookkeeper Recommendations

Advise your employer clients of the Fair Work advice and essential websites listed below, so that they can inform employees.

Encourage them to write up a policy and plan for the business management of Covid-19. This should include guidance on working from home, personal hygiene, workplace safety, flexible working, user access to relevant tools and technology, leave policies, online security and safety, team communications, as well as any procedures or policies relevant to the specific business and industry.

Essential Websites and Information

There is a great deal of information being published, and we encourage you to stay updated with the official websites. Please make sure your employer clients have the following information: