Corona Virus in the Workplace – Leave and Working from Home

Over the last week, there has been an increasing number of inquiries from clients regarding how to manage Corona Virus in the Workplace.

The first point I need to point out is that, at the moment, there is much confusion regarding the spread and implications of this outbreak. In fact, in terms of numbers, the outbreak is not huge. It is the implications of its spread that is causing concern.

In this post, we will address a number of questions we have been asked regarding managing Corona Virus in the Workplace. We stress that this situation is not a topic which is widely covered in our laws. As a result, things are likely to change over time either through change of circumstances or changes to the system.

Question – an employee is sick, should they be at work?

The answer here is really the same as for any situation regarding fitness to work, and not just in regard to Corona Virus in the Workplace. Simply – if a person is unfit for work, for whatever reason, they should not be at work. This is in everyone’s best interests, the employees, the employers and everyone in the workplace.

When a permanent employee can not come to work because of being sick, they can take paid personal leave (providing they have sufficient accruals). If they have a family member who is sick, they can access paid carers leave. In the event they have no accruals left, they take unpaid personal/careers leave.

Question – should the employee stay at home as a precaution?

Employers have asked us, if a person calls appears sick, whether they should request they stay at home for a period as a precaution. The basic rule that applies is that if a person remains fit for work they have the choice whether to present for work. If in doubt, request they attend their Doctor for evidence of fitness.

If there is concern within the workplace, speak with your employee about working from home or about taking personal or annual leave

Question – My employee is worried about Corona Virus and wants to work from home as a precaution

There are a number of choices here – they work from home, they take some form of paid leave (annual leave or long service leave) or unpaid leave. Technically, personal leave is not available as they are “fit for work”.

Question – what are my obligations if a person works from home?

Working from home is only an option if the business is able to facilitate this arrangement. In some businesses, this is not possible due to the type and nature of the work.

If a person can work from home, the employer retains obligations in regard to ensuring a health and safe workplace. We recommend, at all times, that the employer has arrangements in place to manage the employees working hours, safety etc. For more information, see our post on working from home – https://peoplesmartz.com.au/People_Smartz_Blog/working-from-home-not-as-simple-as-it-sounds

Question – Where can I get more information?

As time progresses, we will add more frequently asked questions regarding Corona Virus in the Workplace through our website – if you have a question, contact us

The Fair Work Ombudsman has opened up a page specifically addressing Corona Virus in the Workplace. You can access it through https://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/news-and-media-releases/website-news/coronavirus-and-australian-workplace-laws

Finally, Safe Work Australia has issues advice for employers in regard to Safe Work Practices etc. This can be accessed at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-pcbus

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