[Webinar Q&As] Beating Time: Substantive Law – Lessons from the Pandemic in the Workplace – Employment and HR
Piper Alderman provides answers to questions received during our Beat the clock | Substantive Law – Workplace Lessons from the Pandemic webinar February 15, 2022.
Some of your other questions may have been answered after the Beat the Clock – Substantive Law | Workplace Lessons from the Pandemic online seminar. Please find the link to the Q&A for this webinar here.
To watch the webinar on demand, please register here.
Q1: What considerations should be made when dealing with unvaccinated employees, when the company wants all staff to return to the office (except consultation)?
A1: The first step is to determine whether it is legal to require employees to return to work under public health orders (or equivalent) in the relevant jurisdiction. While it is legal to allow the return of unvaccinated people, there will always be human resource and health and safety issues, as unvaccinated people will be at greater risk of serious consequences if they become infected with COVID- 19, and unvaccinated people if infected may be more likely to transmit the virus. to other workers.
Q2: Do you have any advice for dealing with staff who do not wish to return to work in the office?
A2:Clearly articulate your business reasons for wanting people in the office (e.g. better collaboration, professional development by being around experienced people, efficiency, etc.), explain them to hesitant employees, reflect on their positions, try to persuade, if you cannot convince by persuasion, decide whether the advantages of a return instruction outweigh the disadvantages of such a mandate.
Q3: Is it legal to furlough personnel knowing that local Australian operations are profitable for this exercise?
A3: The short answer is no. However, there might be more information that we are not aware of that might allow for a more nuanced answer.
Q4: Regarding consultation requirements, is it reasonable to make a proposal and then consult to confirm the proposal?
A4:Yes, provided you really consider the comments on the draft.
Q5: How does the insurance cover work for an employee working from home during working hours? How is it managed and what coverage protects the employee?
AT 5 :This is a question best asked of your organization’s insurance broker.
Q6: Regarding the consultation process from the WHS perspective, how far should we consult? For example, is it enough to talk with the HSRs or do we need to communicate/send information to all staff?
A6: You must give all workers the opportunity to be consulted. You’ll likely find that most don’t take the opportunity, with likely a disproportionate response rate from the opposite vaccine.
Q7: Who should be consulted, ie all employees or certain representatives?
A7:You must give all workers the opportunity to be consulted. You’ll likely find that most don’t take the opportunity, with likely a disproportionate response rate from the opposite vaccine.
Q8: What about customer requirements (not government requirements) to get vaccinated when performing work on their premises or assets? Do we have to consult the employees concerned since we have no choice but to comply with the customer’s requirements?
AT 8 : You will need to think about what you will do with employees who are unwilling to respond to customer requests. It will not be necessary to review the Customer Site Access Rule, but you will need to provide due process in discussions with the employee regarding the ramifications if they violate the rule.
Q9: What happens if the employee is hired after the policy has been decided?
R9:We recommend making it a precondition of employment that they comply with the policy.
Q10: When implementing a vaccination policy, is it better to separate it from an overall Covid policy? Or should we have 2?
A10: We recommend that you cover everything in one policy.
Q10: Does the necessary “consultation” have to be with ALL affected employees, or could an employer just go say union representatives, or a focus group, or even a random sample?
A10: You must give all workers the opportunity to be consulted. You’ll likely find that most don’t take the opportunity, with likely a disproportionate response rate from the opposite vaccine.
Q10: With more equipment leaving the work environment due to telecommuting, what leverage is available to recover assets from employees who terminate employment but do not return equipment?
A10: There may be discretionary payments which can be used as leverage. Additionally, communicating that your organization is the legal owner of the property and that non-return would be illegal could also improve compliance. You can’t withhold employee rights to provide leverage, but a threat of lawsuits can lead to a change in attitude.
Q11: Discuss the legal implications an employer should be aware of when allowing an employee to work outside Australian jurisdiction where the situation in Australia is that working from home is the preferred option.
A11:How this is authorized will be relevant. We recommend that any engagement be expressed as temporary only, noting that working from home takes place in Australia and will be under review. This will allow you to provide direction, if desired, for the employee to return to Australia, and possibly the office, in the future. You must have valid business, HR, WH&S reasons for requiring the person to be in Australia, eg security, jet lag issues, etc.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.