Workers’ Compensation Snapshot: FY21 Q2-Q3

Workplace Risk

In this update, we share practical insurance insights from the quarter that’s been, and forecasts for the quarter ahead.



2020 showed us that change can come literally overnight and that as individuals and businesses, we need to be adaptable and resilient. In the context of workers’ compensation, something that has not changed is our continued responsibility to provide a safe work environment for our people. The widespread shift to remote working arrangements for many businesses created the potential for new risk exposures, while legislative changes were introduced under certain workers’ compensation schemes in response to COVID-19. 

Safe Work Australia’s recent COVID-19 report revealed as at 31 July 2020, there were at least 533 COVID-19 related workers’ compensation claims nationally. Of these claims lodged by 31 July 2020:

  • 38% were for workers who contracted COVID-19.
  • 34% related to mental health impacts associated with the pandemic.
  • 29% involved testing or isolation requirements (some workers’ compensation schemes covered the costs of isolation arrangements and COVID-19 medical tests). 

Claim numbers are expected to rise in response to Victoria’s second wave of infections that peaked in August 2020. 

It has never been more important for businesses to understand their risk exposures, and ensure their processes, policies, and procedures remain relevant and responsive to the changing situation.  



CGU’s withdrawal from the Victorian Workers’ Compensation scheme was a big surprise for all. The transition plan is not yet finalised, with CGU’s existing contract with Worksafe valid until 30 June 2021, however, there has been discussion of this being brought forward to expire on 31 March 2021. A policy transfer freeze was implemented by CGU following the impact of COVID-19 and due to end on 31 December 2021. It has been indicated that a policy transfer freeze will be extended until 30 September 2021.

With allocation of the CGU book of business yet to be confirmed, it is anticipated that businesses will be permitted to put forward a submission for their preferred Agent once CGU finalise their tenure.

NSW icare has announced the appointment of Richard Harding as CEO and Managing Director. This will be an area to watch as Harding seeks to navigate the NSW scheme back from the challenges of 2020. 

NSW icare has also announced the appointment of their legal panel for workers’ compensation claims, which means the scheme has now removed the option for Employers’ “client preferred” Solicitors.  This will have a big impact for any Lawyers and Clients who relied on these long-standing relationships.  A transition arrangement is in place with the new panel coming into full effect from 30 June 2021.



With JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments due to end (on March 28 and March 31, respectively) and many businesses still being impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, there continues to be uncertainty around job security and income security.  The reality is that many people will seek alternate options to close these gaps, and spikes in workers’ compensation claims are expected to continue. 

To demonstrate your commitment to employee safety and wellbeing, we encourage businesses to continue communicating with staff about changes to Government subsidies and resulting impact to the business and your staff.  


We’re With You All The Way

Feel free to reach out to discuss your risk exposures. We are here to help you ensure your processes, policies, and procedures reflect your evolving needs.

Sharon Rutherford
Head of Risk Consulting



Find out more about Honan Workplace Risk Consulting

WA: New Industrial Manslaughter Laws with Important Implications for Businesses

Insurance Updates

In an effort to harmonise the Work Health & Safety (WHS) regimes across Australia, Western Australia has now passed legislation to update its Work Health and Safety Act 2020 (WA), (the Act).


Workplace Health & Safety Overhaul

The new laws will likely come into place in April 2021. This will include several changes, with the most notable being the Industrial Manslaughter Legislation:

If a ‘Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking’ (PCBUs) is engaging in conduct knowing the conduct is likely to cause death “or serious harm” to an individual, the crime will now carry potential imprisonment term for up to 20 years and a fine up to $5,000,000 for an individual person and up to $10,000,000 for a body corporate.


Critical Actions for Directors & Officers

Any organisations based in Western Australia should now review their work health and safety procedures to ensure they meet the new legislative requirements.

These new changes are intended to make safety front of mind and help prevent any future fatalities from occurring.

Under the new legislation, it is important to note that officers can also be charged for crimes committed by a PCBU in certain circumstances, including when the PCBU’s conduct was attributable to the officer’s neglect, or engaged in with the officer’s consent or connivance.

Officers (in particular) should ensure they understand their obligations with respect to the PCBU’s WHS duties and officer due diligence.


What about Insurance?

