Guidance and resources to manage work health and safety during COVID-19
Employers and workers need to be aware of their responsibilities and entitlements during COVID-19.
National guidance on COVID-19 pandemic status
For the latest information about current restrictions in your state or territory, travel and border arrangements and government resources, visit these websites:
Work health and safety
This guidance will assist workers and employers to meet their obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When to notify Comcare
From 1 December 2022
Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) must notify Comcare of COVID-19 cases that arise from the business or undertaking of the employer, and:
- the worker dies, or
- the worker requires immediate treatment as an in-patient in hospital, or
- meets the prescribed serious illnesses under section 36 of the WHS Act 2011 or a prescribed serious illness under regulation 699 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011.
Notification allows Comcare to consider and address risks to health and safety arising from work. Comcare will assess each notification and determine whether regulatory action is required on a case-by-case basis.
There may be further changes to notification requirements based on health advice and other factors as the situation continues to evolve.
How to notify Comcare
To notify Comcare of a confirmed case of COVID-19 arising from the workplace, complete the online Incident Notification form.
Notification of incidents which occur in the home
Employers should provide instructions to their workers to notify their supervisor or manager, and/or their WHS Unit, of any work health and safety incident where:
- it is believed there may be a risk to their personal health and safety arising from their work
- the presence of a hazard in the workplace environment that exposes all workers to a risk of injury or disease.
This also applies to workers working from home.
It is important for workers to be aware that only work-related incidents are required to be notified.
Review and provide clear instructions to workers
Employers should review official information sources and provide clear instruction about what is expected of all workers, including:
- when workers should stay away from the workplace
- what symptoms to be concerned about and where to seek help and support
- notifying their employer, as soon as possible, if they suspect they have been exposed to COVID-19 and provide an update if it is confirmed they have the virus.
Employers should remind workers they have a legal obligation to:
- take reasonable care for their own health and safety and the health and safety of others, and
- comply with any reasonable instruction, policy or procedure given by the employer in order to comply with work health and safety laws.
If you are still unsure if you should notify Comcare, email email@example.com or call us on 1300 366 979 before submitting an incident notification form.
Maintaining a COVID-safe workplace
Maintaining safe workplaces depends on employers and employees working together to observe the essential safety messages around good personal hygiene, physical distancing and staying home if unwell.
It is important to remember that employers must consult with workers and health and safety representatives (HSRs) on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including control measures in the workplace.
Signage for the workplace
Employers should ensure there are signs and posters around the workplace to remind workers of COVID-19 risks and control measures.
Comcare and our government partners have developed and collated a broad range of free materials, signs and posters that you can download, place or distribute around your workplace.
- Download the Comcare Maintain a COVID-safe Workplace poster (PDF, 374.8 KB)
- Visit Safe Work Australia for a range of COVID-safe signs and posters
- Visit the Department of Health and Aged Care for COVID-19 information sheets and other resources
Maintaining a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres from others will reduce the likelihood of exposure and slow the spread of COVID-19.
Employers should keep up to date with your state or territory’s physical distancing guidance. If your state or territory requires you to limit the number of people in an enclosed area, then follow the recommended number of people you can have within a square metre area.
Employers may need to consider and implement control measures to meet your work, health and safety duties that go beyond the minimum requirements stated in public health orders or directions, or advised by public health authorities.
Employer WHS duties apply even when there are no public health orders or directions. You will need to undertake a risk assessment to determine if physical distancing measures will be reasonably practicable in your workplace.
To determine the most effective physical distancing measures you will need to:
- identify all activities or situations where people in your workplace may be in close proximity to each other
- assess the level of risk that people in these activities or situations may contract and/or spread COVID-19 in your workplace
- determine what control measures are reasonably practicable to implement based on the assessed level of risk.
Employers must consult with workers, including volunteers, and health and safety representatives (HSRs), if any, on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace.
Practical workplace measures may include:
- Maintaining plans to limit the number of people in the workplace such as continuing remote working arrangements, postponing non-essential work and splitting worker shifts (where available) to reduce the number of workers onsite.
- Redesigning the layout (if possible) to enable workers to keep at least 1.5 metres apart in order to continue to perform their duties. This could include moving desks to allow adequate spacing between workers.
- Considering wall and floor markings to identify 1.5 metre distancing guidance.
- Postponing or cancelling non-essential gatherings, meetings, or training.
