The second wave of COVID-19 cases in Victoria is adding to the immense impact on businesses and individuals, and calls for people to draw on even deeper reserves of resilience to get through another lockdown.
With further outbreaks likely, leaders need to have long-term strategies in place to safeguard their people, first and foremost.
Taking lessons from the first wave, I discuss in this article ways we can stay connected and compliant as we navigate a new long-term reality.
From business leaders to policymakers, solutions to avoid further outbreaks are aplenty across news outlets and social media. Chris Griffith, technology reporter at The Australian, recently published an article calling on the government to consider a national online pandemic course.
“Going online as a nation could help inform and reunify us in the fight against this highly infectious virus.”
Technology Reporter, The Australian
The benefits of online training have long been recognised by businesses – accessibility, affordability, scale – and perhaps he’s right that it’s time for all Australian citizens to partake.
Face-to-face interactions have an important role to play in our lives, however the evolving situation means for the foreseeable future – where possible – interactions do need to stay online.
This was highlighted recently when one of Melbourne’s largest hospitals trained its staff in a new digital record system in group sessions, and a few days later two attendees tested positive for COVID-19. Until Victoria’s outbreak is controlled, in-person training should be moved online to protect the safety and wellbeing of staff. The alternative is too risky.
Online training can be highly effective in upskilling and informing and, when executed correctly, it reflects the interaction and engagement of in-person training through customised and integrated multimedia.
Check-in on staff
With the novelty of being home-bound having long worn off, it’s crucial that employers are undertaking regular check-ins on their people – to understand their physical and mental wellbeing. First and foremost, it’s the right thing to do and, importantly, it minimises potential legal and financial ramifications.
Under Safe Work Australia’s legal guidelines this includes providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risk to health and safety, providing adequate and accessible facilities for the welfare of workers to carry out their work, and monitoring the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace for the purpose of preventing illness or injury.
And an employer’s duty to provide a safe environment goes beyond ensuring staff have ergonomically sound equipment. A landmark ruling in the NSW Court of Appeal in June found an employer liable for an employee killed by her partner while working from home.
Recent data shows that domestic violence is on the rise during the pandemic. Employers, from a legal and cultural perspective, need to be attuned to this and do everything that is reasonably practicable to ensure that staff working at home are operating in a safe environment.
Creating a cohesive workplace comes from the top, and it’s not only compliance figures that are driving that message. In a survey running on LinkedIn, as of 14 July 2020, 54 per cent of almost 15,000 respondents indicated that ‘educating leadership’ as the best way to make the workplace more inclusive. A further 23% said that diversity training contributes to an inclusive work environment.
We need to protect our staff wherever they are situated and encourage each other to check-in meaningfully and regularly. Having the right policies and procedures in place is a first step, but having a culture that is supportive and sets the tone from the top is crucial in ensuring they are enacted appropriately.
Having the right policies and procedures is the first step. Ensuring they are communicated clearly runs a close second.
Employers have a legal duty to provide information to employees about health and safety in the workplace. Particularly in a rapidly evolving environment, employees should be updated regularly on the status of COVID-19 and the policies and procedures in place to safeguard people and operations.
If adjusting business operations in response to COVID-19, employers have an obligation to know their responsibilities, and employees must be informed of their rights. This includes being equipped to make decisions that satisfy the Fair Work Act, informed to act appropriately according to industrial instruments, and able to manage staff appropriate to contractual demands.
Ensuring compliance in the short-term through clear communication, will protect brand reputation – and avoid potentially hefty fines – in the long-term.
In this together
Putting people first is paramount to coming out of COVID-19 with a strong and compliant workforce.
Whether it is educating the top on their legal responsibilities, or moving in-person training of new systems online, Safetrac is positioned to assist your business in facilitating online training efficiently and effectively, with the goal of keeping staff safe and supported through the second wave.
Deborah Coram, Safetrac’s CEO, will regularly share industry-relevant news to keep you informed on what’s happening in the world of compliance and brand protection.
As an authority on compliance training for almost 20 years, Deborah’s insights are thought-provoking, relevant and timely.