Maintaining your Workers Compensation Obligations as an Employer during Office Closures and Working from Home

A challenge employer’s may overlook during this current period of uncertainty and unanticipated change due to the Coronavirus pandemic is an employer’s continuing obligations for occupational health and safety for its workers. This obligation extends beyond the confines of the workplace and covers employees working from home, which is becoming increasingly prevalent due to widespread office closures around the world.

Whilst an employer is able to control the workplace to mitigate against the risk of workplace injury in the office, employee’s working from home present a different risk and may leave employers apprehensive of their exposure extending beyond their area of traditional control. Employer’s need to remember that especially during times of rapid change, correct processes and procedures need to be in place to ensure the business is set up for success.

Clear and concise guidance for employees on the employer’s expectations must be in place prior to any employee commencing work from home, as well as internal checks that satisfy yourself that the environment for working from home is safe to do so. Each employee’s eligibility must be assessed on a case by case basis.

The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act specifies that an employee is covered for workers compensation if the injury arises ‘out of, or in the course of the employee’s employment’. Ultimately, employees remain covered when working from home and the responsibility falls on the business owner to ensure it is safe to do so. Thus, the need for clear guidelines and expectations is required. This would entail confirming an adequate work environment free form clutter, a satisfactory workstation, appropriate break times and maintaining the nature of work being conducted falls in line with what is required.

While it may not be practical to complete a comprehensive review of the environment your employee’s will be working from by way of conducting site visits, specific processes such as checklists that set clear expectations and guidance to employees regarding what is acceptable is essential to ensure you fulfil your obligations. Government authorities such as Comcare and Safe Work Australia provide checklists that can be utilised by business, together with their own procedures and internal checks to ensure all employees working from home are doing so safely.

Employers must exercise caution when setting these guidelines with clear definitions of the workplace, regular check-ins with the employee and setting realistic goals and targets within set work hours to support heathy and safe work.

If your processes and internal checks aren’t up to date, or you identify any areas of concern that may expose you to unnecessary risk, EBIT Management Services can provide a comprehensive review of your procedures and processes to ensure you continue to fulfil your obligations and are set up for success in the post-Covid world.