Business COVID Strategies for 2022

Kellie Watson
Nov 25, 2021
Business
4
minute read

As we move away from the COVID-zero suppression strategy here in Western Australia that has been a part of our lives over the last two years we need to reconsider how we manage COVID in our businesses and identify the best practices moving forward that will have the minimum impact on workplace health and business.

Some restrictions we are very familiar with like the wearing of masks which may still need to be implemented and will be mandated in some workplaces and in certain circumstances or when there are identified risks.

With 90% vaccination rate due to be reached early next year, we need to have the discussion around how we handle unvaccinated clients and staff members and build strategies for both, so we don’t discriminate against sections of the community or break workplace laws.

There will always be people who for various reasons will be unable, unwilling, or reluctant to get the vaccine. This leaves business in a difficult decision about what to do when interacting with unvaccinated people, whether they are employees, contractors, or clients.

It is not a straightforward matter to integrate COVID management strategies into the workplace and is a legal minefield especially for employers with a lot of uncertainty in how to manage it. It is worthwhile noting if vaccinations are mandated in your industry the employer is responsible for collecting evidence of vaccination status of staff. When requesting proof in non-mandated industries employers need to have established a reason for requesting the information, reasons can be related to ensuring duty of care in the workplace.

A number of businesses have implemented mandatory vaccinations, like Qantas, Telstra and BHP but these regulations still remain a complex issue and decision that companies need to be able to back up with existing regulatory requirements.

Questions businesses need to ask in relation to their circumstances relate to your obligations and responsibility towards the risk of exposure to COVID in the workplace. It is important for employers to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment, strategy and guidelines for next year. Fairwork Australia has some valuable information on employee requirements.

Those dealing with vulnerable sectors of the community will have a higher risk if not regulated and it is reasonable to regulate vaccinations without disregarding laws around anti-discrimination and privacy as many government agencies have. There are industry specific guidelines for the following high-risk industries

Aged Care Industry

Building and construction Industry

Transport Industry

The West Australian Government have recently announced the range of workplaces and occupations in WA that will be subjected to mandatory vaccination requirements. They have separated the industries in to three groups. The policy follows on from the high-risk mandated industries and also has a list of those occupations and industries that will require vaccinated staff only in the event of a lockdown. See Coronavirus Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Information

Group 1 industries include high risk occupations and those with a high vulnerability risk or those that are critical to the safety of the community. They are mandated to be fully vaccinated by 31 December 2021.

Group 2 industries are those critical to the delivery of community services like essential retailers, hospitality and school staff. This group needs to be fully vaccinated by 31 January 2021.

The third group or "lock-down" group need to be vaccinated in order to work during a lock-down. There is no deadline for this group.

This vaccination mandate covers around 75% of the WA workforce and employers can face up to $100,000 in fines for having unvaccinated staff working after the deadlines, whilst employees who fail to be fully immunised by the deadlines face fines of up to $20,000.

For everyone else the path is not so clear and the decision to order mandatory vaccination needs to be supported by a risk assessment into the types of work conducted, work undertaken, types of customers and interactions as well as the potential risk of transmission within the workplace. Not every workplace can mandate for mandatory vaccination checkout the coronavirus and Australian workplace laws here.

There isn’t a one size fits all approach to how businesses should handle COVID in their workplace and employers need to make decisions that follow workplace laws while providing a safe work environment.  A range of factors can be taken into consideration, including how they include terms in employment contacts, how they address staff contact with the general public and vulnerable persons, and how they offer options for potential and current staff who may be unvaccinated or vulnerable. Its worthwhile for your business to have these strategies in place before we open up early next year.

Other strategies to manage COVID?

Every situation is different, and it is wise to look to how others globally are handling this.

Without being able to mandate vaccinations of staff but still fulfilling employer requirements to ensure safety in the workplace, flexible work options are an effective strategy to allow vulnerable staff and those unvaccinated to continue in their work if the role is capable of being conducted in that manner.

Flexible workplace strategies are a very important tool in how employers manage COVID in the workplace into the future and one that is only going to grow as we become more familiar with the technology and shifting expectations in roles.

The West Australian Government has released a great resource for businesses on how to manage risks in the workplace along with various industry related risk assessments, and it is worthwhile taking a look at before we open up at the end of January. See COVID-19 information workplaces

For more information or assistance in this regard please contact us to set up a FREE meeting or discussion on +61 (08) 9217 2400.

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Article by
Kellie Watson
Kellie is a marketing and communications professional with over 20 years’ experience at Here Business & Wealth. She has a Bachelor of Arts Honours, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism and is a member of the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd.), the Australian Society of Authors (ASA), and the Australian Publishing Association (APA).
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