ProcessWorx HR advisors have been receiving a lot of questions from business owners in regard to managing COVID-19 at work. With the presence of the virus becoming normalised in WA, businesses need to adapt and be ready to handle potential exposure or infection at work. To assist, ProcessWorx HR consultants have answered our most frequently asked COVID-19 questions.
Do my employees have to be vaccinated to attend work?
The WA government had mandated vaccinations under public health orders (PHO) for specific high risk industries such as, building and construction, health professionals, mining and teachers. Those working in these industries must have vaccinations to work and employers must have evidence of vaccination for employees and contractors on site. Those industries not covered by specific PHOs do not have a legal directive to be vaccinated, however, vaccination can be encouraged as a reasonable method of risk mitigation. View the PHOs here.
What can I do if employees refuse to be vaccinated?
If an employee is refusing vaccination and there is a legal government directive (PHO) requiring vaccination, employers need to act or risk hefty fines. We recommend the employee be stood down without pay and directed to get vaccinated in writing. The employee has 7 days to comply with the directive and begin vaccination. Employers can ask employees for a vaccination certificate or legal medical exemption as evidence. If the employee fails to comply, the disciplinary process can commence remotely.
What if employees are waiting for a vaccine?
If employees are waiting for a new version of the COVID-19 vaccine, employers should consider the reasonableness of this request. Consult with the employee to determine the reason for waiting and discuss the requirement of vaccination in your industry, mandated or not. If they are waiting for a vaccine that is approved for use in Australia and will be available in a reasonable time frame, it may be reasonable to stand them down or work from home in the meantime. Unreasonable requests could include waiting for a vaccine that is not approved for use in Australia.
Do I need a risk assessment?
Employers have a work, health and safety duty of care to mitigate the risk of injury and illness in the workplace, including COVID-19. This can include, assessing the risk of COVID-19 in your business and how likely it is employees will be exposed. Regularly review your COVID-19 risk management strategies with employees including, social distancing, hygiene, and vaccination. Ensure employees are aware of and follow the risk mitigation strategies.
What leave do employees take if they test positive or are isolating?
Sick or personal leave should be taken if an employee is unwell with COVID-19, unwell with COVID-19 like symptoms, or if they become unwell whilst isolating. If the illness outlasts the employee’s sick leave entitlements, employees can use annual leave or take unpaid leave. If an employee is directed to isolate but they are not unwell, they can either, work from home, or if they are unable to work from home, they can access annual leave or be stood down on unpaid leave.
What if an employee refuses to wear a mask?
If an employee is refusing to comply with mask wearing directives this can put your business, employees and visitors at risk. We recommend meeting with the employee to explain the mask wearing directive and give them to the opportunity to respond (e.g. provide medical exemption). If they still do not comply you can begin the disciplinary process.
What if you have a positive case in your workplace?
If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 contact WA Health via the COVID-19 hotline (13 26843). Follow all advice given to you by WA Health. Ensure confidentiality is not breached, employers should not be notifying other employees of the specific person who has tested positive. Follow any other internal COVID-19 policies and procedures.
Employers should use these answers as a guide to managing issues with COVID-19 in the workplace, for specific concerns please contact the ProcessWorx HR consultants on (08) 9316 9896. Visit our website for more information on HR and Work Health and Safety support for business owners https://www.processworx.com.au/