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The Workplace & HR Compliance: Covid-19 Edition

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The events of the past few years have had a significant impact on HR compliance on a national scale, but perhaps none more so than the year 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has had devastating health and economic consequences for people across the globe. Social distancing measures and restrictions on mass gatherings have changed the way many workplaces across different industries operate. Many employees have been asked to work remotely from their homes, meaning homes have become the new workplace for these employees. This means employers’ duties extend to employees who work from home or remotely, and they must take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of their workers as much as is practicable.

As responsible employers, there is an obligation to take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of workers who work from home or remotely. They should consult with workers and other relevant parties to ensure working remotely or from home is a viable option, as it may not be a practical option in all circumstances.

Before the employee commences working remotely or from home, the employer and employee should consider and discuss various factors, including the following:

  • Individual employee’s role.
  • Suitability of work activities.
  • Workflows and expectations.
  • Workstation arrangements at home or the employee’s location of remote work.
  • Resources required to enable work from home including laptops, remote access, internet, phone, or monetary compensation from the employer for remote working expenses.
  • Surrounding environment such as ventilation, lighting and noise.
  • Home environment, such as partners, children, vulnerable persons, and pets.
  • Communication requirements between the employer and employee such as frequency and type. Mental health and emotional wellbeing of the worker.
  • Safe working procedures and training requirements.

Employers also need to take action to protect employees and others at their workplace from the risk of exposure to the coronavirus as much as is reasonably practical. 

Steps employers should take include:

  • Review their exposure and infection control policies and procedures.
  • Promote social distancing, good respiratory and hand hygiene and increase cleaning of common areas in the workplace, including door handles.
  • Put measures in place to avoid close contact between people by keeping everyone at the workplace at least 1.5 metres physically apart.
  • Develop and implement safe systems of work – in consultation with workers and/or their health and safety representatives (HSR) – that take into account directions and advice provided by health authorities.
  • Keep monitoring updated information on the coronavirus pandemic as it develops, relying on information from governments and public health authorities. 

Managing working from home risks.

Employers should keep key considerations in mind when assessing suitability of their employees working remotely or from home. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Pre-existing injuries the worker may have.
  • Management of the work program, workload, and activities.
  • Surrounding work environment.
  • Workstation set up, such as desk, chair, monitors, keyboard, mouse, and computer.
  • Work practices and physical activity.

How can HR tech help smash compliance?

The spreadsheet just doesn’t cut it anymore. A key aspect of the HR manager’s role is ensuring their workplace is adhering to all employment compliance requirements. For this record-keeping is vital. Spreadsheets have been a cornerstone of workplace record-keeping.

However, it is so easy for HR managers to make mistakes and get caught out on compliance because of administrative errors. Businesses and HR managers should install an HRIS that provides a centralised system of all employee data that a HR manager requires to complete all core HR processes.

An HRIS should store, process, and manage employee data such as names, addresses, contact details including emergency contact details, tax file numbers, bank account details and superannuation details. It should also provide other HR functions such as recruitment and onboarding processes, time and attendance management, performance management tools, and tools for the proper administering of employee dismissal.

It is vital for HR managers to choose a system that complies with employment legislation. HR managers should be cognisant of the fact HR data is very sensitive. Therefore, HR software should offer bank-grade security features, including encryption and security that protects that data from external threats as well as unauthorised internal users. Choose software that provides analytics tools, which can enable the HR manager to evaluate trends and benefit programs, and assess talent management needs. It should also allow managers to plan and budget for the future easily.

 

HR managers should look for HR software that will ensure the business is complying with all workplace laws. Here is a checklist of compliance requirements:

  • Employment contracts with up to date legislation. HR managers should review this every few months.
  • All minimum national employment standards are being met, including employees’ pay, leave entitlements, and other conditions.
  • Ensure employees know where and how to access workplace policies, including their employment, and health and safety policies.
  • Up to date records of every employee’s pay and time worked
  • Award compliance and accurate calculations of holiday pay, and properly including any bonuses, commissions, or other benefits in the calculations.

 

Businesses and HR managers need to implement HR software systems that can not only automate many of the HR processes, but also ensure the system allows HR managers to comply with employment laws.