Up until now, companies could transfer the risk of these penalties via insurance, however this will now be prohibited going forward. Companies will therefore need to ensure that policies offering WHS Penalties cover are not entered into.


We’re with you all the way

To find out more about these changes, feel free to reach out at any time.


Dan McCallum

Head of Client Services (WA)



Learn more about Honan Workplace Risk consulting here.


Managing Risk the Smart Way

Workplace Risk

Many businesses invest considerable time and effort to ensure the safety of their customers. But in the event that an accident does occur, what you do immediately afterwards is critical to achieving a positive and timely outcome for everyone involved. In this three-part series, Risksmart will highlight three key steps businesses can take to be ready to respond effectively to an incident.



It is prudent for all businesses to complete an Incident Report in the event a member of the public suffers an injury or property damage from their business activities. Incident Reports should form the foundation of any business’ risk management procedures because Courts will consider these when assessing the liability of a defendant.



The importance of Incident Reports was emphasised in the recent case of Baker v Bunnings Group Limited [2020] NSWDC 310,[1] wherein a customer tripped and fell on a raised kerb as she traversed the carpark at Bunnings. In its decision, the District Court of NSW considered the Incident Report completed by Bunnings shortly after the incident. The Incident Report outlined that the area was inspected by staff and that it was free from slipping hazards. It also went on to outline there were no obstructions around the kerb.

The Court ultimately found in favour of Bunnings, concluding that the kerb presented an obvious tripping hazard to the claimant, which she ought to have avoided.  Whilst the Court considered other evidence such as photographs and oral statements to reach their decision, this case demonstrates that Courts will carefully consider Incident Reports when investigating the facts of an incident and assessing the liability of a defendant.



Incident Reports are designed to capture critical information pertaining to the incident. They should be completed as soon as possible after the incident to ensure that any relevant facts are not forgotten. Information in the Incident Report should be factual, accurate and objective – free from opinion and emotion.



  • Date, time and location of the incident. It is helpful here to include a diagram or map detailing the exact location. Photographs should also be taken of the incident area (more on this later).
  • A detailed description of the incident as reported by the member of the public, including their alleged damage or injuries.
  • Visual observations of the incident area.
  • Name and contact details of all parties involved.


  • An opinion on liability or a statement conceding that your business was responsible for or caused the incident.
  • Assumptions or inaccurate information about the events leading up to the incident or the incident itself.
  • Reference to any similar or prior incidents.


A final note

Risksmart can utilise Incident Reports to track your long-term incident data, which can be used to identify trends in your business’ key risk areas and help prevent future incidents.

Feel free to contact Risksmart today to discuss how our Incident Reporting solutions can be tailored to your business.


Faramarz Ostowari

National Technical Claims Manager



Meet the Risksmart team




1 For a comprehensive summary of the judgement, please see the following link from our colleagues, Barry Nilsson.

Avoiding Work Party Pitfalls: Tips for Celebrating Safely

Workplace Risk

At Honan Workplace Risk, we’ve seen our fair share of claims arise from end of year work events. We have consulted with many clients, who simply were not aware their business is liable in the event of a staff member’s accident or injury while attending work events. Here are our tips for minimising risk exposure for your organisation.


Time & location does not matter

Even when a work event is scheduled out of hours or offsite, the business must uphold its duty of care and ensure a safe environment for all staff. Essentially this means if a member of staff is injured during a work-related event, they could pursue a workers’ compensation claim for any medical expenses or loss of income.


What are your risk exposures?

End of year celebrations can create conditions for two broad types of risk exposures: misconduct and physical injury. Overindulging and intoxication increases business exposure, which may give rise to misconduct or a physical injury. Any injury or allegation sustained during the work event is considered ‘throughout the course of employment’ and subsequent liability may be accepted.


What can you do?

While there are risks involved, there are actions you can take to reduce your business’ exposure.


Tip 1: communicate early and consistently with your workforce and set clear expectations about acceptable conduct. Your people reflect your brand, and unprofessional behaviour isn’t a great look.


Tip 2: if the event is offsite, remind leaders in advance that the venue is an extension of the workplace and the same behaviours and conduct are expected there. For example, encourage Managers to be accountable for their direct reports so any disrespectful or dangerous behaviour can be immediately addressed in line with your company policies.


Tip 3: appoint staff ‘supervisors’ to monitor behaviour during the event, particularly if alcohol is being served.


