By Isaac Chan

As things begin to settle in Australia with the COVID-19 pandemic, employees and employers naturally want to return to the workplace. While this may be appropriate in accordance with state government directions, it’s important that employers consider their Workplace Health & Safety obligations and understand the steps they’ll need to take to provide a safe working environment for returning employees.

This is especially important in light of developments in Workers Compensation legislation, such as changes to the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW), which creates the presumption that if an employee contracts COVID-19, it is presumed that the illness was contracted in the workplace and places the onus on the employer to demonstrate that the illness was not contracted in the course of employment.

To help you get your people safely back to work, we‘ve prepared a ‘Transitioning back to the workplace’checklist outlining the steps businesses should take to make their workplaces safe for returning employees.

In the checklist, you’ll find some important points such as:

Physical distancing

While it may be appropriate to have employees return to the workplace, it’s still important to encourage employees to remain physically distant from one another.

Desks may even need to be shuffled, or markings made on the floor, to ensure that employees are able to adequately distance themselves while working.

Health and hygiene

Maintaining good health and hygiene is critical in any return to the workplace while COVID-19 exists.

This means that businesses should remind employees of the importance of maintaining good health and hygiene, AND provide the amenities and supplies to facilitate this, such as bathroom facilities, hand sanitiser and face masks. 


It’s important that business owners and managers talk to their employees – this gives your employees an opportunity to communicate their thoughts, feelings and feedback about attending the workplace and their general health concerns, all of which can help an employer understand the state of their employees’ mental health.

While returning to the workplace is an important step in getting things back to normal – or to a ‘new normal’ as some are calling a post-COVID world – it’s vital for business owners and managers to consider their COVID-19-related workplace health and safety obligations before flinging open their doors and letting their employees flood in. With the assistance of our WHS checklist, you can relax a little, knowing you’re taking the right steps toward providing a safe working environment for your employees.

If you have any questions or concerns about returning to the workplace or your employer WH&S obligations contact the team at HR Assured.

Isaac Chan is an experienced workplace relations consultant at FCB Group and HR Assured Australia. Isaac regularly handles complex workplace issues for all kinds of businesses, from start-ups to enterprise-level.