Not-for-profit Law
Legal help for community organisations

Returning to the workplace

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This page contains information and resources to help you plan a safe return to the workplace. 

How do we plan our return to work?

What work health and safety issues should we think about when planning our return to work?

How do we plan our return to work?

This question is relevant for all workers (paid and unpaid). Also, check out our fact sheet Managing the return of volunteers to the workplace.
Safe Work Australia has published information to support organisations plan their return to work. We recommend you review these resources.
COVID-Safe workplace requirements

Your organisation will need to comply with any legal requirements (under national and state or territory law) to maintain a COVID-safe workplace. Our fact sheet below covers national, state and territory workplace COVID-safe requirements

Your return to work plan should be a carefully staged process. Here are some tips on how to plan your return to work. 
  • Think about the size of your workforce and how many people are likely to be returning to the physical work environment. Considering your physical work environment (see ‘What WHS issues should we think about when planning our return to work?’), work out how many of your workers could reasonably return to your premises. 

  • Conduct a risk assessment using our Risk Management Guide. Assess the risks associated with your workers returning to your physical environment. Among other things, your assessment must factor in your physical premises, your workers’ roles and their interactions with your clients. 

  • Determine how to manage interactions with stakeholders external to your organisation.

  • Consult and communicate with your workers. Understanding the concerns of your workers, and taking precautions to manage these concerns is an important part of your legal duties. Tell your workers about the safety measures you are taking to ensure their health and safety as part of their return to work.

  • Consider your hygiene and cleaning practices. Use applicable Safe Work Australia resources on cleaning to prepare the physical environment. Access to hand sanitiser and PPE is only a small part of preparing your physical environment. 

  • Review and prepare your policies. Consider whether your current policies appropriately address arrangements in place to foster safe flexible work, mental health and WHS practices.

Our Community has published a guide to creating a COVID-19 safe workplace for not-for-profit organisations. This guide includes information on modifying the workplace, cleaning your premises, dealing with the public and transport issues.

What work health and safety issues should we think about when planning our return to work?

This question is relevant for all workers (paid and unpaid). 
There are many parts to an organisation's WHS duties, particularly as it prepares its workforce to return to work. Refer to the requirements to maintain a COVID-safe work workplace in the above question.  Also, check out our fact sheet 'Managing the return of volunteers to the workplace'. 
Some governments may be encouraging workers that can work from home to continue working from home. As your organisation plans its return to work, consider which workers are capable of performing their duties, or reasonable alternative duties, from home.
There are a number of factors that influence how to appropriately bring workers back to the physical work environment. It’s possible that a measure to promote the health and safety of your workers as they return to work (such as staggered start times) may produce other unintended health and safety risks (such as workers using public transport late at night).
Your organisation may want to form a suitably qualified committee to guide the organisation through these questions. Where necessary, you may also need to seek expert advice.

Checklist – factors to consider in your return to work plan

We've published a checklist (below) to help you plan a safe return to the workplace.

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Last Updated: 17 March 2021