- Reducing the number of workers using common areas at any given time.
- Holding meetings via video conferencing or phone call.
Safe Work Australia has detailed information on measures that can be applied by employers and workers to achieve physical distancing in the workplace.
An effective way to protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by requiring workers and others to practice good hygiene.
Employers must direct workers, visitors, and others to the workplace to practice good hygiene – washing hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them with clean paper towel:
- before and after eating
- after coughing or sneezing
- after going to the toilet
- when changing tasks and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces.
An alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as the active ingredient must be used per the manufacturer’s instructions when it is not possible to wash hands.
Good hygiene requires everyone at the workplace to:
- cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbow or a clean tissue (and no spitting)
- avoid touching their face, eyes, nose and mouth
- dispose of tissues and cigarette butts hygienically, for example in closed bins
- wash their hands before and after smoking a cigarette
- clean and disinfect shared equipment and plant after use
- wash body, hair (including facial hair) and clothes thoroughly every day
- have no intentional physical contact, for example, shaking hands and patting back.
Employers must also ensure adequate and accessible hygiene facilities are provided.
For more information, including providing facilities for temporary, mobile or remote workplaces, see Work Health and Safety (Managing the Work Environment and Facilities) Code of Practice 2015.
Workers also have a responsibility to take reasonable care of themselves and to not do anything that would affect the health and safety of others at work (for example, coming to work when unwell).
Workers must follow any reasonable health and safety instructions from their employer.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, it is important that workers:
- work safely and observe any new requirements for physical distancing (even if it means performing tasks in a different way to what they are used to)
- follow instructions (such as about how to wash hands thoroughly)
- if unsure, ask how to perform the work safely and within the restrictions
- use personal protective equipment such as gloves in the way they were trained and instructed to use it
- report any unsafe or unhealthy situations (such as a lack of soap in the bathroom) to a supervisor, manager or health and safety representative (HSR).
Visit Safe Work Australia for more hygiene guidance.
Maintaining a cleaning regime
COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A person can acquire the virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.
A combination of cleaning and disinfecting will be most effective in removing the COVID-19 virus and protecting workers and others from the risk of exposure.
It is highly recommended that workplaces are cleaned at least daily, and more frequent cleaning may be required in some circumstances. For example:
- if the workplace operates in shifts, workspaces should be cleaned between shifts
- if equipment has been shared between workers, it should be cleaned between uses, where practicable.
Cleaning with detergent and water is sufficient. Once clean, surfaces can be disinfected. When and how often your workplace, or certain surfaces, should be disinfected will depend on the likelihood of contaminated material being present. This would include:
- when there has been a case or suspected case of COVID-19 at the workplace, or
- at workplaces with a high volume of workers, customers or visitors that are likely to touch surfaces.
Organisations that do not have control over the ongoing cleaning regime of the workplace should consult and work closely with property managers or building landlords to ensure regular cleaning and disinfecting takes place, especially in communal areas and high touch points.
Employers should also provide workers with cleaning products including disposable wipes to regularly clean and disinfect workstations and equipment. Rubbish bins should also be provided to enable workers to dispose of the wipes and tissues in an appropriate manner.
Visit Safe Work Australia for information on cleaning and disinfecting.
Promote staying home if unwell
Both employers and workers are responsible for maintaining physical distancing and good hygiene practices, and for promoting a safe and healthy work environment. This includes workers not attending the office when showing any signs of illness.
If a worker is feeling unwell, they should:
- contact their immediate supervisor or manager and remain at home
- advise their manager if they are experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms.
If a worker has cold or flu-like symptoms, they should:
- seek medical advice and get tested for COVID-19
- get tested even if the symptoms are mild.
If a worker has tested positive to COVID-19, they must isolate and follow their state or territory public health directions.
Many workplaces have moved to an environment where the sharing of desks (hot desking) and IT equipment, such as keyboards, mice and headsets are standard practice. Sharing equipment should be avoided where possible. Where it is not practicable, employers should provide workers with:
- disposable disinfectant wipes to enable them to clean these shared items on a regular basis
- rubbish bins to dispose of the disinfectant wipes appropriately.
Workers will need to be made aware that where they share items in the workplace, it is their responsibility to ensure that they clean each item regularly.
If employers plan to have their workers sharing desks or workstations on different days or different shifts, this should be included in the risk assessment to help determine reasonably practicable control measures, including whether to stop sharing desks and workstations.
