Schools start returning this week and restrictions are slowly being relaxed. The Victorian Premier has recently reiterated that working from home remains an expectation for all workplaces possible to avoid unnecessary risk. The ASU supports this stance. Last week the ASU held two online sessions for members on what this means at work.
If you missed the sessions, members shared their good and bad experiences. If you can gather a group (remotely of course!), the ASU can run these sessions again. Flick us an email if you’re keen!
Risk Assessments should be conducted before changes commence.
You have a right to be genuinely consulted when there is workplace change.
Consultation is always required under OHS and/or industrial law, but with the greater risk during the pandemic, consultation is critical. Consultation should be genuine, including seeking workers’ input on proposals and addressing any feedback or concerns raised by workers or their representatives. Planning to return to office-based work or altering systems of work in offices, home visit, outreach or other settings due to COVID-19 triggers this. You have a right to seek advice and representation when consultation is happening.
Check the Guidance Applicable to your Workplace.
DHHS has prepared extensive guidance both sector-wide and for sub-sectors (eg Out of Home Care, Housing & Homelessness etc). It covers OHS concerns, safety measures and industrial matters such as leave arrangements and rights of vulnerable workers. Check if your workplace is adhering to the guidance that applies to you at the ASU Community Sector Resource Page.
At-risk workers – check your rights.
There may be different employer obligations for workers more vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19, due to factors such as age, other health conditions and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers. If you have risk factors and aren’t sure what this means, get union advice. For others, maybe it’s not safe to work from home, for instance, due to family violence. Get advice about your employer’s obligation to provide a safe workplace.
If you’re not sure, ask your staff elected Health & Safety Rep (HSR), union delegate or ASU office.
If you don’t act, change may just happen around you. Get informed, seek advice and get union representation if needed. There are extra options for dealing with COVID related workplace issues. Where matters can not be resolved at a workplace we may be able to refer your matter to the DHHS Community Sector Coronavirus Issue Resolution Process, see Appendix A.
Member Experiences – What’s worked well?
- Adequate tools being provided for modified work (e.g. work mobiles for working from home)
- Immuno-compromised workers being able to work from home without question.
- Good physical distancing for outreach teams in office base.
- Restrictions of cars and other work tools to a minimal number of workers.
- Good supplies of cleaning products, hand sanitiser and Persona Protective Equipment (PPE).
- Use of checklist on health and symptoms of households before conducting home visits.
- Use of the DHHS Issue Resolution Process, resulting in a mediation agreement that can be readily referred to for future concerns.
- Showing that flexible working arrangements can work operationally.
- Involvement of workers in planning and genuine consultation with a range of avenues: surveys, reports, communication and genuinely taking onboard workers feedback.
- One-off or ongoing allowances to workers (eg to cover extra data, internet or other costs)
Member Experiences – What’s a Worry?
- Deteriorating wellbeing and mental health due to compounding of vicarious trauma, isolation and lack of adequate support and supervision.
- Ongoing use of shared workstations without clear cleaning regime and physical distancing.
- Poor communication and troubleshooting causing increased stress and confusing expectations.
- Harsh and/or excessive surveillance of remote workers.
- That COVID arrangements expose existing workplace issues and weaknesses (eg poor OHS structures, lack of common procedures and breaching consultation requirements).
- OHS systems not well understood, and lack of elected staff Health and Safety Reps (HSRs).
Want to see more sessions like this being provided by your union? Flick us an email back, we love to hear our members’ ideas.