Returning to the Workplace Safely – A Guide for Managers

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


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).

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

Monash Health policy states that all employees who can work from home should 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.

Vulnerable employees return to work

The Department of Health has advised that it is appropriate for the vulnerable employee workforce to attend work as normal. As you will be aware, Monash Health is exploring some employees continuing to work from home on a more regular basis. The People & Culture Working from Home Procedure is available on Prompt to support you in determining whether it is appropriate for the role to be performed from home.

Managers are encouraged to meet with employees to discuss their role moving forward including transitioning back into the workplace as required.

Frequently asked questions

What systems are in place for vulnerable workers if there is further COVID-19 community transmission?
The Department of Health and Monash Health will continue to monitor the risk associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and make recommendations if required. Returning to the Workplace Safely guides are available for managers and employees on the Monash Health COVID-19 website. All employees are encouraged to participate in the vaccination program and, if required, the Respiratory Protection Program.

 If an employee has a medical certificate, can they continue working from home?
Based on the current advice from the Department of Health, if the employee’s medical certificate relates to COVID-19 risk, it is appropriate for employees to return to work on-site. Monash Health is requesting that employees discuss a plan to return to work. If the employee is still of the view that it is not safe for them to return to work, please ask them to provide updated medical evidence from their treating medical practitioner to support their position. We will then work with your People and Culture Business Partner to review and discuss with you further.

If the medical certificate relates to an ongoing illness and is not specific to COVID-19, then we expect the employee is taking personal leave and the usual processes in relation to evidence and notice for personal leave will apply.

What are the options if the employee wants to continue working from home but does not meet the position description criteria?
If the employee’s role requires them to return to work to fulfil their position description, then they will be required to return to work. Additional guidance about working from home and whether it is appropriate for the role is available in the People and Culture Working from Home Procedure on Prompt. This procedure will be updated in the future to the People and Culture Remote Working Procedure.

If they do not wish to return to work, we encourage them to look at other roles and opportunities at Monash Health that may enable them to continue to work from home. We also recommend that you seek support from your People and Culture Business Partner in this instance.

What are the options if the employee cannot wear the appropriate PPE for their workplace?
Monash Health will work with the employee to look at alternative employment opportunities if they cannot wear the appropriate PPE and it is a requirement of their role that they are able to do so. If you have an employee who this applies to, please contact the COVID-19 Hotline Team on to discuss the next steps.

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.

Previous Next
Test Caption
Test Description goes like this