Written by: Emma Dawson, Employment Relations Expert
As the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdowns continue, many employers and their staff have been forced back into remote working for the foreseeable future. While this has become common practice, there are still a number of steps employers should take to ensure their business can run smoothly.
“Communication is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to managing remote employees, and some workers may feel disconnected since they don’t have any face-to-face interaction with management and co-workers,” said Employsure employment relations specialist Nicholas Hackenberg.
“What we’ve seen from clients who call our advice line, is whether it be an update on the business, a health update based off government advice, or a regular check-in, keeping those communication channels open with employees will help add clarity to what the business is doing, and what it expects of its employees.”
For employers who have shifted to remote working for at least the next two weeks, managing employees effectively will be key to success. This is where digital management software can help businesses succeed. Online platforms like BrightHR can help employers track when their employees are active, see what projects they are working on, monitor who is off sick, and keep tabs on which employees have fully, partially, or have not received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Employers also have a legal responsibility to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their employees, even when they work remotely. To guarantee they are fulfilling their workplace health and safety obligations, employers should send a checklist to employees to fill out while working from home, to ensure the environment they are working in is safe.
While some employers affected by the latest COVID-19 lockdown will be able to continue as normal through remote working, for others, it may mean they have to stand down their employees until further notice.
The requirements under the Fair Work Act mean unpaid stand-downs apply when an employee cannot usefully be employed – due to something outside the employer’s control such as a public health order. However, an employer must show all steps have been taken to find useful employment for affected employees.
“All alternatives should be considered prior to standing down an employee, including whether the employee could work from home or in another location,” continued Mr Hackenberg.
“Employees and employers should discuss how the arrangement could work for them, and if working is not possible, the employer must confirm it in writing before the stand-down can take place.”
Want more support? Download a free Working From Home Employer Kit, which includes template policies and checklists for your business and employees.