The NSW Government has recently released guidelines for organisations, workplaces and employers on how to reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus while still being compliant with their obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) (Act).

Safework NSW has recommended that the guidelines be implemented as soon as reasonably practicable and the actions will need to be proportionate to the nature of the work and the level of risk to the community.

To view the guidelines, click here.

One measure to prevent the outbreak of Covid-19 is to facilitate working from home. But in facilitating this change, are employers in breach of the Act?

What are my obligations as an employer?

Employers have a duty of care to ensure that employees have a safe working environment, this is regardless of where the work is being carried out.

This would include ensuring that any home workspace has a safe way to evacuate in the event of a fire and the workspace is equipped with smoke detectors and smoke alarms.

Morrissey Law + Advisory has created a checklist of considerations for employers to ensure that they are aware of their obligations under the Act to provide a safe workplace for their employees during this coronavirus outbreak.

Considerations Implications
Do you have a working from home policy? This policy will help outline the methods that verify whether an employee’s home workspace is safe. It also allows for employees to develop a ‘self-check’ policy on their home workspace.
If employees are ‘self-checking’, is there a way for you to see whether your employees are in safe workplaces? In having the self-check implementation, it could provide protection for the employer and with the modern technology, employers could be shown the employee’s workspace to ensure that the workspace is not unsafe.

Things to consider include seeing if there is any risk associated with slips, trips and falls, electrical safety and environmental hazards such as noise.

What should an employer do if the workplace is not safe? If the workspace is not ideal or not safe, the employee should not be allowed to work in that space.
What if an employee does not have the correct equipment at home? If the employer requires the employee to use proper equipment, the responsibility is on the employer to supply the employee with office furniture.

An option is allowing your employee to have salary sacrifices for any office furniture purchased.

Employers will need to ensure that the equipment it supplies to their employees is suitable for the purpose, maintained in good working order and are regularly inspected.

Do you have the proper insurance in place? There may be various insurance that an employer may need, such as:

  • General property insurance which would cover property up to a certain value;
  • Public liability insurance for any client/customers who are injured while at your employee’s home office due to a business activity;
  • Workers compensation insurance for if your employee is injured while performing work duties in their work office space.
What happens if an employee hurts themselves while working from home? It is likely that if an employee is injured while working from home, this would be covered through the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. However, this would depend on the circumstances and your insurance policy.
Do you have regular communication with your employees? It is important that employers are also aware of the risk of psychological injuries. Employers should check in on their employees from time to time and how they are going working from home.

This will also allow the employee to voice any concerns or issues they may have.

 

Employers should also consider having flexible working options for their employees, this includes:

  • Flexible start and finish times
  • Compressed hours
  • Flexible rostering
  • Job share

For the most up to date information on the Covid-19 pandemic, visit the NSW Health website here.

For more information on your obligations under the Act, please do not hesitate to contact Morrissey Law + Advisory.

Morrissey Law + Advisory communications are only intended to provide commentary and general information as at the date of publication. They are for reference purposes only, do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Formal legal advice should always be obtained about particular transactions, contracts or matters of interest before taking any action based on this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.