COVID-19 continues to pose a significant risk to Australian employers, even as we begin to return to more normal ways of working.
Managing the liability risk of unfair dismissal claims
Mr Grossman says that to avoid unfair dismissal claims as a result of redundancies, employers need to have documented procedures for employee termination, and ensure that they are rigidly followed.
“Beyond that, if businesses are laying off staff they need to ensure that all of the employees’ statutory entitlements are paid, and paid accurately. Because often that’s where the real disagreements begin,” he says.
“If businesses are laying off staff they need to ensure that all of the employees’ statutory entitlements are paid”
Managing the liability risks of staff returning to work
With low case numbers in Australia, many businesses are beginning to consider having staff return to workplaces, but before doing so, Mr Grossman says there are a number of risks employers need to address to ensure they’re providing a safe workplace.
He says staggering in-office work days or start times, and considering the risks posed to employees who travel by public transport are all factors management teams will need to consider.
“Once staff are in the office, social distancing protocols for lifts, meeting rooms and workstations will also need to be considered. We expect there’ll be a move away from hot-desking to socially-distanced, single-user desks with plastic dividers, but there will be a cost associated with that and the subsequent increase in the amount of floor space that will be required.”
He adds that forcing staff to return to workplaces – or continue to work from home – could also leave employers exposed to mental health-related claims.
“Some people have a genuine fear of catching COVID-19 if they return to work, while others feel their mental health is suffering by working from home. To manage the risks, employers will need to listen to what their staff want and take it on board,” Mr Grossman adds.
Managing the liability risk of staff continuing to work from home
If some staff continue to work remotely, Mr Grossman says employers need to remember that they have responsibility for the health and safety of their employees when working from home.
“As an underwriter, we would need to understand how they are managing that. Are they asking if their employees have a safe work environment at home? How are they managing slip and trip exposures at home?” he says.
How Procover is responding to the changing risk environment
Mr Grossman says that Procover has added an addendum to its renewal and new business documentation, seeking additional information about business solvency and how businesses are managing their occupational health and safety and employment practices liability risks in relation to COVID-19.
“We’re asking additional questions such as whether the business has accessed Government assistance, whether it plans to make redundancies, and what precautions it’s taking to minimise the risk of COVID-19 to staff to get an understanding as to how the pandemic has impacted their business and whether it may do so in the future.”
He adds that brokers can help their clients by ensuring they have documentation in place that demonstrates they are carefully considering the additional risks posed by COVID-19.
If you’d like any more information about the potential impact of COVID-19 on your clients’ employment liability insurance, you can call us on 02 9307 6600 or visit our website to find the contact details for our underwriting team.
Procover Underwriting Agency Pty Ltd ABN 46 165 322 592 (an Authorised Representative of Miramar Underwriting Agency Pty Ltd) acts for the insurer, Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s.
Information is current as at the date the article is written as specified within it but is subject to change. Steadfast Group Ltd and Steadfast Network Brokers make no representation as to the accuracy or completeness of the information. Various third parties have contributed to the production of this content.