The COVID-19 virus is less likely to spread when people wear masks. Wearing a mask will lessen the possibility of someone spreading the COVID-19 virus to others if they are not aware that they have the infection and could also protect workers from inhaling the virus.
It is important that employers continue to monitor and follow official advice and updates from the Australian Government and state and territory governments including any directions about the use of face masks. States and territories will make decisions based on their local situations.
Employers should consider face masks when completing and updating their workplace risk assessments in consultation with workers and HSRs (if any) and determine if wearing face masks is a reasonably practicable control measure to minimise the risks of COVID-19 in their workplace.
Employers are responsible for providing a face mask to a worker while at work, including travelling for work or between workplaces, when:
- the wearing of a face mask is required by law, or
- the employer has identified, through a risk assessment, that the wearing of a face mask is necessary to ensure the health and safety of the worker and other people.
Workers must, so far as they are reasonably able, comply with any reasonable instruction given by the employer to wear a face mask while at work, to allow the employer to comply with their work health and safety duties.
An employer is not responsible for providing a face mask to a worker at any other time, including travelling between home and their usual place of work. If employers provide face masks to workers, they must also provide instruction on their safe and proper use.
Different masks and respirators offer different levels of protection from inhaling the virus. Therefore, understanding the various types of masks and the level of protection they offer can help you choose the appropriate mask for your workplace.
Visit Safe Work Australia for detailed guidance on different types of masks and how they should be used.
Watch the video on how to wear a face mask correctly
For more information and resources on correct use of face masks:
- Download the Comcare How to safely wear a face covering poster
- Download the World Health Organisation How to wear a non-medical fabric mask safely poster
- Visit the Department of Health and Aged Care to download Guidance on community face mask use.
All Australians who can be vaccinated against COVID-19 are encouraged to do so, in accordance with the Australian Government’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. Employers should consult their workers about the vaccine if they consider that vaccination is a reasonably practicable measure to reduce the risk of serious illness from COVID-19 in workplaces.
Whether it is reasonably practicable should be determined based on a risk assessment and needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
There may also be specific public health orders or directions in your state or territory that require your workers to be vaccinated to perform certain types of work. If this is the case, employers and workers must comply with the directions. In these circumstances, consultation with workers is not required. However, employers should discuss with workers what the orders or directions require and what employers and workers need to do to comply with the order or direction.
Employers should follow the public health advice in their jurisdictions in relation to COVID-19 vaccines. While vaccinations are considered an important control measure, employers should continue to apply all reasonably practicable COVID-19 control measures.
For the most current advice on vaccines visit these websites:
- Department of Health and Aged Care: COVID-19 vaccine news and information
- Safe Work Australia: COVID-19 vaccination
- Fair Work Ombudsman: COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and the workplace
- Therapeutic Goods Administration: COVID-19 vaccines
The Australian Government has also established a COVID-19 vaccine claims scheme to reimburse people who suffer a moderate to significant impact following an adverse reaction to an approved vaccine. For more information, visit these websites:
- Department of Health and Aged Care: COVID-19 vaccine claims scheme
- Department of Health and Aged Care: COVID-19 vaccine claims scheme FAQs]
- Services Australia: COVID-19 vaccine claims scheme
Employers must consult with their workers and any health and safety representatives (HSRs) at each step of the risk management process. The workers’ experience, knowledge and ideas will assist employers to identify all hazards and choose effective control measures.
Assessing COVID-19 risks
All organisations must assess the risks associated with exposure to COVID-19 and implement control measures to manage those risks. They must also assess any other new or changed risks arising from COVID-19 such as customer aggression, work-related travel, high work demand or working in isolation.
Risk assessments should be reviewed periodically as the operating environment changes (for example, in response to changes in COVID-19 cases or changes to public health orders) or when new information on workplace risks becomes available. This should include the periodic review of control measures implemented to ensure their ongoing appropriateness and effectiveness based on the latest information.
Other examples of when organisations must undertake a risk assessment with respect to COVID-19, include where an organisation:
- changes its work practices, procedures or the work environment
- recommences or increases operations following a shutdown or reduced operations
- introduces workers back into the workplace following working from home or stand-down arrangements
- is responding to workplace incidents (for example, where a worker has tested positive to COVID-19)
- is responding to concerns raised by workers, health and safety representatives, or others at the workplace.
