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This document can be used to provide a Workplace Health Policy for COVID-19/Coronavirus which outlines the approach a business takes to ensuring the health and safety of persons and employees at work during the 2019 Coronavirus pandemic.
This policy can be used to display an employer's commitment to health and safety while giving instructions and information to employees, customers and other third parties who have contact with the business.
This document shall provide:
Employment Policies are not generally intended to be contractually binding on employees. Instead, they explain the employer's general rules, procedures and expectations of employees. As a consequence, if the employer fails to follow a particular policy, the employee may not be able to claim that the employer has breached its contractual obligations. However, this also means that if there are specific matters of importance, that should be legally binding on the employee (such as their specific job duties, their hours of work, confidentiality obligations, or conflict of interest obligations), then the employer should make sure that these are addressed in a legally binding document, such as an Employment Agreement, a Confidentiality Agreement or a Non-Compete Agreement.
This policy specifically deals with the conditions in relation to dealing with Coronavirus at the workplace. We have various other documents and policies which address other aspects of employment. For general employment matters, consider our Employment Agreement and our Employee Handbook.
For dealing with remote work during the Coronavirus pandemic, consider our Remote Work Policy during the Covid-19/Coronavirus Crisis or our Coronavirus/COVID-19 Remote Work Agreement.
For matters relating to employee social media use, consider our Social Media Policy.
For matters relating to the taking of temporary leave during the coronavirus pandemic, consider our Coronavirus/COVID-19 Temporary Leave Policy.
For matters relating to employee drug and alcohol use, consider our Drug and Alcohol Policy.
For matters relating to employee harassment and discrimination, consider our Discrimination Policy.
How to use this document
Australian employers have obligations to provide a safe and healthy workplace to their employees. In the context of Coronavirus, this means that they have obligations to take certain steps to reduce the risk of spreading the virus throughout their workplace.
The Coronavirus situation is changing rapidly so the first thing the employer will need to do is to check for up to date information from their relevant authorities. Safework Australia provides a lot of information from a workplace health and safety perspective, and also provides links to workplace safety authorities in each state and territory.
Restrictions in relation to Coronavirus are primarily being managed by state and territory governments, although federal authorities are providing some guidance as well. Employers should check on the rules or guidance that has been published by the Australian Government and the Government of their state or territory.
The employer should also be aware of the National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles, which apply to Australian employers. Further information is available from Safe Work Australia.
This document is intended as a starting point for employers but there may be additional matters to address, which are not covered in the document. Aside from preparing this document, there may also be other steps for employers to take in dealing with Coronavirus (such as consulting with employees, organising cleaning products and personal protective equipment, or reorganising the workplace to increase space between employees). The National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles and the guidance provided by state and territory authorities helps clarify some of these matters.
This document should be made easily available, and employees should be notified about the new policy. An easy way to do this is by sending a Letter to Employees About New or Updated Workplace Policies. It is common to display workplace policies in an easily accessible public area so that any persons who may be connected with the business in any way can easily see the commitment the business has made to upholding standards of health and safety.
This policy includes an option to have employees sign it, to acknowledge having read and understood it. If the employer is having employees sign copies of it, then the employer may keep signed copies on file.
Please note that should this policy be revised or altered at any time, these revisions and alterations must be communicated effectively to employees at the earliest opportunity.
The Fair Work Act 2009 (Commonwealth) applies the National Employment Standards (NES), which are a set of minimum employment standards in Australia.
Governments through the National Cabinet process have recently created the National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles which apply to Australian employers. Further information is available from Safe Work Australia.
In addition, each state and territory has legislation that deals with various employment matters such as occupational health and safety or discrimination. Further information about this is also available from Safe Work Australia.
This document does not take into account the requirements of modern awards or enterprise agreements. If such an award or agreement applies, then that will set out some additional minimum standards with which the employer must comply.
General principles of contract law, as provided by the common law, may also apply.
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