As vaccination rates near the 70% & 80% targets in each state and territory, restrictions are easing and companies and businesses are preparing to reopen their offices. However, this is not as simple as opening the doors. COVID-19 continues to circulate in the community and there are staff work, health and safety issues, office space and customer interactions to be considered.
Whether you’re planning on getting staff back full-time or will be negotiating a hybrid mix combining home & office, transitioning into the COVID-19 ‘normal’ environment will bring challenges including the flow of people, safe distancing and managing shared spaces.
So what are your obligations as a business owner or manager and what strategies will help to make this transition run smoothly?
Business owner obligations in a COVID-19 ‘normal’ world
Workplace Health & Safety (WHS) has always been a priority and Safe Work Australia provides a comprehensive overview of your obligations as employees transition back to the workplace. Here’s a short summary of the key points.
- Have I done everything reasonable to keep people (workers, customers, visitors and myself) at my workplace physically and psychologically safe during the pandemic?
- Have staff been consulted about the risks (new and existing) and how we can manage them and told to voice any concerns to their managers?
- Make regular checks to ensure there are no restrictions on staff returning to your workplace;
- Review and update your Business Planning, including Risk Management & WHS policies and procedures, also plan for potential COVID-19 outbreaks and restrictions;
- Ensure staff are aware of any new procedures or are trained on new equipment if changing;
- Ensure staff know what to do to if they have COVID-19 symptoms, are required to self-isolate or test positive. Who they should inform in the business, also their entitlements, where to get help, including dealing with mental health issues;
- Consult other business owners in your building and possibly look to coordinate your WHS and emergency plans.
A Small Business Planning Tool can be found here via the Safe Work Australia website.
Strategies for a smooth transition back to the workplace
With many staff having now worked from home for extended periods, workplaces will be evolving. Many large organisations have announced options of hybrid or fully remote working models, however this will not be suitable for many employees and planning for a smooth transition back to the workplace will be necessary. This will include working to clearly communicate work expectations and timeframes.
Other factors that may need to be considered or implemented include social distancing, use and provision of PPE, modified workstations and hot desking. Offering alternative transport arrangements for employees who use public transport to get to work and have genuine concerns about COVID safety, making them hesitant to return to the workplace.
How can your professional insurance adviser assist with transitioning back to the workplace?
Your insurance adviser can help to identify key areas of insurable risk, both in the workplace and remote working. These include staff and customer safety, interruption to the business or supply chains planning etc. Other concerns include claims made against Worker’s Compensation when an employee alleges the virus was contracted at work. These situations can become very complex. Your insurance adviser is a professional who can help you navigate these challenging issues, ensuring that both your business and employees are safe and protected in the new COVID-19 ‘normal’ environment.
To review your COVID-19 ‘normal’ insurance risks and best policy structure and alternatives, talk to an insurance professional today.