Safe Work Australia has published information on key considerations for undertaking a COVID-19 risk assessment. Also available is a template and example COVID-19 risk register.
Managing workplace risks
Identifying and controlling risks to workers and others in the workplace arising from exposure to COVID-19 may involve:
- closely monitoring official advice, see updates from Australian Government and updates from state and territory governments
- reviewing your organisation’s policies and measures for infection control, including educating workers on best response
- advising workers of the Australian and state and territory governments’ current control measures, including physical distancing and self-isolation requirements.
Employers should also:
- allow workers to work from home, where possible
- ensure workers practise physical distancing, by keeping 1.5 metres between people
- remind workers to practise good hygiene such as frequently washing their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser
- learn to spot the symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath)
- request workers stay home if they are unwell
- maintain a hygienic and clean workplace
- train workers on how to fit and use personal protective equipment appropriately
- improve ventilation in indoor workplaces to limit the spread of COVID-19—ventilation may need to be discussed with building owners. See advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee the role of ventilation in reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
- consider whether a rapid antigen testing program is a reasonably practicable control for the workplace.
Visit the Department of Health and Aged Care for more information on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
Managing risks to the health of vulnerable workers
Certain individuals are at a higher risk of serious illness, hospitalisation, or death if they contract COVID-19. Therefore, the degree of harm that might result from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 can be very high. Employers should have processes in place to ensure a safe system of work and manage the workplace safety of any worker who may be at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Based on current evidence, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) considers that the following people are or are likely to be at a higher risk of serious illness if they are infected with COVID-19:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
- People 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions
- People 70 years and older
- People with compromised immune systems.
These categories may vary depending on emerging evidence, and employers should keep up to date on the latest AHPPC information from the Department of Health and Aged Care website. More information on risk factors, chronic medical conditions, and advice for groups at greater risk of illness from COVID-19 is also available at Risk factors for more serious illness and Advice for groups at greater risk.
Employers must consult with their identified vulnerable workers and/or the worker representative/s to identify, understand and quantify the risk. A risk assessment should take into consideration the following:
- Whether the worker meets the current AHPPC criteria for people at risk of serious illness if exposed to COVID-19
- Supporting medical information being assessed by a Legally Qualified Medical Practitioner (LQMP) confirming that the worker is at increased risk of severe serious illness if exposed to COVID-19
- The vaccination status of the worker and the rate of vaccination in the workplace
- Whether the worker takes their own transport to work or uses shared or public transport
- The worker’s workplace location, working hours and type of work
- Whether the worker shares workstations or equipment
- Whether the worker works with others, in the wider community or with other vulnerable cohorts of individuals
- Any flexible working agreements in place or access to flexible working practices
- Opportunities for alternative work to be performed that reduces the risk of the worker being exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.
Refer to Safe Work Australia for information about managing the risk of vulnerable workers contracting COVID-19 in a range of industries.
The following risk controls should be considered by employers when applying risk management and considering the hierarchy of control measures to eliminate or minimise the risk to vulnerable workers, so far as is reasonably practicable:
- Allow employees to work from home, where possible
- Ensure physical distancing in the workspace
- Ensure employees do not come to work if they are unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms
- Ensure workspaces are cleaned and disinfected regularly
- Place signs and posters around the workspace to remind employees and others of the risks of COVID-19
- Stay up to date with COVID-19 advice
- Consult with employees and their representatives to implement and review control measures
- Develop a COVID safe risk mitigation strategy in accordance with the approved code of practice – How to Manage Work Health and Safety Approved Code of Practice.
Employers must keep confidential all information about any worker’s medical conditions and personal information.
Visit Safe Work Australia for more information on how to determine what is reasonably practicable to meet a health and safety duty.
Ventilation as a control
Employers should consider effective ventilation along with other controls to eliminate or minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.
The Hierarchy of Controls is an effective system for health and safety risk management in the workplace. Maintaining and improving ventilation is an engineering control that should be considered as part of a hierarchy of risk controls to reduce COVID-19 transmission, so far as is reasonably practicable. The focus should be on applying the most effective and achievable strategies. Managing risks according to the hierarchy of control measures is explained in the How to Manage Work Health and Safety Approved Code of Practice.
