Getting back into the office post-COVID: What you need to know

As COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to increase across the country, many businesses are slowly bringing staff back into the office.

During this process though, it’s important to implement a well-thought-out plan that complies with WHS obligations and is designed to protect employees.

Since pre-pandemic times, the requirements of a workplace environment have changed drastically. Now, organisations need to ensure they have sanitisation stations, cleaning rosters and rules for wiping down desks.   

If you’re transitioning staff back into office spaces, the Safework website is a great place to start. Rules can differ from state to state, and understanding your specific obligations – while also staying up-to-date on any changes – is a must.  

How employees travel to and from the workplace

One of the biggest obstacles employers are facing is transportation to and from work, given many employees use public transport.

Whether employees are catching a train, tram or bus, they may be required to follow certain health guidelines. Social distancing and wearing a mask are two examples.

While there’s the option to use public transport, some staff may still be hesitant due to concerns about contracting COVID-19. In these instances businesses may instead consider providing extra employee parking, or offering to cover the cost of alternatives such as Ubers or taxis.

Taking such measures shows highly anxious employees you’re willing to support their return to the office, and also puts their minds at rest.

What about insurance?

If an employee contracts COVID-19 and alleges it is work-related, what happens?

For a worker’s compensation claim to be successful, the worker must establish that they have suffered an injury, that it was sustained while they were working and their employment contributed significantly to the outcome.

In New South Wales, the majority of pandemic-related claims have been from staff with psychological injuries like anxiety and feelings of isolation. While the worker hasn’t returned a positive test for COVID-19, they are experiencing mental illness because of the distress it has caused.

As an employer making weekly workers’ compensation payments to an employee who’s been stood down because of coronavirus, there are a few things to consider. Rather than calculating payments based on what was happening pre-pandemic, you need to consider the current situation. It’s also worth noting that Job Keeper payments constitute earnings.

Some employees may not want or be ready to return to the office. Employers will need to think about how best to support these staff. Even as COVID-19 becomes less of a risk, employees may prefer to make hybrid work arrangements, where they work in the office some days and spend the remainder of the time working remotely. If this is the case at your business, you’ll need to look at updating any policies relating to working from home.

For more information, or if this article has brought up any queries about your cover, get in touch with your insurance adviser. We can work with you to make sure you get the appropriate level of protection.

Disclaimer

Conditions apply for each policy and the information expected from you for a policy to trigger. Coverage may differ based on specific clauses in individual policies. Please ask your broker to explain the additional benefits and exclusions pertaining to your policy.

The information provided is general advice only and does not take account of your personal circumstances or needs. Please refer to our financial services guide which contains details of our services and how we are remunerated.