Earlier this month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison signalled that he was working with the states to move the country out of lockdown and business back to opening like they used to in the old days.

To help you through the re-opening process, we have compiled a quick list of things you should do before re-opening. This list is not a comprehensive review, however will take into account some of your general obligations under workplace health and safety legislation, provide some best practice tips on communicating with customers and employees, as well as touching on some changes in employment law.

Prepare Your Workplace For Social Distancing

Workplaces should consider reasonable steps, which may include social distancing, which requires people to keep at least 1.5m apart. This measure is likely to be required upon return and is likely to be commonplace for the foreseeable future.

Offices, for example, may only be able to hold half the amount of staff they were originally designed for, as to ensure social distance remains employees may have to sit spaced out from one another. You should check government restrictions to inform you of what is acceptable.

Toilets, meeting rooms, reception queues, waiting rooms and other small, enclosed spaces may also be impacted by social distancing.

Questions you can ask yourself that may help you focus on the changes you need to make include, ‘How closely are employees required to work?’,  ‘How closely do employees need to be to interact with customers?’ and whether any physical contact is required between employees or others.

Social distancing measures may be harder to implement in some workplaces than others. Some workplaces, like places of worship, bars and events businesses, will likely be subjected to more stringent or specific health guidelines and Government directions.

Employers will also need to consider their State specific guidelines and state government directives which may vary. Make sure to check up on any Government guidelines to see if your workplace has any specific industry-based provisions.

Consider Your Customers And Visitors

You should also consider how your customers can visit your premises and interact with your staff or workplace, all while doing so in accordance with workplace health and safety (WHS) guidelines.

You may have seen the long queues around various retailers, for example, over the last few months. These queues were a result of the stores adapting to WHS guidelines.

There were likely many reasons why these queues came to be, but let’s look at three health and safety measures which may have been responsible for these queues.

  1. In line with Government directives, many retailers only allowed one customer or one family unit of customers to pass through the entry of the store at one time. If a customer was exiting, a customer entering had to wait until that customer was away by more than 1.5m, before proceeding.
  2. Many retailers have restricted the total number of customers who were allowed in the store at once to prevent crowds or close contact.

The queue’s length was exacerbated by the 1.5m social distancing space needed between waiting customers.

While your business is most probably not the same size as these retailers, enforcing new Covid-19 health measures at your business may result in a less-than-ideal customer experience.

Retailers, restaurants, food outlets, cafes and other similar businesses will be majorly impacted by such restrictions – restaurants, for example, will likely not be able to serve as many dine in customers at once, as they were able to before the pandemic.

It’s important for businesses that their customer experience is as smooth as possible. Clearly communicating your health and safety procedures, and providing things like hand sanitizer and wipes, could go a long way to helping customers and visitors associating your business as hygienic.

Utilise Physical Communication

Signs are a great way to get the point across. The bolder and simpler, the better.

You can utilize signs to effectively communicate the following things:

  • how many people are allowed in a space (e.g. in a waiting room)
  • to remind people how to wash their hands thoroughly
  • how you have changed how customers will be served
  • how staff should sanitise tools, machinery or other equipment
  • and any other new workplace directions

Physical communication, other than getting your message across, also asserts how serious your workplace is with being as safe as possible.

Create And Communicate Your Post-Covid Plans To Your Staff

If you’re planning on re-opening, you should communicate this to your staff. As part of your communication, you should also figure out what differences you’re going to make to how your business currently operates. This communication should also incorporate any changes to your WHS policies or procedures.

Understandably, staff will probably be eager to receive any such communications after such a tumultuous time. For any changes in the workplace it is recommended to offer staff a chance to air any concerns or questions they may have. Also, keep in mind your requirements to consult with employees as part of the ongoing management of health and safety in your workplace.

If the changes you’re making significantly impact the roles and duties, Employsure recommends you seek out a workplace relations advisor to ensure that you’re setting out and making changes in a manner compliant with workplace relations legislation.

Ensure You’re Up To Date With Any Changes To Modern Awards

Over the Covid-19 period there were both temporary and permanent changes to Modern Awards that have come into effect (and at the time of writing, are still in effect).

You should make sure that, if have any staff under these Awards, you understand and where applicable adhere to any changes in your obligations.

Temporary changes due to the Coronavirus are only scheduled to last for a couple of months, so make sure you also understand when the changes expire.

The JobKeeper scheme is also temporary, with payments initially intended to only be paid for 6 months. If you are under this scheme, and you used any employer powers the scheme gave you, you may have to also ascertain how will you revert these changes.

Published by Emplosure.