Employers should, where necessary and reasonably practicable, consult with mechanical or ventilation engineers, occupational hygienists, building owners and facility managers to assess the quality of indoor ventilation and get advice on maintaining or improving ventilation to minimise the risks of COVID-19. In indoor settings or workspaces, adequate ventilation should be provided by natural and/or mechanical ventilation methods.
Natural ventilation — Using natural forces such as wind, to circulate air to and from an indoor workspace may be achieved by:
- opening windows, air vents, roof turrets or whirlybirds, where possible
- removing physical restrictions that do not allow airflow around the workspace.
Using electrical fans or ceiling fans, with placement based on room configuration can be used to improve airflow and assist in avoiding accumulation of stagnant air pockets in a workspace.
Mechanical ventilation — An active process of supplying air to, or removing air from, an indoor space by powered air movement components may be achieved by:
- using heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, collectively or individually, in a building or a portion of a building. To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission employers, in consultation with subject matter experts, should consider:
- reducing or eliminating HVAC air recirculation and increase the introduction of outdoor air by opening outdoor air dampers beyond the minimum settings.
- rebalancing or adjusting HVAC systems to increase total airflow to occupied spaces, where possible.
- running the HVAC system at maximum outside airflow for two hours before and after the building is occupied.
- turning off any demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) controls that reduce air supply based on occupancy or temperature during occupied hours.
- in buildings where the HVAC fan operation can be controlled at the thermostat, setting the fan to the 'on' position instead of 'auto', which will operate the fan continuously, even when heating or air-conditioning is not required.
- improving central air filtration
- using and maintaining window, restroom, and kitchen exhaust fans
- using air purifiers or cleaners with HEPA filters. Factors such as rate of flow, the number of devices installed (taking into account the population density in the area) and whether the system impacts areas with poor air movement are important in determining their effectiveness and whether they are going to make a significant difference. Expert advice should be sought on the suitability and use of these devices in the intended workplace.
For more information and guidance, visit these websites:
- Safe Work Australia: Improving ventilation in indoor workplaces: COVID-19
- Victorian Department of Health: Ventilation principles and strategies to reduce aerosol transmission in community and workplace settings
- Victorian Government self-assessment guides for different workplace settings: Ventilation – How to improve ventilation and encourages air flow from outside to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the workplace
- World Health Organization: Roadmap to improve and ensure good ventilation in the context of COVID 19
Work health and safety duties
Employers and workers have duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) to ensure a safe working environment.
Visit Safe Work Australia for information on WHS duties for employers and workers and how they apply to COVID-19.
Broadly, employers have duties to, as far as reasonably practicable:
- provide and maintain a work environment that is without risk to health and safety
- provide adequate and accessible facilities for the welfare of workers to carry out their work
- monitor the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace to prevent illness or injury.
Refer to the Safe Work Australia guide on How to determine what is reasonably practicable to meet a health and safety duty
Workers’ duties under the WHS Act include:
- taking reasonable care for their own health and safety
- taking reasonable care their acts or omissions don’t adversely affect the health and safety of others
- complying as far as they are reasonably able with the employer’s reasonable instruction.
For more information on duties, see Your role.
Managing COVID-19 in the workplace
If a worker has been exposed to COVID-19 or it is reasonably suspected that a worker has the virus, this creates a health risk at your workplace. Employers must act promptly to take reasonably practicable steps to manage the risks even before there is confirmation that the worker has the virus. This may include taking actions that are above and beyond public health orders to eliminate or minimise the risk of other workers and other persons being exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.
If there is a concern that a worker or other person who has COVID-19 is currently at the workplace, the employer must take reasonably practicable steps, in a timely manner to:
- isolate the person from others, call 000 if urgent medical attention is required and provide appropriate personal protective equipment such as a mask, hand sanitiser and tissues.
- seek advice and assess the risks by discussing concerns with the person. Obtain current contact details for the person, make a note about all areas they have been in the workplace, about people in the workplace they have been in contact with and for how long.
- call the local health department helpline for information on how to respond, if required.
- make sure the person has transport home or to the location where they can isolate or to a medical facility (if necessary).
If a worker or other person who has, or may have, COVID-19 has recently been at a workplace, the employer must take reasonably practicable steps to discuss these concerns with the person, obtain current contact details for the person and make a note about all areas they had been in the workplace, people they had been in close contact with while in the workplace and for how long.
Whether a person with COVID-19, or who may have the virus, is currently in the workplace or was recently at the workplace, the employer must take reasonably practicable steps in a timely manner to:
- Notify workers that a COVID positive worker or other person was in the workplace, including general information such as the relevant day, time and areas the person was in, and who workers can discuss any concerns with.
