Employment Hero

What Australian Employers Need to Know about the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What is the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

In January 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak of a new coronavirus disease in Hubei Province, China to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. WHO stated there is a high risk of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreading to other countries around the world. The disease has the potential to drive significant business and operational impact on Australian businesses. It is therefore critical that businesses have a clear plan and lines of communications with employees, as well as clients and third-party entities.

 

How does COVID-19 spread? 

Let’s start with the World Health Organisation’s information about the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.

When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales, they release droplets of infected fluid. Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces and objects – such as desks, tables or telephones. People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. If they are standing within one meter of a person with COVID-19 they can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled by the infected person. 

In other words, COVID-19 spreads in a similar way to the flu. Most persons infected with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and recover. However, some go on to experience more serious illness and may require hospital care. The risk of serious illness rises with age: people over 40 seem to be more vulnerable than those under 40. People with weakened immune systems and people with conditions such as diabetes and heart and lung disease are also more vulnerable to serious illness.

In Australia, the people most at risk of getting the virus are those who have:

  • Recently been in mainland China and Iran
  • Been in close contact with someone who is a confirmed case of coronavirus

 

How can Australian businesses avoid a COVID-19 disaster?

There are a few simple things businesses can do to avoid a coronavirus outbreak. The first—which is the most obvious—is to encourage and enforce strict personal hygiene measures. This means ensuring staff have ready access to hospital-grade hand sanitiser (versions that contain 60-95% alcohol are most effective) and hand wash. Remind people to cough into elbows and to wipe down surfaces regularly. 

The second way to avoid an outbreak is to ensure employees stay home if they’re feeling unwell. If they or someone they’re living with is diagnosed with the virus, they must self-isolate for 14 days. I can’t stress how important technology and software is for times like this. With an up-to-date tech stack, you can maintain your company’s productivity. At Employment Hero, we rely on Slack (an instant messaging application), file management through G-Suite and of course, Employment Hero for all things people management and payroll. 

If you think on-the-go access to your employee files, admin and payroll sounds good, Employment Hero also houses powerful features to help you keep a remote workforce engaged. See what else we can do. 

Employment Hero workplace poster for hygiene

Our own poster

 

What do I do if an employee has COVID-19?

If your employee has informed you they have been diagnosed with coronavirus, treat this situation as you would any sick employee. Full-time staff accrue 10 days of sick or carer’s leave each year. Employees may use their sick leave if they are not fit to work. It’s up to your discretion whether you request that the employee provide a medical certificate as evidence of their illness. If the employee uses up all of their sick leave, they may remain employed on unpaid leave. If the employee’s absence is greatly affecting the business’ productivity (over an extended period of time), you could consider hiring a contractor to cover the ill employee until they’re well enough to come back to work.

If the employee is fit enough to work remotely, ensure they have all the relevant equipment to do this for at least 14 days to avoid workplace contagion. Contrary to popular belief, remote and/or flexible working can actually be a good thing for businesses.

 

Employment Hero Checklist for Employees ✅

The following checklist is our own guideline for employees who suspect that they or anyone else they might have been in contact with over the past 14 days may have coronavirus COVID-19.

What do I do if I suspect I have symptoms of COVID-19?

  • If you develop even a mild cough or low-grade fever (a temperature of 37.3 C or more) you should stay at home and self-isolate. This means avoiding close contact (one meter or nearer) with other people, including family members.
  • Even if you only have mild symptoms, you must stay away from work and other public areas. Masking symptoms with paracetamol or ibuprofen does not make you less contagious to others.
  • If suspect you may have COVID-19, phone your healthcare provider or the local public health department and tell them your symptoms (your symptoms may not be severe enough to warrant a hospital visit, but you will still be infecting others by doing so). Your GP or hospital will advise next steps.
  • Notify your manager, your manager’s manager or HR/People and Culture via Slack, a text message, phone call or email.

 

What if I am diagnosed with COVID-19?