Tip 4: consider a ‘get home safe’ plan for staff. This could involve an Uber discount or hiring a minibus for the event. Exiting an event is often a time when people are exposed to a higher level of risk. Certain legislation extends to journeys to and from work, which could leave your business liable in the event of an injury.


Closing comments

It is important to reward your staff for their hard work and commitment throughout the year. However, incurring a workers’ compensation claim from poor supervision or inadequate planning can spoil the celebrations and reduce the likelihood of future events. Communicate your business expectations early and remind everyone to enjoy themselves without putting each other and the business at risk.

Finding Your COVID-Safe Cadence: 5 Tips for Navigating the ‘New Norm’

Specialist Services

The ‘new norm’ will look different for all businesses across the globe. Whether it’s a complete return to office for an entire workforce, a portion of the workforce, or more of a flexible, iterative approach decided by the individual on a weekly basis, one thing is certain – to navigate this next critical phase safely and sensitively, all workplaces will require a formal transition plan. A robust COVID-Safe workplace transition plan involves careful planning and close consideration of the varied circumstances of your people. To support leaders in shaping their transition plans, we’ve tabled 5 key areas to think about.


1. How SAFE is your ‘COVID-Safe’ plan?

Businesses are now required to regularly review and update their COVID-Safe plan in line with public health advice and changes to restrictions. Implementing an effective return to office strategy requires easing your workforce into a ‘new normal’, e.g. introducing staggered shifts.

Employers may even like to consider returning certain teams to the office ahead of others. A phased or alternating approach may reduce anxiety among staff, compared to an immediate return to 5-days in the office, surrounded by a full staff.


2. Time for a MENTAL HEALTH check?

Employers need to have a clear understanding of the mental health support mechanisms in place for their people. Now more than ever, employers need to play a protective role in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their people; with resources readily available both in the office and when working remotely.

While all employees contribute to a mentally healthy workplace, employers must foremost demonstrate leadership in this area – providing staff with 24/7 ‘mental helpdesks’ such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), or other high-quality mental health resources, whether they be internal or external (e.g. Lifeline, BeyondBlue). Awareness about these valuable services requires ongoing communication throughout the organisation, ideally in tandem with internal initiatives to promote optimal mental wellbeing among staff. Prevention is better than cure!

Changes to working arrangements can also impact team dynamics, especially as employees shift from secure solo remote working set ups, to busier new conditions. Employers must support their people through this transition with sensitivity and patience. Noting each employee will have a unique change threshold and anxieties particular to their circumstance, leaders must tread carefully, and avoid rushing the process. Team and one-on-one catch ups should be encouraged – these serve as important forums for employees to socialise their needs, concerns and ideas through this new chapter. 


3. ENGAGE before you rearrange

Engaging staff early, and often, about their personal circumstances and work-home-productivity rhythms and preferences is paramount. Understanding individual circumstances will allow leaders to design a customised return to office experience, ensuring critical employee concerns and working needs are met. Organisations should aim to establish a regular communication cadence with staff to ensure new changes and updates are integrated and understood as they evolve over time. Regular one-on-ones and team meetings should be set up to discuss expectations around returning to the office, with a view to achieving ‘sweet spots’ where business needs meet employee preferences. To learn more about employees’ preferences and concerns about remote work, plus insights on how companies can evolve for remote work, be sure to check out our key takeaways from Atlassian’s 2020 global remote work study in Flexible Work: Here to Stay, But Have You Nailed the Formula?



As they say, assumption is the mother of all stuff-ups – never assume your entire workforce is singing from the same hymn sheet. Ongoing efforts must be made to ensure important messages are aligned and shared through standardised communication channels. Achieving an optimal ‘new norm’ will require continuous, considered communication of critical information. For instance – the number of people who can work in the office at any one time, the use of meeting rooms and shared staff spaces, parties responsible for monitoring safety, how breaches or concerns can be raised. Critical updates must be communicated clearly, early and regularly through agreed channels to ensure the narrative remains consistent and builds trust. Sending regular updates via email, through the intranet and / or social media channels and regular team meetings are all examples of utilising effective communication channels.


