Deborah Peppard - HR Director
I’m sure you’re all as surprised, and not in a good way, that here we are for a third year navigating the Covid-19 waters….but here we are…
The Omicron variant has certainly smacked us over the head, and the transmissibility of this variant has forced us to review some of our activities in the continued effort to keep the virus contained where possible and to keep our employees safe.
Covid Safe Plans
All Covid Safe Plans should be updated asap to reflect any state and federal government changes and to reflect the increased transmissibility of this variant.
As an employer you have an obligation to the safety of your employees, so please consider what actions you can take to do so, and include them in your plan… For example, you may decide that you will introduce RAT testing regularly for all employees (if this is the case, it is the employers’ responsibility to source and pay for them), or you may decide to stagger lunch breaks and tea breaks to minimise numbers of people in break rooms for example. Your plans should be updated accordingly and changes communicated to your team.
Victorian Press Release - new rules for some sectors
Today the Victorian government has introduced mandatory booster shots of the Covid-19 vaccine for some industries, and also relaxed some of the close contact isolation requirements for those in the food distribution / supply chain sector. Industries subject to the new booster mandate include aged care, disability, healthcare, emergency services, correctional facility and quarantine accommodation sectors, and there are specific booster deadlines to meet. Please read the press release accompanying this email.
While this document is only relevant for Victorian clients, N.S.W & QLD have similar rules. Clients in other states should take note of the food distribution changes in the event that this is picked up as a national standard.
Press release - read here
Positive Covid Employee
Employees who test positive for Covid-19 via a PCR or RAT test MUST advise their employer immediately if they have attended the workplace and worked in an indoor space. While a deep clean of the premises is no longer required, any close contact of the employer in the workplace must get tested and isolate.
The specific Victorian guidelines are as follows, and is a good standard for businesses in other states to follow:
A person who is a confirmed case of COVID-19 must notify the operator of any work premises at which they ordinarily work that they’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 and of their infectious period, if they attended an indoor space at the work premises during their infectious period. The operator of a workplace must take reasonable steps to notify employees and contractors that they have been exposed to a positive case, and to advise them of their testing and quarantine obligations. A workplace will be required to maintain a system to enable them to, where relevant, notify contacts and obtain assurance of a negative test result from an individual prior to their return to the premises.
An Indoor space means an area, room or premises substantially enclosed by a roof and walls that are floor-to-ceiling or at least 2.1 meters high, regardless of whether the roof or walls or any part of them are permanent or temporary, or open or closed.
It is important to know that even if your employee has previously tested positive to COVID19, they are still required to follow close contact / household contact isolation rules if their initial infection was more than 4 weeks ago.
Contact assessment and management guidance - download here
Businesses not being able to operate
In the event that you are unable to operate as usual due to supply chain issues or multiple employees infected with Covid-19 and/or needing to isolate, you are able to stand your employees down without pay. However, there is a requirement to consult with your employees in writing on this process.
Given that you may need to close down temporarily at short notice due to the nature of the virus, we recommend that all of our clients undertake a ‘preemptive’ consultation process for ‘potential future issues’, so that this requirement has been met in advance.
Please talk to us if you need assistance with this process so you can be in front of it in the event that you have to close part or all of your business and stand employees down OR re-deploy them to other positions or locations temporarily. We can assist with a quick and easy way to manage this to ensure you’re ahead of the game and meeting your employer obligations under Fairwork Legislation.
Work From Home Recommendation
In Victoria, the current government recommendation is that people should work from home if they can. We recommend to all of our clients nationally (excluding W.A) that they encourage a work from home environment where they can, until the current Omicron variant has peaked in each state. This is not expected to occur until at least the end of January / early February.
Businesses requesting employees work from the office may face some reluctance from their employees. It is important that employers work with their employees and listen to their concerns, remembering we are only now entering a period where children under 12 are able to receive their 1st vaccination.
It is being widely reported throughout Australia, UK and the USA that Omicron is far more transmissible than previous strains of COVID19. The below table recently released by the CDC in America shows the efficiency (or lack thereof) of masks currently being used in Australia. We strongly recommend that if a business is able to do so, they purchase masks for their teams at a rating of N95 / P2 where possible.
Many of our clients have expressed concern to us about the relaxing of close contact rules and other restrictions now not being enforced by the relevant State or Federal Government. Please be assured that you have every right to implement additional controls and measures that work for your business.
We recommend discussing with your senior leaders or a ‘committee’ of employees on what additional measures you will take as a business to combat the spread of the virus at your workplace and to keep your employees safe. You may wish to consider staggered shifts, staggered meal breaks and so on, as well as enforcing the 1.5metre distance, enforcing the capacity of each indoor space (kitchen, meal areas, meeting rooms etc.) and of course, enforcing the wearing of masks indoors even if your state government is not requiring this.
Our team has been working with a variety of clients implementing additional safety measures and are here to help you if you are not sure where to start.
The team at HR Staff n Stuff are making every effort to stay abreast of the rapidly changing Covid-19 regulations and recommendations in all states, and we will continue to provide you with information as soon as we can.
** Please note, information is accurate as at 10 January 2022 and is subject to regular updates as the Covid situation changes.
The HR Staff n' Stuff team all contribute to our blogs. Enjoy the read!