The past three months of economic upheaval and social restrictions has seen an enormous impact on workplaces, employment status and an influx of government policy. With children returning to school in most states and workplaces commencing what looks like a phased return to offices, we wanted to get some insight into what the key issues are and what the future will look like for employers.
Employment law expert Jonathon Hadley, Partner at Gadens Lawyers in Brisbane, shares that the biggest risks that need to be managed are still the health and safety of employees whether they be back in the traditional workplace or working from home.
“A workplace isn’t just limited to the normal office situation anymore. A workplace, the “new normal” as everyone says, can be the home,” said Jonathon.
Employers need to have a practical policy that includes drug and alcohol obligations, clothing, and also working as they would in the office, he highlighted.
“Unfortunately a number of people have had to get used to the fact that working at home is the same as working in the office, so all the normal criteria apply and it is a big change and it can be very difficult for both the employer and the employee to get their heads around.”
Looking to the future, Jonathon notes that there is a high risk of employment litigation and that the Fair Work Commission has already had a sharp increase in unfair dismissal claims. A large number of WorkCover claims is also expected.
“We’re going to start seeing that people are going to claim for coronavirus as a WorkCover claim.
“That’s something we haven’t seen just yet but is expected to be an avalanche in the next few months,” outlines Jonathon.
His advice for legal teams right now is to update their policies and procedures to reflect these changing times and also to document any conversations that are had.
“It is exceptionally difficult now with the number of people working from home and the interaction is not as it normally was, but at the same time we still need to ensure that we’re keeping contemporaneous file notes.”
Jonathon remains optimistic for the future. “It looks like Australia is on top of the initial phase of the virus, so hopefully we can kick-start this economy and we can get people back safely into the workplace,” he concludes.
Watch our interview in the video below and follow Lawcadia on LinkedIn or subscribe below to stay up to date.
Lawcadia and Gadens have developed a COVID-19 Legal Workflow to help in-house legal teams manage the breadth and scale of pandemic-related legal issues. This solution is available with pre-configured workflows and can be deployed in a matter of days