17 Mar CORONAVIRUS UPDATE
TTIA Members will be aware that information about the Coronavirus is changing daily as the number of confirmed cases in Australia grows. Information about the Coronavirus is in the Australian Government publication What You Need To Know.
Members should note that the latest government information needs to be monitored closely as it has been changing almost daily over recent weeks.
Restrictions after travelling from certain countries
There are currently restrictions on people who have travelled from or through ‘higher risk’ countries, as follows:
- have travelled from or transited through mainland China within the past 14 days;
- have travelled from or transited through Iran within the past 14 days;
- have travelled from or transited through the Republic of Korea (South Korea) on or after 5 March 2020; and,
- commencing at 6pm on Wednesday, 11 March 2020, have travelled from or transited through Italy.
In each of the above cases the traveller is required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days after leaving the abovementioned countries.
There are also restrictions that apply to travellers from countries identified by the Australian Government as ‘moderate risk’, currently identified as Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and Thailand. People in this category are advised to monitor their health closely for 14 days after leaving any of the moderate risk countries, and, if they develop a fever or cough, seek urgent medical advice and self- isolate.
Other restrictions—close contact with a confirmed case
In addition to the above, restrictions also apply to people who have been in close contact with a confirmed case of Coronavirus in the last 14 days. Further information about close contact, as well as information about casual contact is provided in the relevant Australian Government fact sheets listed in the Appendix to this Circular.
The latest Information for Employers from the Australian Government Department of Health is also available via the link in the Appendix to this Circular, along with links to further advice concerning employment in specific sectors.
What does this mean for employers?
As an employer you are required to take all reasonably practical measures to protect the health and safety of your workers, that is, not only your employees, but also contractors, visitors, volunteers and others who attend or reside in your workplaces. These measures should be based on regular risk assessments, based on close monitoring of relevant information. It could be expected that such assessments include consideration of, and compliance as necessary, with the Australian Government’s Information for Employers and other publications (the publications).
Some people CANNOT go to work
The publications identify some people who, due to recent travel and/or contact with confirmed cases of Coronavirus, cannot go to work due to the requirement to be in self-isolation. It is important, therefore, that you:
- Inform your workers about current measures to be adopted for individuals due to their travel from or through certain countries and/or contact with confirmed cases of Coronavirus;
- Inform your workers that they are required to notify you if they fall into one of the categories that are subject to any restrictions;
- Take appropriate measures to ensure that any of your workers comply with the relevant advice, such as self-isolation for the prescribed period. The Australian Government Isolation Guidance information can also be accessed via the link in the Appendix.
What about payment for a period of self-isolation?
Where an employee is unable to attend the workplace due to the Australian Government’s requirement to self-isolate you may consider whether any suitable work can be performed by such an employee during the period of self-isolation that would attract normal payment, particularly where such employee may be medically fit to perform such work.
Where suitable work is not available, an absence due to a period of self-isolation, would be an authorised absence but would not attract normal payment, as where work is performed, but could be subject to other payment, or arrangement, such as:
- Personal carer leave—where an employee is unfit to attend work, or required to provide care for someone else, subject to the usual eligibility criteria;
- By arrangement, payment of annual leave or long service leave;
- Other paid leave as provided by an employer; or
- Unpaid leave.
Employees who are not required to self-isolate but who are directed by their employer not to attend the workplace
If you require an employee, who is not required to self-isolate, to stay away from the workplace due to other concerns relating to the Coronavirus you should consider whether such employees can perform work from home that would attract normal payment. If working from home or other location away from the usual workplace is not practical, you may be required to pay the employee for the period of such absence, depending on the information available to you from the relevant health authorities, which should be monitored closely for further developments.
Employees who are not required to self-isolate but do not want to attend the workplace
If employees, who are not required to self-isolate, do not want to attend the workplace out of concern for their own health and safety, you may need to consider such requests on their particular circumstances, including whether employees have had access to relevant information about the risks of the Coronavirus, whether an employee is seeking access to annual leave or long service leave, or a work-from-home, or another location, arrangement.
What about standing down employees?
There may be circumstances where employees could be subject to stand down, that is, where work is not available due to circumstances beyond an employer’s control. This might occur where a workplace has been temporarily closed down by government health authorities. In such circumstances, however, you may want to consider other options such as working from home or paid leave.
What about a downturn in business activity?
If your business is experiencing a downturn in activity and it is expected to impact your employment levels, you may need to consider various options, depending on the extent of the downturn and its projected duration. You can obtain further advice and assistance by contacting the TTIA Hotline.
- Monitor the situation closely and the relevant Australian Government Department of Health advice for employers;
- Conduct risk assessments, based on the best available information and taking account of your particular business, its clients and processes;
- Provide up to date information to employees and advise and consult with them about your arrangements;
- Review your current policies and procedures to ensure that you have appropriate systems and methods, and communicate to your workers, to prevent and deal with infectious diseases;
- Take all appropriate hygiene and related measures such as those identified in the Australian Government’s Information.
If you need more assistance?
If you have any questions, please contact the TTIA Hotline on 02 9264 0011.
The following are sites for a selection of publications by the Australian Government – www.health.gov.au
Information about the virus
Coronavirus (COVID-19) what you need to know Information for close contacts of a confirmed case Information for casual contacts of a confirmed case Information about isolation guidelines
Information about home isolation when unwell (suspected or confirmed cases) Information about returning to your community
Information about travelling and travel restrictions
Information for travellers arriving from mainland China, Iran, Republic of Korea and Italy Information for international travellers
Information for employers and about specific sectors
Information for employers
Coronavirus resources for health professionals, including pathology providers and healthcare managers
Information for hotels and hotel staff
Information for schools and early childhood centres, students and their parents
Information for drivers and passengers using public transport
Information for the marine industry
Information for the cruise industry
Information for universities, higher education and vocational education facilities, their students and staff