- Identify and notify all close contacts in the workplace of the potential risk and provide clear instructions on what to do including getting tested if necessary.
- Identify and contact vulnerable workers to discuss the nature of the potential exposure and assess the risk to them and take additional actions necessary to minimise risks to their health.
- Clean and disinfect all relevant areas such as equipment, office spaces, bathrooms, kitchens and common areas that were attended or used by the person concerned.
- Improve ventilation in areas that were used by the person concerned, if possible, to reduce risks of airborne transmission by increasing clean air flow.
Employers should consider size of the workplace, nature of work, number of people and suspected areas of contamination to determine whether to suspend operations, require close contacts not to return to the workplace for a short period, or close the workplace for cleaning.
If COVID-19 has been in the workplace, employers must review COVID-19 risk management controls in consultation with workers and their representative to assess and determine whether any changes or additional control measures are required.
To help guide organisations on what to do if a worker is suspected of having COVID-19, visit Safe Work Australia to download the What to do if a worker has COVID-19 infographic.
Managing working from home risks
An employer has the same work health and safety obligations to a worker while they are working from home. A worker’s home workplace should meet the same work health and safety requirements.
Our Working from Home checklist provides employers and workers with minimal guidance and measures on how they can meet their respective work health and safety obligations.
As people are now working from home for longer periods, we have additional work health and safety guidance that employers and employees should consider when managing working from home risks, including:
- determining if the worker has any pre-existing injuries
- communication frequency and type between the employer and worker, including phone calls, emails, videoconference, and daily or weekly check-ins or meetings
- management of the work program, workload, and activities, including timeframes, expectations and work schedules, and review of workload
- workstation set up such as desk, chair, monitors, keyboard mouse and computer.
Workers also have health and safety obligations when working from home including to:
- follow procedures about how work is performed
- keep work equipment in good working order
- use equipment provided by the workplace as per the instructions given
- maintain a safe work environment such as a designated work area, moving furniture to ensure comfortable access, providing adequate lighting and ventilation, repairing any uneven surfaces or removing trip hazards
- manage their own in-house safety, such as maintaining electrical equipment and installing and maintaining smoke alarms
- notify the employer about risks or potential risks and hazards
- report any changes that may affect their health and safety when working from home
- notify their supervisor or manager of any incidents which occur in the home.
For practical tips to overcome any challenges of working from home:
- Download the Comcare Working from Home guide for employers (PDF, 608.7 KB)
- Download the Comcare Working from Home guide for employees (PDF, 527.4 KB)
- Visit Safe Work Australia for Working from home guidance.
Domestic and Family violence
Research demonstrates that incidences of domestic and family violence have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As many organisations continue to encourage or support working from home arrangements, it is vital to consider the impact on workers who may be working from home in isolation for some time.
Working from home may not be the safest workplace for some workers. It is important that workers advise their manager, supervisor and/or WHS Unit of any risks associated with working from home so alternative working arrangements can be made, such as working from the usual workplace or another location.
While employers have a duty to ensure workers and others are not exposed to risks to their health and safety while working from home, it is difficult for an employer to offer alternative work arrangements where the worker has not disclosed the existence of, or potential risk of, domestic and family violence.
While workers may have reasons for not wanting to disclose domestic and family violence, they also need to be aware of their duties to take reasonable care for their own and others’ health and safety.
When communicating with workers, employers can proactively advocate the use of support services such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and local domestic and family violence support organisations.
For more information:
- Visit 1800RESPECT for information and to access help for people impacted by domestic violence
- Visit Safe Work Australia for information on family and domestic violence.
Transitioning back to usual workplaces
Preparing workers for a safe, phased return to their usual workplaces requires careful planning.
Organisations should develop and implement a transition plan when returning workers to the usual workplace. The plan should focus on the continued delivery of critical functions and ensuring workplaces are safe for all workers.
The diversity of working environments in the Comcare jurisdiction means a single approach to transition is not practical. Each organisation’s transition plan will be tailored to their particular circumstances.
The plan needs to align with:
- broader government policy and health advice
- easing of other restrictions across the economy
- physical distancing guidance
- the COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles.