  • Notify your manager, your manager’s manager or HR/People and Culture via Slack, a text message, phone call or email.
  • Follow all medical advice to recover from your infection a soon as possible.
  • Once cleared from the infection (being given the all-clear from a medical professional), you are to self-isolate and work from home (WFH) for a minimum period of 14 days.

 

What if I’ve been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19?

  • Notify your manager, your manager’s manager or HR/People and Culture via Slack, a text message, phone call or email.
  • Self-isolate and WFH for a minimum period of 14 days.
  • If you are a carer of an infected family member/dependant, please enter your Carer’s Leave into Employment Hero and let your manager know.
  • You should monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days and take your temperature twice a day.
  • If you develop even a mild cough or low-grade fever (a temperature of 37.3 C or more) you should stay home and self-isolate. Phone your healthcare provider or the local public health department and give them details of your symptoms. You may be asked to go to your nearest hospital to be tested. 

 

What if I have recently travelled to an area with known cases of COVID-19?

  • Self-isolate and WFH for a minimum period of 14 days.
  • Notify your manager and follow our work-from-home policy along with guidelines set out below.
  • If you have returned from an area where COVID-19 is spreading you should monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days and take your temperature twice a day.
  • If you develop even a mild cough or low-grade fever (a temperature of 37.3 C or more) you should stay home and self-isolate. Phone your healthcare provider or the local public health department and give them details of your symptoms. You may be asked to go to your nearest hospital to be tested. 

 

What if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19?

  • You and the entire company will be notified immediately by a member of the leadership team (by Slack and email).
  • The office will be closed for a minimum of 14 days or as prescribed.
  • The office will undergo a comprehensive health-certified cleaning of the entire premises.
  • Every employee will WFH until notified that our office is open.
  • Make sure you have completed our WFH Agreement and uploaded it into your uploaded documents section in your employee file in Employment Hero.
  • You should monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days and take your temperature twice a day.
  • We will ask you to submit a list of anyone you have had contact with in the past 14 days at work to your manager (clients, candidates, friends)
  • Please notify anyone in your personal life that your work has had a case of COVID-19. Anyone you have had contact with should also self isolate themselves and monitor themselves for symptoms.
  • If you have symptoms, follow the above advice and call your closest healthcare professional. They will advise you on next steps.
  • If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 yourself, notify your manager, enter your leave and follow all medical advice to recover as soon as possible. 
  • In the case that we shut down the office for a period of time, review the guidelines below to make WFH as productive as possible.

 

Office Closure: Working-From-Home Guidelines:

  • You will operate as business-as-usual.
  • We are fortunate to have all the technology and cloud systems to support WFH.
  • You will log-on to Slack each morning.
  • It is your responsibility to keep your Slack status up-to-date; if you grab lunch, update your Slack status before you go and and again when you return to working. 
  • You will continue to have your team meetings, weekly huddles and 1:1 meetings as needed through Google Hangouts or via Slack.

 

Office Closure: Employee FAQs:

  • What if an email or Slack alert occurs overnight and my laptop is at the office?
    • The email and Slack notification will include instructions with a timeframe on collecting your laptop. You will be expected to come to the office to collect your laptop. If you already have a laptop at home that you can use, let us know that you will not be needing to come in and collect your laptop.
  • Can I take my large monitor home?
    • If you are at the office when an alert closing the office occurs, you may take your monitor with you. It is your responsibility to maintain the monitor and return it once the office opens again
    • If the office is closed when an alert comes through and you want your large monitor, you can collect it during the window that is outlined for the collection of laptops.
  • Can I come into the office if I left something there?
    • No. The physical office will be closed in the circumstance of an office shutdown. You will not be able to get into the office (this is for your own personal welfare and protection of your health).

If you think on-the-go access to your employee files, admin and payroll sounds good, Employment Hero also houses powerful features to help you keep a remote workforce engaged. See what else we can do. 

If you’re ready to dive right in, you can book a demo with one of our specialists. 

Watch this A& from WHO

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