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Working from Home during COVID-19Ekaterina Skalidis Posted 20 May 2020
Workplace Health and Safety laws in Australia require businesses to eliminate or minimise risk to the workplace health and safety (WHS) of their employees as much as is reasonably possible. This includes employees working from home.
If you do have employees working from home, it is essential that:
- you have a Working from Home Policy which is communicated to employees, is readily available and properly implemented;
- you should carry out a workplace safety assessment to identify and address any WHS issues;
- you should review the scope and cover of your insurance policy with respect employees now working from home. You should also look at your property insurance to ensure that devices are adequately covered.
Stretches and exercise - Send employees a link to stretches or light exercise to encourage them to move away from their work station, given they are not taking regular trips to the printer or water cooler.
Injuries - Invariably employees become injured in the workplace. This is no different for employees working from home. Section 25 of the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (Tas) 1988 provides that a worker is entitled to compensation under the Act for an injury (not being a disease) arising out of or in the course of their employment.
The lack of boundaries between a person’s day to day home routine and their work duties can give rise to many questions from a worker’s compensation liability perspective. This is a grey area which in most cases will depend on the circumstances of each case. Some examples include:
Example 1 – An employee falling down the stairs when she went to lock her screen door during work hours. It was deemed that this was work related and covered by worker’s compensation given that there were clear policies by the employer encouraging employees to lock their screen doors whilst working from home. The employee was effectively abiding by the policy at the time of her injury.
Example 2 – An employee injured his back during the course of his employment when rushing to answer his work phone at home. He ran out of the shower, slipped and fell. This was a workplace injury because he was required to be on call and had been given a mobile phone for this purpose. His employer had previously chastised him for failing to answer his phone and it was for this reason that he had rushed out of the shower when the phone rang and slipped on wet tiles.
Domestic Violence - If an employer is aware that an employee is experiencing domestic violence at home, it may not be safe to allow them to continue working from home and consideration will need to be given as to whether they should return to the workplace.
Mental Health - It is essential that employees stay connected with their co-workers through catch-up video calls, regular meetings via Zoom or coffee catch-ups over Zoom where they can talk about things other than work. EAP should be available to staff should they need to access it.Clear Guidelines - Regular check-ins, good communication and ensuring employees have the right resources to help them perform their role will make the transition from work to home more effective whilst maintaining productivity.