After public health advice resulting in a minor delay of the initial plan, Victorian workplaces are now returning to offices today, Monday, 18 January 2021.
As of Monday, a capacity of 50% of employees are permitted in private office buildings, and 25% for public servant offices.
Having long awaited the easing of such restrictions, workplaces must adhere to the State government’s regulations when reopening their office doors. Not only are such measures vital to reduce any instances of new breakouts, but they are essential for employers ensuring their employees are physically and mentally safe in the workplace.
COVIDSafe workplace: the six principals
In creating a COVIDSafe workplace, the Victorian government has established six principles that all open and operating businesses must follow:
- Ensure physical distancing of 1.5m
- Wear a face mask in mandatory settings
- Practise good hygiene
- Keep records and act quickly
- Avoid interactions in enclosed spaces
- Create workforce bubbles
Employers must incorporate these principles into their COVIDSafe Plan.
Further, the Victorian government makes it mandatory for every business, which has on-site operations to have a COVIDSafe Plan, with those in high-risk industries, such as hospitals, having a High Risk COVIDSafe Plan. Employers with multiple sites must implement a COVIDSafe Plan for each site.
COVIDSafe Plans must address the following:
- The employers actions in helping prevent COVID-19 in their workplace
- The type of personal protective equipment and type of face mask required for your employees
- How the employer will prepare for, as well as respond to, a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in its workplace
- How the employer will meet all of the Victorian government’s requirements, noting that some high-risk industries have additional requirements of its employers and employees.
Employers are further obliged to regularly review and update their COVIDSafe Plan in accordance with changes to public health advice and restrictions.
To ensure compliance, authorised officers under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) and WorkSafe will undertake workplace inspections, requesting employers to demonstrate adherence with the COVIDSafe Plan.
Additional workplace obligations
Accompanying those listed above, employers must also comply with the following duties:
- Maintain records of all employees who are working in the workplace, as well as those working across multiple workplaces (if applicable).
- Collect and maintain records of all employees, customers, subcontractors and clients who are attending the workplace for a minimum of 15 minutes or more.
- Comply with the relevant density quotient for enclosed workspaces, being one employee per two square metres in a shared workspace or area.
- Ensure regular cleaning of shared workspaces and all facilities, as well as providing extra cleaning equipment and supplies.
- Assess risks associated with the closure and cleaning of the workplace when necessary.
- Direct employees home who present as unwell and request they seek testing. They are not permitted to return to the workplace until they receive their result, and are to be informed of financial support available in the event they are required to quarantine or self-isolate.
- Report positive cases of COVID-19 to all employees, the workplace’s health and safety representatives, along with WorkSafe and the Department of Health and Human Services. Anonymity of the infected worker must be maintained unless their consent to disclose is obtained.
Employees also have specific obligations concerning their COVIDSafe Workplace which they must follow. They must:
- Practise good hygiene.
- Familiarise themselves with and adhere to their workplace’s COVIDSafe Plan.
- Comply with density quotients and employee caps relevant to their workplace.
- Do not attend the office if feeling unwell, or leave the office immediately if starting to feel unwell.
- Inform your employer if you test positive to COVID-19.
- Inform your employer if you intend on working at a different site.
- Carry a face mask at all times and wear a face mask in mandatory settings unless a lawful exemption arises.
- Regularly clean work equipment and any shared workspaces.
If you would like advice either as an employer or employee, please contact our experienced workplace relations team on 03 9614 7111 or firstname.lastname@example.org