Employer Obligations: Workplace Health and Safety

While most Practices have resumed operations, subject to some professional restrictions, other businesses in Australia are only reopening now.  The government is now focused on balancing health risks with rebuilding the economy.  Consequently the requirement of employers to demonstrate “how” they comply with workplace health and safety obligations, to prevent contracting or spreading Covid-19 is now more important than ever.

As an employer, there is a clear obligation to demonstrate that you are taking all steps, which are reasonable and practicable, to protect the health and safety of your workers (employees and contractors alike).  Separate to Fair Work, these obligations are generally administered by the local Work Safe body in your state.  These local state bodies, as well as the government generally, have made clear that additional steps are now required to be taken to comply with these obligations, to demonstrate the workplace is Covid-Safe.  In some states, there is a new obligation to have a specific Pandemic Plan in place which demonstrates the action you are taking to meet workplace health and safety obligations, and businesses are subject to spot checks.

In line with our advice which applies to all legal issues we help clients with:  Prevention is Key.  Anyone who has been involved in a Fair Work or other employment dispute will agree it does not make sense to turn a blind eye, take no action, and hope for the best.  In order to prevent a dispute arising; to protect the health and safety your workers and yourselves; and to avoid an outlay of resources and time to attend to a complaint which detracts from your Practice goals, we are suggesting Practices put into place a Pandemic Plan as an effective way to demonstrate compliance with workplace health and safety obligations.

Prior to putting a Pandemic Plan in place, it is important that you understand your specific obligations, including whether a specific Pandemic Plan is required to be implemented by a certain date. While any clinical area may already meet and exceed these obligations (due to stringent infection control protocols which your Practice already follows), areas such as: the waiting room, consult rooms, administration rooms, and staff amenity rooms will likely need to be addressed.  Your Practice will also likely need to demonstrate compliance with social distancing (especially in non-clinical and staff amenity areas), and implement new procedures for managing staff illness.  If your Practice is accessing Jobkeeper, it is useful to note that paid personal leave (including when provided in advance at the decision of the employer) can be subsidized by Jobkeeper.

If you are a member of ClinLegal, you can access our template Pandemic Plan now, by logging into your account under Additional Policies: https://www.clinlegal.com.au/members/

If you are not a member, but would like to use our Pandemic Plan, please email us and we will give it to you info@clinlegal.com.au

As with all things legal, we maintain that Prevention is Key.  For further information on how we can assist you, please contact us for a confidential discussion: info@clinlegal.com.au

The above information is current as at the date of publication and is based on information made publicly available. It is important to stay appraised of any developments or changes. This Circular is produced for guidance purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice. Legal advice should be sought for individual circumstances. For tailored advice for your Practice, please contact us.