Returning to the Workplace Safely – A Guide for Managers

Information for managers who are assisting their teams to return to the workplace safely.

Purpose

This guide aims to assist managers to safely transition their employees back into the workplace and reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 as far as reasonably practicable.

It addresses the following areas:

  • Preparing the workplace for employees to return to work safely
  • How to safely transition employees back into the workplace
  • Monitoring processes once employees have returned to the workplace

This document is designed as a guide only and covers commonly occurring workplace scenarios. If managers require support to address specific situations not covered by this guide, please see the ‘Advice and Support’ section in this document.

Principles of returning to the workplace safely

This guide is based on the Five Core Principles:

  1. If employees are unwell, they must not come to work (even for perceived mild illness). If they have COVID-19 symptoms, they must get tested
  2. If employees want to and can continue to work from home, and this is appropriate for the employee’s role (where clinically and operationally possible), this must be considered as an option
  3. Physical distancing must be observed in the workplace at all times (preference is to work in separate enclosed spaces, only where practicable)
    • provide 4m2 of space per person in the Work Area, and
    • maintain at least 1.5m between people
  4. Employees must always practice effective hand and personal hygiene
  5. High touch surfaces are cleaned regularly and effectively

Further detail on these principles is outlined in Returning to the Workplace Safely – A Guide for Employees or below (where required).

Higher risk employees

Managers should consider whether any of their employees are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. The process for managing employees who may be at a higher risk is on the Monash Health COVID-19 Website.

Preparing the work area

Before employees return to the workplace, the manager must undertake a Work Area Assessment to ensure the workplace is safe, and any risks are mitigated to reduce the risk as far as reasonably practicable.

The manager must complete this assessment in their physical Work Area (not remotely or from memory). The assessment should be completed in consultation with the Health & Safety Representative (HSR) if available. Managers who work in shared areas should consult with their counterparts and ideally complete the assessment together.

The Work Area Assessment Tool can be found in Appendix 1. This document should be reviewed and updated as required, and a copy kept on file.

Additional resources (such as posters) are available on the Monash Health COVID-19 Website.

Safe transition back to work

Employees who are currently working from home may only return to the workplace once the Victorian Government Public Health Order is lifted. Before this, all employees who can work from home must work from home.

However, once employees can return to the workplace, managers need to consider:

  • Whether employees can continue to work from home daily or at least on some days
  • How many employees will be returning to work in total
  • How many employees the workplace can safely accommodate at once, bearing in mind minimum of 1.5m separation and the 4m2 per person in the Work Area (to calculate this, determine the area of the room [length x width] and divide the area by 4)
  • How the process of employees safely returning to the workplace can be graduated to ensure a controlled but steady return
  • How often should an employee’s Return to Work plan be reviewed (suggest weekly or fortnightly initially)

To address the above points, managers need to have individual conversations with each employee before their return to the workplace. The Conversation Record is in the Returning to the Workplace Safely – A Guide for Employees. Managers should complete the template and give the employee a copy.

Once individual conversations have occurred with all employees, this information should be collated to form an overarching departmental Returning to the Workplace Safely Department Plan. This will assist managers in ensuring that the return to work is graduated both in terms of start dates and the number of employees in the Work Area. If a manager is responsible for multiple Work Areas, then a plan is required for each area. This template is in Appendix 2.

For shared workstations, the manager should complete a Workstation Plan, showing the weekly utilisation plan for each workstation. This template is in Appendix 3.

On the first day of returning to the workplace, the manager (or delegate) should complete the Returning to the Workplace Safely Employee Checklist with each employee. This template is in the Returning to the Workplace Safely – A Guide for Employees.

Daily monitoring

Once employees start returning to the Work Area, managers must monitor how the return to work process is progressing. The Returning to the Workplace Safely Daily Manager Checklist is in Appendix 4.

Employee illness

Employees must not come into work if they are unwell, even with mild illness.

If an employee has symptoms that meet the current DHHS testing criteria the employee should present to a Screening Clinic and self-isolate as soon as possible.

If an unwell employee is well enough to work from home, and their job enables them to do this, this may be an option. Otherwise, they are to take leave as agreed with their manager.

Employees should call the Monash Health Employee Hotline Number on 9594 5815 (external) or extension 45815 (internal) if further advice is needed (7.00am – 4.30pm, seven days a week).

If an employee who has attended the Work Area has been screened for COVID-19, they should advise their manager of the result as soon as possible. Managers should call the Employee Hotline Number as above for advice on the next steps.

Advice and support

If you need help with returning your employees to work safely, support is available.

As a starting point, discuss any general workplace issues with your local Health and Safety Representative. Please contact the OH&S Advice Line on 9594 6140 if further advice is needed.

Individual employee issues should be discussed with your People & Culture Business Partner.

Individual and team support resources are on the Monash Health COVID-19 Website Health and Wellbeing page.

Infection Prevention can provide advice on cleaning regimes and products.

Communicating to your team

If you’re not sure where or how to start the conversation with your team about safely returning to the workplace, this topic was discussed at the Manager Briefing held on 24 June 2020.

Karen Lowe, Executive Director, People & Culture, shared highlights about our approach to working safely, and you can watch a recording of her presentation.

The presentation file is available below.

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