Industry bodies and regulator offer advice on virus response


NatRoad, ATA, HVIA and NHVR present guides and links for employers and industry

Industry bodies  and regulator offer advice on virus response
Warren Clark

 

The waves of news on coronavirus Covid-19 impacts mostly bad, industry associations and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) are moved to give members and the sector useful information to help them in this critical time.

The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) admits the spread of Covid-19 "is very much a concern for road transport businesses" and addresses potential scenarios employers may face at this time.

As well as supporting the federal government’s well-timed economic stimulus measures, NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says there are a number of issues that should guide employer conduct.

"It is important that employers and employees follow medical advice from health professionals and follow relevant Government directives so that we can help slow down the spread of the virus," he says. 

"If your employees are exhibiting symptoms and there is a reasonable risk of infection or exposure to the virus you should direct them to seek medical advice and get tested for the virus."

NatRoad addresses seven such situations:

1. An employee wants to stay at home as a precaution against being exposed to coronavirus

If an employee wants to stay at home as a precaution against being exposed to coronavirus, they will need to make a request to work from home (if possible) or to take some form of paid or unpaid leave, such as annual leave or long service leave. These requests are subject to the normal leave application process in the workplace.

Employees are encouraged to discuss their level of risk of contracting coronavirus with their doctor, workplace health and safety representative or the appropriate State or Territory workplace health and safety body.

2. A worker is returning from an affected area and has been given a ‘low’ level risk of exposure to Covid-19

As an employer you have a right to assess this situation and if you deem the ‘low risk’ as unacceptable, and direct the employee not to work, then you as the employer will need to pay for their time off. Noting this pay does NOT come out of any leave balance. If the worker has a role that can be performed remotely, at least in part, this should also be considered.

3. An employee has been exposed to the virus and has been advised by a health care professional to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms

If the employee has been considered unfit for work because they present as a high risk of developing and or transmitting the virus, the worker can access relevant sick leave, annual leave or leave without pay until such time that they are cleared to return to work.


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4. An employee has been exposed to the virus, and a health care professional has confirmed they are positive for Covid-19

If the employee has been considered unfit for work because they are infected, the worker can access relevant sick leave, annual leave or leave without pay until such time that they cleared for a return to work.

5. An employee has a family member or member of the household sick with coronavirus

Full and part-time employees who can’t come to work because they are sick can take paid sick leave. If an employee needs to look after a family member or member of the employee’s household who is sick with coronavirus, or suffering an unexpected emergency, they are entitled to take paid carer’s leave.

Casual employees are entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion. Full and part-time employees can take unpaid carer’s leave if they have no paid sick or carer’s leave left.

An employee must give their employer evidence of the illness or unexpected emergency if their employer asks for it.

6. A school has closed and the employee has parental/carer responsibility

In the event a school is closed due to Covid-19, employees will be able to access the carers’ leave component of their personal leave to look after children.  In the event this leave is fully utilised then annual leave and RDOs and leave without pay can be used for the balance of the 14 days.  By default, this employee will self-isolate with the dependants and as such there should be no further infection transmission. Working from home options may be explored where appropriate.

7. A whole worksite, town or area has been declared a ‘no go zone’ by government

While a seemingly extreme response it is still possible and has already occurred in some places around the world. This would be a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible and fits the criteria for workers to be stood down under section 524 of the Fair Work Act. Workers would not be required to be paid in this case but could access their annual leave or accumulated RDOs in this time.

NatRoad also points those concerned about their symptoms to the 24/7 health information hotline on 1800 020 080 for advice.

"NatRoad advisers can help members with workplace issues associated with the coronavirus or help clarify aspects of the Government’s assistance package," Clark says.

The scenarios, links to up-to-date information and a set of fact sheets, including for cashflow assistance for businesses and assistance for severely affected regions can be found here.

ATA

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has produced a fact sheet on preparing businesses for disruption

It links to the master industry code of practice developed by the ATA and the Australian Logistics Council (ALC), has advice on how to approach risk management and links to templates.

It also has some common sense advice and can be found here.

HVIA

Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) offers an employer guide from HVIA Employer Assist partner Indigo Legal, that provides an overview of the rights and obligations of employers concerning COVID-19 including: 

  • health and safety 
  • hygiene self-isolation/quarantine 
  • alternate work arrangements i.e. working from home
  • leave entitlements 
  • what leave applies if an employee does not have covid-19 but needs to self-isolate or wants to stay home as a precaution? 
  • what leave applies if the employer wants the employee to stay at home?  
  • temporary closure - stoppage or shortage of work 
  • government’s economic response to coronavirus.

That guide can be accessed here.

NHVR 

The spread of Covid-19 or coronavirus has led to uncertainty on many fronts for the heavy vehicle industry, the NHVR notes.

"Our primary concern is the well-being of staff and drivers, as well as the significant economic and operational burden, which is likely to remain for some time," NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto says.

"At the time of writing, the NHVR is maintaining full service levels.

"Our on-road staff have been provided with disposable rubber gloves and hand sanitiser to be used when conducting road-side activities to reduce any contact or spread of the virus.

"Like all businesses we are continuing a process of ongoing assessment of our capabilities and how we can deliver those services.

"However, we will ensure we balance the needs of supporting a safe heavy vehicle industry with the need to conduct your operations and businesses during a time of great uncertainty."

 

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