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Returning to the Office After COVID-19

Published August 02, 2022 (last updated February 9, 2023) - Head of Health and Safety

As the country’s COVID-19 cases exceed daily, there is a growing concern among employees and employers about managing illness in the workplace. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) recently passed a resolution urging employers to ensure all workplaces are safe for workers. The biggest wave of the pandemic is about to hit the country and unless employers can find a way to manage employee absences and ensure their safety, they might be at risk. If your employees are returning to work after COVID, how can you prepare them and your workplace?

Returning to Work Checklist

A business is responsible for the health and safety of its workers and visitors to the workplace. Government requirements and health mandates may vary from time to time, however as a business owner you have a legal obligation to make the workplace safe for staff and visitors. Hence, it is important to conduct regular risk assessments that can help you plan and prepare.

What is the return-to-work procedure? Do you have systems in place to guarantee a safe working environment?

You should create a returning to work and office checklist that can be act as guidelines for employees. This checklist should be regularly updated and communicated with your staff clearly.

Your checklist should answer questions such as:

  • What should an employee do if they test positive?
  • What do the remaining staff need to know about a positive case at the workplace?
  • How long does a positive employee have to isolate?
  • Do they need a negative test before returning to work?
  • What form of test is considered acceptable, RAT or PCR?
  • If they are sick and need to take leave, what leave can they access?
  • Will this leave be paid or unpaid?
  • Do you need to provide RATs to your staff?
  • Do you need to sanitise your workplace after an employee tests positive?
  • Do you need to implement other safety measures, such as masks, or social distancing?

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Returning to Work after testing positive to COVID-19

If an employee tests positive, you may need to ask them to isolate. They should update you regarding their health and symptoms daily.

Depending on the Government regulations, an employee may need to follow certain steps before returning to work. Your returning to office checklist should help them with those steps.

Inform your staff that your employee has followed all steps and health directions before they return to work. Sanitise their desk, work area, and provide them with necessary equipment or tools (masks, sanitizers).

Monitor the employee on their first few days back and help them ease in. You can also hold a daily check-in to discuss their needs.  

You can also create a COVID Safety Plan that answers all questions employees may have.

Working from Home Guidelines

If your employee can work from home and your business has the possibility, then you need to consider having a work from home policy. This policy can have guidelines for staff to follow when they need to work from home.

In this policy consider covering questions like:

  • When can your staff work from home?
  • Do they have to submit a request to work from home?
  • Can they have ad hoc work from home days?
  • Can they work from home during COVID?
  • What is the company policy on work from home?

Ideally, this policy should be shared with all employees. You can also consider updating it or modifying it depending on the situation. If your business can’t offer work from home options, then you may have to look at shift work or arranging temporary staff.

Flexible Working

Are you considering flexible work arrangements? Effectively managing flexible working requests is crucial in keeping your staff happy and motivated. Download our Flexible Working Guide today to learn more. 

How can employers help facilitate Working from Home?

Allowing your workers the flexibility they need will mean happier, motivated, and productive employees.

Employers need to remember that work health and safety laws apply at home too. If your staff is working from home, you need to carry out a risk assessment of their home office and see if there are any potential hazards or safety risks.

You need to assess the home worker’s chair, desk, and keyboard as well as the office space. Employees can use a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) checklist to see whether their workstation is ergonomically sound. An assessor should check for hazards, such as trailing power cords or computer cables.

Employsure can help you with implementing work health and safety processes and policies. Call our 24/7 Advice line today.

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