Phase 4 and Return to Work Considerations

On June 27 2020, Western Australia (WA) will move into phase 4 of the WA Government’s Roadmap to recovery from COVID-19. WA has been fortunate in that community transmissions have, at present, been limited. This has seen further restrictions eased across the state allowing many businesses to get back to a sense of normality.

Currently phase 3 is in place which includes a number of eased restrictions to large gatherings and additional businesses permitted to reopen. Phase 4 aims to further ease those restrictions as follows:

  • All existing gathering limits and the 100/300 rule will be removed. Gathering limits will only be determined by WA’s reduced 2sqm capacity rule;
  • The 2sqm rule will include staff only at venues that hold more than 500 patrons;
  • Removal of seated service requirements at food businesses and licensed premises;
  • No requirement to maintain patron register at food businesses and licensed premises;
  • All events will be permitted except for large scale, multi-stage music festivals;
  • Unseated performances will be permitted at venues such as concert halls, live music venues, bars and pubs;
  • Gyms can operate unstaffed, but regular cleaning must be maintained; and
  • The casino gaming floor reopening under agreed temporary restrictions.

International and interstate travel is still restricted, however during Phase 3 restrictions on intrastate travel was relaxed with the exception of travel to remote Aboriginal communities. The WA Government announced, as part of the phase 4 announcement, that the removal of WA’s hard border will be considered in phase 6 after phase 5, due to be introduced on July 18 2020. No date has been provided for phase 6.

Businesses that are reopening in phase 3 and 4 will need to submit a COVID Safety Plan. Businesses that opened in phase 2 are required to update their current COVID Safety Plan accordingly.

 

What does this mean for my business?

Moving from phase 3 to phase 4, it is now time to think about what measures need to be taken before returning employees to the workplace so business can be conducted in a safe manner, in line with Government and health and safety guidelines. Planning and forethought should be a top priority as this will lay the groundwork for a smooth transition back into the workplace. Factors that should be considered include:

 

Social distancing / physical distancing

Thought should be given to the capacity of the workplace and then identifying all the situations, tasks, and processes where employees and others (clients, customers, contractors and visitors) interact closely with each other. If the business does not have the ability to have all employees back at once, considering additional measures such as having some employees remain working from home, having employees return on a rotating roster system or moving furniture to accommodate the physical distancing requirements. Capacity of certain meeting rooms, board rooms and training rooms should also be considered with clear communication of the capacity if there have been changes.

Measures should also be taken for external visitors such as requiring self-screening forms to be completed when either hosting clients at the workplace or meeting them externally.

Other measures could include:

  • Reducing staff sharing equipment such as hot desking arrangements
  • Staggering staff start and finish times and staff lunch breaks
  • Having clear 1.5 metre markers where appropriate (floor and seating areas)
  • Seating in common areas changed to accommodate the 1.5 metre rule
  • Encouraging staff to still have virtual meetings where appropriate

 

Communication

Having effective communication with your employees during the COVID-19 pandemic is essential to limit the confusion and stress that employees may experience during this unprecedented and unpredictable time. Not only is it important to keep employees informed about the latest Federal and WA Government health warnings and advice but also to communicate the many changes the business is implementing to keep employees safe. This could include:

  • Consulting with employees about changes to rosters, start and finish times and lunch breaks;
  • Notifying staff of all relevant changes before they return to work to decrease stress and anxiety. For example, any changes made to workstations to accommodate social distancing requirements;
  • Changes in polices such as flexible work arrangements, travel and leave policies;
  • Promoting and communicating to employees the need to stay home if they have any flu like symptoms or mild symptoms of COVID-19;
  • Providing employees access to the businesses COVID-19 Safety Plan for transparency;
  • Promote regular and thorough hand hygiene to all employees, contractors and customers with signs and posters;
  • Communicating health and wellbeing services such as Employee Assistance Programs on all relevant platforms (email, intranet, notice boards and verbally);
  • Conduct surveys to gage employee’s thoughts on changes and their wellbeing through this unpredictable time;
  • Communicating the additional cleaning measures taken to ease employee’s concerns about exposure to COVID-19.

 

Health and well-being

With employees returning to the workplace it is also important to consider the current cleaning procedures implemented at the workplace. Making sure the procedures are adequate can be a low-cost way to not only prevent COVID-19, but can also stop or slow the spread of colds, flu and stomach bugs. Employees will be reassured that it is safe for them to return to the workplace as well as having the added benefit of reducing the instance of lost workdays due to illness. Safe Work Australia and the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety recommends businesses, in light of COVID-19, should be cleaning surfaces daily with special attention given to frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, elevator buttons, light switches, taps, kitchen surfaces, bathroom surfaces, TV remotes and hand rails. It is also important to make sure personal hygiene standards are encouraged, especially hand hygiene which can be facilitated by signs and posters around the workplace and by having easily accessible hand sanitisers around the workplace.

 

What happens if an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 in the workplace?

If an employee is confirmed to have or suspected of having COVID-19, you must clean all surfaces used by the employee to ensure any contamination is minimised. This should be done as soon as possible, and before any other employees have access to the affected areas.

Businesses should be mindful that in some cases, the business may need to look at suspending operations whilst this cleaning occurs, however, this will be determined by the size of the business, the number of employees, the nature of the work employees are undertaking and the size of the contamination area. Businesses should have a plan in place to manage a potential outbreak.

 

If you would like more information on this subject or any other matters, please contact the CCIWA’s Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08) 9365 7660 or email advice@cciwa.com   

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