John Molnar

John Molnar

Returning to work & the workplace: The COVID-19 Pandemic.

The COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global health crisis by the World Health Organisation on 11 March 2020, which resulted in a pandemic status for the first time since major outbreaks such as Ebola (2014-2016), Swine Flu (2009-2010) and SARS (2002-2003).

On 16 March 2020, Victoria was declared to be in a ‘State of Emergency’ under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic). On 18 March 2020, the Governor-General declared a ‘human biosecurity emergency’ within Australia under the Biosecurity Act 2015 (Cth). These declarations resulted in extraordinary powers conferred on both the Victorian Chief Health Officer and Commonwealth Heath Minister. These actions ultimately lead to a successively locked down Victoria & Australia to contain and curb the rate of infection.

The Corona Virus outbreak has since resulted in a widespread change for how we work. Working in a dedicated office is a thing of the past, with most Victorians still working from home as a result of the extended lockdown since 26 March 2020.

It poses the question: What will the return to work look like in 2021?

As part of the Victorian Roadmap for reopening, Victoria has reached its ‘Third step: Metro’ at 11:59 pm, 27 October 2020. The Roadmap outlines ‘the Last step’ (no cases for 14 days) and ‘Covid NORMAL’ (no new cases for 28 days State-wide and no active cases State-wide). Returning to work is specific to each Industry with Construction, Manufacturing and Hospitality (with restrictions) recently opening.

Offices and professional services still fall under a restricted category where ‘Employees must work from home or single site where reasonably practicable’, this is not forecasted to change until we meet ‘Covid NORMAL.’

In the space of employment law, the topic of how we will adapt to re-integration into the office is paramount.

Every Victorian business is required to have a COVIDSafe plan in place. This plan is necessary to ensure all businesses have measures in place to reopen safely.

As an employer or business, it is now integral that permitted workplaces have a COVIDSafe plan that demonstrates the following:

•           your actions to help prevent the introduction of coronavirus (COVID-19) to your workplace

•           the type of face mask or personal protective equipment (PPE) required for your workforce

•           how you will prepare for, and respond to, a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your workplace

•           how you will meet all the requirements set out by the Victorian Government. Some higher-risk industries or workplaces have additional requirements for employers and employees.

This plan must be reviewed and updated regularly to keep up with the public health advice that is altered daily.

The team at Midwinters Lawyers are ready to assist you with all your legal matters specifically as they relate to the ever-changing employment law landscape.

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