Considerations for employers
Employers should consider:
- Current advice from the Department of Health and Aged Care, Safe Work Australia, Comcare, and state and territory authorities, including appropriate physical distancing measures in workplaces, personal and physical workplace hygiene practices and how workers are supported in adhering to this advice.
- Whether some workers, or categories of workers, have a greater need to be in the workplace than others and should be prioritised.
- Personal circumstances of the workers such as whether they have been classified as a vulnerable worker or there is a vulnerable person in the household.
- Arrangements to support workers with caring responsibilities, such as whether schools and childcare centres are open and accessible.
- Any local restrictions, for instance where there has been an identified localised outbreak.
- Clear communication of local restrictions and government advice to workers, including any advice relating to workplaces and public transport.
- Ongoing work health and safety implications and obligations under both the transition back to the usual workplace and work from home arrangements.
- Modifying workplace attendance arrangements where the organisation cannot maintain physical distancing in the workplace - for example, rostering workers to work from the office or home on different days or alternative weeks or facilitating more flexible start and finish times.
Clear and ongoing communication will help to ensure the successful transition back to workplaces and full operations.
- lessons learned from the COVID-19 response – continuing flexible working arrangements such as a mixed office or work from home model
- whether scheduling in teams is required based on physical distancing and business continuity requirements – for example, staggering working days or hours
- how team meetings and catch ups will occur to ensure physical distancing can be observed
- reinforcing and promoting good hygiene practices and physical distancing and advising workers to not attend the workplace when feeling unwell.
- Workers should discuss options for return to the usual work environment with their manager and what this will look like in the short-term, including potential ongoing remote working arrangements, noting that the usual workplace environment will continue to be the primary place of work.
Road transport and freight
Daily travel and interactions with different people and workplaces are unavoidable within the road transport and freight industries and this increases the risk of exposure to COVID-19. It is important that drivers and operators do everything reasonably practicable to minimise the risk of exposure.
Employers must implement control measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. This is the case even if implementing the control measures results in delays to your schedule.
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is urging heavy vehicle drivers and operators to take steps to maintain their health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit the NHVR website for updates and detailed information on border restrictions, driving two-up, availability of services stations and the use of facilities and simple steps to avoid COVID-19.
For more information:
- See NHVR’s response to COVID-19
- See Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications’ Exemption for heavy vehicle drivers to safely manage fatigue
- Visit Safe Work Australia for guidance on COVID-19 in the workplace for the road freight industry.
Further Comcare resources
Practical resources from the Australian Government and Comcare to help you and your workplace during COVID-19.
Factsheets and posters
COVID-safe work and workplaces
- Guidance on Restrictions Risks and Transitions factsheet (PDF, 526.6 KB)
- Maintain a COVID-safe Workplace poster (A4 size) (PDF, 374.8 KB)
- How to Safely Wear a Face Covering poster (PDF, 615.2 KB).
Look after your mental health
- Guidance for Parents and Carers factsheet (PDF, 536.4 KB)
- Responding to Uncertainty factsheet (PDF, 519.8 KB)
- Supporting Others in Times of Uncertainty factsheet (PDF, 523.8 KB)
- The Importance of Physical Health factsheet (PDF, 547.2 KB).
- Living Alone and Working from Home factsheet (PDF, 751.9 KB)
Working from home
- Working from Home guide for employers (PDF, 608.7 KB)
- Working from Home guide for employees (PDF, 527.4 KB)
- Working from Home checklist (PDF, 672.4 KB).
- Striking the Balance with Flexible Working factsheet (PDF, 780.1 KB)
- Practical Guide for Call Centres factsheet (PDF, 515.6 KB)
- Five Important Ways Managers are Talking with Teams infographic
(PDF, 357.2 KB).
- Comcare webinar - COVID-19: safety systems and safety culture presented on 28 October 2020.
- Comcare webinar - COVID-19: our work, mental health and wellbeing presented on 14 October 2020.
- Comcare webinar - Accelerated workplace change in the face of COVID-19 presented on 8 October 2020.
- Comcare webinar - COVID-19: Navigating a new normal presented on 30 July 2020.
Workers' compensation and rehabilitation
We have prepared guidance to help employers and employees understand entitlements and responsibilities under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1998 (SRC Act) during COVID-19.
Information for employees who have a claim
We have prepared answers to some frequently asked questions about claims and COVID-19.
How does COVID-19 affect my current claim?
If you have any concerns about how COVID-19 might affect your existing claim you should speak to your claims manager.