5. WH&S at all times

As more of us move from #WFH and back to the worksite, there has never been a better time to review and refresh internal Workplace Health and Safety policies and procedures. Workplaces must ensure they are complying with new COVID-related standards, revisit safe work practice inductions or update sessions as required to re-engage employees in their transition to new working conditions. Hosting Health and Safety refresher briefings is a great place to start – an opportunity to remind employees about existing procedures and educate them on new policies too.


We’re with you all the way

To learn how Honan can further support your business, please reach out at any time.


Grace Rod – Client Executive


Sharon Rutherford – Head of Risk Consulting


Jules Paolino – Workplace Risk Consultant

Workers’ Compensation Snapshot: FY21 Q1-Q2

Workplace Risk

In this update, we share practical insurance insights from the quarter that’s been, and forecasts for the quarter ahead.



The immediate exposure for Australian workers has decreased with the majority of businesses successfully transitioning to remote arrangements (and some now returning to the office). The insurance market is facing a high frequency of claims and large losses, resulting in delays for businesses following the initial lodgement of claims. While workers are still exposed to physical risks, the mental health risks are an increasingly significant challenge for both clients and insurers.

Meanwhile, Victorian Insurers have taken a proactive approach in the reporting and management of positive COVID-19 cases in the workplace. Clients are being encouraged to report any ‘outbreaks’ to their Insurer as soon as confirmation is received.



WorkCover WA has announced the abolition of the Common Law Termination Day (previously 12 months post the date of injury). This change has the potential to extend access to Common Law for existing claims where the three-year limitation period has not passed.

icare in NSW have begun remediation of pre-injury average weekly earnings (PIAWE) errors and commenced payment to affected workers. When a work-related injury occurs, and the employee is unable to perform their full pre-injury duties, they may be paid a percentage of their PIAWE for a set period. It has been estimated that under and over payments will impact 5,000 to 10,000 injured workers with the estimated costs to be between $5 million and $10 million in total.



As businesses transition from home working arrangements back into offices, a degree of apprehension is to be expected from the workforce. Ensuring your business has a robust COVID-Safe Plan that has been communicated to all staff will support a safe and sustainable return to the office.

The Workers Compensation market typically experiences increased claim frequency within the months of November and December. We encourage business to demonstrate commitment to Work Health Safety and Workplace Risk practices, to support a healthy and injury free end to Q2 FY21.



We’re With You All The Way

Feel free to reach out to discuss your situation and address any questions or concerns.


Jules Paolino 

Workplace Risk Consultant


Dreamworld Coronial Inquest: Key actions to reduce risk exposure in your organisation

Specialist Services

The Dreamworld Thunder River Rapids Ride incident will forever be remembered as a tragic loss of life. Through the coronial inquest, we’ve come to understand that accidents such as this one can occur when organisations don’t have the right frameworks in place. While we like to think we have our risks well managed, it doesn’t matter how many layers of control exist, incidents will occur if those layers are ineffective.  Following on from the webinar by Verus Managing Director, Cameron Clark and Honan’s , Head of Risk Consulting, here are three key actions to help you reduce organisational risk. 


  1. Examine Governance and assurance activities supporting Senior Management

Findings from the Dreamworld Coronial inquest demonstrate how poor governance activities can undermine organisational decision-making. Senior management have obligations under WHS law to exercise due diligence. Exercising that due diligence and making decisions that impact on organisational health and safety requires access to up-to-date knowledge of health and safety legal requirements and an understanding of the organisation’s critical risks. The recent introduction of Industrial Manslaughter laws across a number of jurisdictions in Australia will only increase the importance of effective governance and assurance going forward.

Ask yourself the following questions about your governance and assurance activities:

    • Are they well designed?
    • Are they commensurate with risk?
    • Are they independent?
    • Are they followed through?


  1. Identify and manage your risks

The findings from the inquest revealed a failure by the organisation to systematically manage health and safety hazards and risks across the organisation and its rides. It failed to ensure that systems and procedures designed to support the organisation were properly implemented. Consequently, there were numerous missed opportunities for Dreamworld to identify risks, implement measures to prevent reoccurrence of incidents, and ensure their employees had suitable competencies to operate rides and respond in emergencies.

Ask yourself the following questions about your risks:

    • Are systems regularly tested to ensure they are working as intended?
    • Does their design allow for proper consultation with experts?
    • Are there suitable resources (including people, training and regular auditing) available to pick up on warning signs and investigate?
    • Is risk used effectively to inform organisational decision-making?
    • Are people properly trained/qualified to undertake safety management tasks?
    • Does training for high risk tasks include suitable instruction in emergency response?


