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This Letter to Employees About Coronavirus is designed to give staff a general update on how the employer is addressing the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and what staff can expect.
There is a lot of fear and uncertainty regarding the coronavirus/COVID-19, and many employees are looking for clear leadership. This letter will help employers to provide that leadership, to present a calm and clear message, and a positive, supportive tone.
Under workplace health and safety laws, employers are required to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace. This means that employers have a duty to take steps to protect the health and safety of their employees, workers, and other visitors - and this includes taking steps to protect them from the coronavirus. Therefore, this letter is also designed to help employers to do this. However, if in doubt, seek legal advice about how to meet these health and safety obligations.
The letter is adaptable to different employment situations, and will help to answer many questions that employees may have. In particular, it can be adapted to include:
How to use this document
Use this letter to send an update to all staff, to a particular department, or to specific people within the employer's organisation.
This situation is changing rapidly. Before preparing this letter, it is a good idea to check for up-to-date information from authorities such as the World Health Organisation, the Australian Government Department of Health, or Safe Work Australia.
It is also important that the employer complies with all relevant employment laws when taking action in relation to the coronavirus. This may be particularly relevant to workplace health and safety considerations, leave entitlements, or work-from-home arrangements. If necessary, review employment contracts and any applicable laws, or seek legal advice if there are any concerns.
Once the letter has been prepared, it may be distributed to all recipients, either by email, or in hard copy.
It is likely that some employees will have follow up questions or concerns. In addition, it is important that the employer makes it easy for employees to raise the alert if they are unwell, and to minimise the risk of passing on the virus. Therefore, in addition to sending out this letter, the employer may need to put in place additional measures, for example, by making sure that particular staff members (such as HR officers) are ready to respond.
This letter includes the option to provide some information about hand sanitization techniques. However, many employers find that it is helpful to also place posters or notices around the workplace, including images that demonstrate proper sanitization techniques. The World Health Organisation provides a helpful guide, which many employers choose to use.
Each state and territory has legislation in relation to work health and safety. Further information is available from Safe Work Australia.
In addition, general principles of employment law will apply to the employment relationship. Employment contracts may be interpreted in accordance with general principles of contract law, as provided by the common law. In some cases, an employment award or enterprise agreement may apply. The National Employment Standards, as set out in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Commonwealth) may also apply.
If in doubt, seek legal advice.
How to modify the template
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