Work is a huge part of every person’s life. Since early 2020, thousands of employees have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been a lot of adaptation, and quickly, across the employment landscape.
Work health and safety obligations and standards existed prior to the pandemic and will remain once it has passed. However, what those obligations and standards look like has had to change. This is due to the fact that, for most of us, the pandemic has changed the way we live and work. Each employee’s experience differs for many reasons, including where they live, their type of work and their personal circumstances. For some, it has meant working remotely, entering into an altered and unfamiliar working environment or managing work and care responsibilities.
Employees should be aware of what policies and procedures are in place at their workplace and any adaptations made in response to the pandemic, or as a result of government regulations. Employees should be notified by their employers, and if not, they should enquire, as to what measures have been implemented into the workplace in response to the pandemic, in order to be able to remain compliant with the government and their employer’s expectations.
Safe work practices for employees in the workplace include:
- Ensuring they are provided with what is necessary to wash their hands;
- Ensuring they are provided with hand sanitizer;
- Ensuring their work environment allows for social distancing;
- Ensuring the physical layout of the workplace or work routine is amended to ensure minimal physical contact;
- Ensuring, if necessary, that masks and gloves are available
- Ensuring that they have a discussion with their employer regarding travelling to and from work, including whether this means taking public transport, or if alternative options need to be considered i.e. working from home.
Working From Home
For most employees, where the industry permits, working from home has been a reality for the majority of the time since early 2020. Working from home can have both negative and positive consequences on employees and their work. Employees should ensure that, as they are physically and socially distanced from their usual workplace environment and colleagues, that they remain in regular contact with their employer and colleagues. Communication becomes even more paramount in these circumstances.
Some safe work practices for employees working from home include:
- Ensuring they set boundaries around routine to have a break between work and home life
- Ensuring they have access to resources that may not be readily available at their home, including stationary, headsets, office furniture etc;
- Ensuring, if relevant, that they have flexibility around care responsibilities and work tasks and hours
Take away: Employees have a level of responsibility for their physical health and wellbeing as well and should practice good hygiene, social distancing and staying away from others if unwell. However, in the workplace, employers have an obligation to ensure a safe and healthy working environment and employees should not be discouraged from raising these topics as part of a consultation process if they have questions or concerns.
If you have a concern about your physical safety at work and would like advice, contact the team at Anderson Gray today.