  1. Consider your plant and equipment maintenance

The Dreamworld incident highlights how quickly a catastrophic incident can occur when it involves plant and equipment that is poorly managed and maintained. It took just over a minute for four people to be trapped in the mechanism of the Thunder River Rapids Ride following the failure of an associated water pump. Plant and equipment, particularly complex systems, demand a comprehensive program to ensure safe design, modification, operation, repair and maintenance in accordance with strict legislative requirements.

Ask yourself the following questions about your plant and equipment:

    • Are plant and equipment designs and maintenance programs adequate?
    • Have designs and maintenance programs kept pace with industry advances, legal obligations and Australian standards?
    • Are plant systems, including emergency systems, integrated?
    • Are plant modifications informed by risk assessment?
    • Are faulty plant / breakdown procedures robust and well understood and problems fixed rather than ignored?
    • Are operator tasks commensurate with the available time and human cognitive abilities?


If you missed the webinar, you can view the recording here.


We’re with you all the way

We’re pleased to support businesses in addressing risks and building overall resilience. As always, we recommend close consultation with your Broker and WHS Specialist to ensure your risk mitigation strategies are up to date, focused on best practice and are appropriately audited.  To learn how Honan can further support your business, please reach out at any time.


Sharon Rutherford – Head of Risk Consulting



Image: Flowers at a memorial in front of Dreamworld, November 2016. Picture: Chris Hyde

VIC Workers Compensation Renewals: What you need to know for FY20/21

Workplace Risk

As employers wrap up their Workers Compensation requirements for FY20 and plan out their FY21 commitments, our Workplace Risk team have summarised the complex key information and dates for Victoria, in this simple cheat sheet. For information about the Workers Compensation process in other states and territories, please contact us using the details below.


Workers Compensation Renewal Invoices 

Victorian Workers Compensation (WC) renewal premium invoices are available from July 4 2020, and revised notices will be generated by WorkSafe each weekend during July.

Based on your available claims statements and estimated wages, premium projections and industry classification comparisons have already been calculated by your Honan Workplace Risk Consultant. If you are yet to receive these, or would like further information, please contact us.


Premium Discounts

To be eligible for a 5% premium discount, employers must:

  • pay any outstanding premium from FY20 policy period (or previous years)
  • pay the full (annual) amount listed on their FY21 WC renewal invoice (less 5%) by no later than 31 August 2020

Premium Funding Option:  You may also like to consider a premium funding arrangement with Honan. This can provide immediate benefit as financing the full FY21 premium payment to Worksafe will maximise the discounts described above.


Updates to Claims for FY21

The claims experience period for 2020/21 has been determined as follows:

  1. The claims reporting period used for the employers’ experience rating has been extended to three years. This means (consistent with previous years), in the period of 1 January 2017 to 30 June 2019, claims costs including statistical case estimates will be used
  2. In the period 1 July 2019 – 31 December 2019, only weekly payments will be included (statistical case estimates will be excluded)

Worksafe Victoria is expected to release the FY21 claims experience period by April 2021.


Certificate of Currency
If there is no outstanding premium to pay on your account, you can obtain a Certificate of Currency either online, or on request from your Honan Workplace Risk Consultant.


Ensure Your WC Renewal Details Are Up to Date

Any wage updates received before 30 June will be reflected in your FY21 premium calculation. In the absence of any updates, WorkSafe will simply calculate your premium based on your remuneration estimate for FY20, indexed by 4.75%.


Avoiding Financial Penalties

To minimise the risk of financial penalties, any revised remuneration estimates must be disclosed to Workcover within 28 days. Our recommendation is always to contact your broker ASAP if:

  • What you expect to pay in remuneration is 20% or above your current estimate, or
  • What you have paid in remuneration to date exceeds your current FY estimate.

To update your remuneration, or understand any other elements of your policy, reach out to your Honan Workplace Risk Consultant at any time, or visit the WorkSafe’s Online Employer Services portal directly.

For the FY20 policy period, you must certify your Rateable Remuneration no later than 23 October, 2020. 


VIC Workers Compensation Renewals: Important FAQs & Deadlines


How does remuneration impact premium?

