From lockdown to return to work
In terms of returning to the workplace, the Federal Government released a 3-Step Framework on 8 May 2020, which included a return to the workplace in Step 3. However, each of the States and Territories is ultimately responsible for controlling if and when workers will be able to return to their workplaces. As at 27 May 2020, there is no current home confinement direction in Western Australia, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, or the Northern Territory, although most are still encouraging employees to work from home. Alternatively, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania, are still preventing employees from returning to work to varying degrees, the overriding principle being that employees cannot return to work unless their work cannot reasonably be performed at home. If and when workers are permitted to return to their workplace, employers should ensure that they conduct a risk assessment to identify all reasonably foreseeable hazards and associated risks, and determine if and what control measures can be implemented to control the risk of COVID-19 and associated risks. To assist employers with this task, Safe Work Australia has published a range of useful information on its website. While performing this task, employers should also ensure that they consider the individual circumstances of any vulnerable workers, and review their risk assessment periodically as circumstances continue to change.