The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has dominated the media over the past couple of weeks, and it has far-reaching implications when it comes to WHS and workplace responsibilities. With the spread of the virus so hard to contain, it’s important that all business owners and managers keep on top of the latest guidelines from the Federal government.

Safe Work Australia has created a new Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advice for PCBUs page, where it outlines a number of actions employers should be taking. These include:

  • Monitoring the official sources, such as the Federal Department of Health’s COVID-19 page (not relying on social media)
  • Reviewing and promoting organisational policies on infection control in the workplace
  • Ensuring workers are aware of Government advice on isolation or quarantine periods and when not to attend work
  • Providing clear advice to workers on what steps they should take if they become unwell or think they might have symptoms of coronavirus, in accordance with advice from the authorities.

SWA also encourages employers to “eliminate or minimise international work travel in line with Smartraveller advice; regularly update workers on the issue and any changes to organisational policies; develop contingency plans to manage staff absences; and provide workers with information on relevant support services.”

Comcare promotes similar advice, and has an excellent link to Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19. Comcare also says that COVID-19 cases could be considered under the disease provisions of the Commonwealth Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988. For a claimant to be covered by the Act, the determining authority would need to be satisfied that the employment significantly contributed to the claimant contracting the virus, in accordance with section 5B. For further information, visit Comcare’s Coronavirus page: https://www.comcare.gov.au/prevent-harm/coronavirus.

In other news, Federal Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter has said the Government will need to determine the “likely scale” and “dimensions” of the COVID-19 problem before deciding whether to provide special assistance for casual and contract workers who lose work or have to self-isolate because of the virus, but don’t have access to leave entitlements like paid sick leave.

He said the priority outcome is ensuring the health and safety of the community, particularly those requiring services within the health system and those attending work. If you’ve got any questions about how Coronavirus will affect your workplace, give Assurance HR a call on 1800 577 515

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