Victorian remuneration includes wages, salaries, superannuation and other benefits paid to your workers. The following table outlines how premiums are calculated based on remuneration.


Premium Calculation


Can industry classification impact premiums?

Yes. Premiums are largely influenced by the industry classification of your business. If the industry classification is incorrect on your policy, you may be paying more for your premium than necessary.

We always recommend reviewing your industry classification before your renewal date.


Key dates for VIC workers compensation insurance premiums in the 2020/21 premiums order:                                                                               

  • 4 July – 2020/21 premium notices sent to all employers
  • 31 August – Pay 2020/21 premium in full to receive a 5% discount
  • 1 October – Pay 2020/21 premium in full to receive a 3% discount
  • 23 October – Large employers to certify remuneration for 2019/20 year
  • 26 March 2021 – Small employers to certify remuneration for the 2019/20 year.



We’re with you all the way.

As always, we’re committed to providing you with timely updates and support. Feel free to contact our Workplace Risk experts for more information, including the Workers Compensation process in other states and territories.


Sharon Rutherford – Head of Workplace Risk


Jules Paolino – Workplace Risk Consultant


Grace Rod – Client Executive Workplace Risk

Changes to VIC Industrial Manslaughter Laws: Implications for Business

Workplace Risk

Keeping your people safe

Industrial Manslaughter legislation holds businesses liable for the death of a person (worker or other) resulting from practices of neglect in the workplace. To ensure the safety of their people, businesses must conduct adequate training and risk management processes to mitigate potential hazards and risks at all times.  


What do the July 1 changes mean for your business?

The amendments to Victoria’s Workplace Safety Legislation involves the addition of two new workplace manslaughter offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act

  1. Where a person commits workplace manslaughter when engaged in conduct that is negligent in breach of applicable duties owed to another person, and where the negligent conduct has caused the death of a person.  
  2. Where a person who is an officer of an entity will commit workplace manslaughter when they engage in conduct that is negligible, in breach of an applicable duty owed by the entity to another person and where the conduct causes the death of a person.  

These changes impact anyone who has a duty under the OHS Act and is aimed at people who are obliged to maintain a safe workplace for employees. 


Under the Act, an employer (duty holder), is required to:

  • provide a workplace free of health and safety risks as far as reasonably practicable
  • constantly monitor health and safety implications and regularly review and update safety procedures to best mitigate risks. 


Who is a responsible party?

A person, body corporate and officers who owes applicable duties to ensure the health and safety of another person in the workplace can be charged with industrial manslaughter. If convicted of workplace manslaughter, a maximum of 20 years imprisonment for individuals and/or a maximum fine of $16.5 million for body corporates may be applied.  


Persons who can be charged under the Act include:

  • Directors and secretaries of companies
  • Partners of a partnership or joint venture
  • The trustee of a trust
  • Persons who participate in the making of decisions that affect a substantial part of the organisations business 
  • Persons who have the capacity to significantly affect the organisation’s financial standing.

Penalties will not apply to employees or volunteers.


How can you protect your business?

For Senior Management Teams to discharge their duties or responsibility, they must be able to answer the following:

  • Do you completely understand WHS requirements and current risk or issues?
  • Given the work you perform, what incidents are likely to occur?
  • Do you have the right safety systems and resources to prevent hazards and incidents from occurring?
  • Do you receive sufficient information on which work practices result in workplace injury and how are practices being corrected?
  • Are you comfortable you are meeting your WHS obligations?
  • Are you confident individuals across your organisation are all effectively management WHS?


We’re With You All The Way

As always, we’re committed to providing you with timely updates and support. Our Honan Workplace Risk experts are ready to support businesses in reviewing their risk management compliance, and readying themselves for Victorian Industrial Manslaughter Law updates. Please reach out to learn how Honan can help support and protect your business.


