How can company directors be mindful of duty of care requirements under the COVID-19 restrictions?
It’s been only a matter of weeks since everyday life in Australia changed in ways we’ve never experienced, with sweeping new restrictions across the way we interact both in public and in our private dwellings.
As we work together to see the tide of COVID-19 turned, there are a great many considerations at play for company directors to remain deeply aware of. In the rush to find new ways to deliver products and services, move teams to remote work environments, and assess how to respond to dynamics and restrictions that have been changing almost daily, one key consideration may have fallen to the wayside in many businesses and industries: duty of care considerations.
Under the WHS Act 2011, the PCBU has Primary Duty of Care and company Officers have the duty to ensure the PCBU meets that responsibility by exercising Due Diligence.
Due Diligence is an integral duty for all company directors and other corporate officers to keep front and centre, particularly when changes to standard work environments are coming as swiftly as they currently are on our shores.
So, how can you work to ensure this duty is upheld within new and changing workplace environments?
Below are some considerations:
If your employees are now working from home, consult with them to ensure they have adequate and safe equipment to facilitate a safe and healthy working environment.
Maintain up-to-date risk assessments for job roles and facilities across new and existing workflows.
Provide necessary training. As well, if employees are stepping into new roles or taking on new tasks within the current climate, ensure they have access to training that’s set up to help them succeed.
Encourage your employees to maintain a work/life balance. Making time for rest and play is crucial to our emotional and physical health, and for some employees, this will be more difficult under current work-from-home conditions. Make this a priority across your remote team, encouraging a company culture of balance and integration.
Keep communication lines open. By ensuring employees can bring feedback to your attention, you will help avoid incomplete understandings of your workplace environment.
SafeWork NSW has published information and a checklist for Working from Home:
Stay well and well,
Dr. Ute Steinel, Director