Sharon Rutherford – Head of Workplace Risk


Jules Paolino – Workplace Risk Consultant


Grace Rod – Client Executive Workplace Risk


Returning to Work: 5 Ways to Mitigate Workplace Risk

Workplace Risk

As Australia continues to control the spread of COVID-19, measures to kickstart the economy have become a parallel point in focus. While ‘easing out of #iso’ requirements and timelines differ by State and Territory, many workplaces have commenced their Covid comeback. Amid ever-changing environments, managing a safe return of the workforce presents a set of new challenges for employers. To support businesses in navigating this critical transition, we’ve assembled 5 ways to mitigate workplace risk:


1.  Always start with safety

While Government restrictions are slowly being lifted, this does not change an employer’s obligations to provide a safe working environment for their employee (nor the obligations of the individual). Employers and individuals must maintain strict hygiene practices (including the provision/use of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment) and follow Government directions. The employer’s duty to provide a safe working environment also extends to employees’ travel to and from work.


Demonstrate how you’re providing a safe working environment:

  • clearly communicate any changes to existing safety management systems to staff
  • explain how you’re implementing Government requirements to address minimum standards of cleanliness, together with any additional measures being taken to ensure safety within the workplace
  • physically display any relevant guidelines somewhere easily visible in the workplace.


2. Clear & timely communication 

As restrictions gradually ease, employers must keep their employees updated with clear and regular updates on the business’s planned transition back to the workplace. Purposeful communications will always cover; latest changes, what they mean for employees, and how such changes align with Government guidelines.


In communicating with your team:

  • outline your proposed transition plan
  • share any barriers to achieving the plan, and how the business is seeking to overcome them
  • provide clear timeframes, with specific attributions to which group/s of people will be impacted (if applicable)
  • clearly outline what practices, behaviours or policies are mandatory vs optional for your people
  • share to-the-moment updates as things change.


3. Manage your people risks: physical & psychological

Similar to our recommendation around the use of ‘working from home checklists’ at the start of the pandemic, employers must consider all practical risks associated with returning their workforce to the office. By this stage, most employees will have adjusted to a comfortable working from home routine and found a rhythm that works for them. Therefore, employers must tread carefully with their people’s capacity to process more change and stand ready to mitigate their potential anxieties and fears about returning to the office.


To identify and reduce people risks: 

  • consider a return to work checklist – preparing this will enable you to better understand the needs of your people, and ultimately support them with the right advice, tools and resources required for a smooth transition
  • communicate the benefits of re-establishing normal routines as soon as possible, and invite feedback / Q&A
  • provide ongoing occasions for Q&A and encourage open dialogue between your people. It’s crucial that staff feel supported to approach the business with their concerns
  • offer assistance with mental health challenges – check your EAP provider (such as Access EAP) is equipped to provide appropriate support. Continue to promote and encourage the use of EAP and consider in-house counselling sessions with EAP providers. If you don’t have an EAP, feel free to get in touch and we can help you find the right provider
  • continue to communicate with employees who are yet to transition back to work
  • ensure return to work plans are in place for any employees with psychological and /or pre-existing physical injuries
  • conduct a Workplace Health and Safety risk assessment of your new workplace set up to identify potential people safety risks and develop contingency plans to support these
  • update your insurance broker if there have been clear changes to your workplace operations. To learn more, check out our 30-minute webinar Insurance Implications for Altered Operating Models and the accompanying 3 Key Actions for Business summary.


4. Manage expectations

As staff begin to return to workplaces, it’s a good opportunity to remind employees of their roles, responsibilities and obligations. While some leniency may have been offered during COVID-19, and potentially changes to salaries too, this may not necessarily change the individual’s contractual arrangements. By providing appropriate forums for clear communication around this, employers can support individual transition plans, particularly if working from home is not continued in the long-term. As always, open, transparent, regular two-way communication between employer and employee is key.  Not everyone will be in the same position and some employees may have the right to apply for flexible working arrangements in the long term through the National Employment Standards. You can find out more information though Fair Work.


5. Lessons learned from lockdown 

A business’ ability to evolve during challenging times can be an unexpected silver lining. When you feel your people are settled into the ‘next norm’ and well placed to share feedback, be sure to seek their feedback on their experience in recent months, and your business’ actions through COVID-19. Asking what worked, and what could be improved, will offer valuable insights for any business looking to enhance their resilience, business operations, and people experience at large.



We’re with you all the way

We recommend all businesses familiarise themselves with the Safe Work Australia site as they plan their COVID-19 comeback. The following Reopening Safely Sample Practices report from McKinsey is also highly informative. For more on Workplace Risk, our team is only a call or email away. Please contact us to learn more about how we can help.


Sharon Rutherford – Head of Workplace Risk

m– 0499 799 558


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