How does COVID-19 affect my rehabilitation and return to work?
If an employer or the community sets out restrictions due to COVID-19 and these restrictions impact your ability to meet obligations outlined in your rehabilitation program, you should raise your concerns with your rehabilitation case manager. Where relevant, adjustments should be made to an existing program to accommodate a change in circumstances.
For more information, see Rehabilitation – information for employees.
Will I be entitled to compensation payments if I contract COVID-19 while attending medical treatment as part of my claim?
You are unlikely to be entitled to compensation if you contract COVID-19 while attending medical treatment as part of your claim. The SRC Act provides coverage for an injury suffered ‘as a result of’ medical treatment that was obtained in relation to an existing compensable injury. The contraction of a virus is not ‘as a result of’ medical treatment, but rather a result of potential exposure to the virus in the community or while accessing a medical facility.
I am on a rehabilitation program because of my work injury. Would I be entitled to compensation payments if I am no longer able to attend my workplace because my employer has asked all employees not to attend work?
If you have a compensable injury and are on a rehabilitation program, you are able to claim compensation payments for the period you are unfit for work as a result of your compensable condition. We encourage you to discuss your individual circumstances with your claims manager and employer.
For the hours or days you are fit for work, you will be subject to the same workplace arrangements that apply to other employees in your organisation.
Medical examinations and rehabilitation assessments
I have a medical examination and have some questions. Who should I speak to?
Employees with an existing claim are encouraged to contact their claims manager to discuss their individual circumstances, and each case will be assessed on its own facts.
The claims manager will carefully consider whether it is reasonable to request an employee attend a medical examination during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This will take into account a range of factors including:
- the employee’s concerns
- health issues that increase risk of infection such as chronic medical conditions and compromised immune system
- whether the location of the examination puts the employee at greater risk of exposure
- if the examination can be postponed until a future date.
If a medical examiner has cancelled an examination due to exposure risks, an employee’s compensation will continue and the examination will be rescheduled.
I have been asked to attend an independent medical examination (or rehabilitation assessment) and the medical examiner (or assessor) has cancelled the examination due to exposure risks. What happens next?
If a medical examiner (or assessor) has cancelled an examination, your compensation cannot be suspended for unreasonably failing to attend the examination. Where relevant, your claims manager or rehabilitation case manager will consider postponing a new examination until a later date.
Where your compensation has already been suspended (due to refusal or failure to undergo an examination), and the required examination has now been cancelled due to exposure to risks, you should discuss your options with your claims manager and/or rehabilitation case manager.
Is it a reasonable excuse if I fail to attend a medical examination (or rehabilitation assessment) because of a general fear of contracting COVID-19?
You should raise any concerns you have about attending an examination with your claims manager for medical examinations or rehabilitation case manager for rehabilitation assessments prior to the scheduled examination. This allows time to reschedule the examination where possible.
When assessing whether you have unreasonably failed to attend an examination, your claims manager and/or rehabilitation case manager will consider a range of factors including:
- your concerns about attending
- whether you fall within the category of those most at risk of serious infections, for example:
- do you have a compromised immune system?
- are you elderly?
- are you Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (as you may have a higher rate of chronic illness)?
- do you have a chronic medical condition?
- do you live in a group residential setting?
- whether the location of the examination puts you at greater risk of exposure
- if the examination can realistically be postponed until a future date
- the impact a potential suspension of compensation (as a result of refusal or failure to attend) will have on your circumstances.
See Workplace rehabilitation for further information about rehabilitation assessments and rehabilitation programs.
Information for employees using a service provider
COVID-19 has meant that service providers have needed to change the way they operate to help keep you, their staff and the community safe.
During this time, Comcare expects service providers to:
- tailor their services to meet client needs
- have procedures in place to respond to the pandemic
- take steps to minimise the risk of exposure.
As an employee, you are entitled to understand how your provider is managing the risks associated with COVID-19.
- ask your service provider what procedures they have in place
- raise concerns with your provider, if you are not happy with these procedures
- work with your claims manager or rehabilitation case manager to change your service provider, if you do not feel comfortable raising your concerns or feel your concerns have not been addressed.
For more information about the different types of supports and service providers, visit our Supports for your recovery and benefits page.
Coverage of COVID-19
A virus, like COVID-19, is likely to be considered under the disease provisions of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act). For a disease to be covered it must be contributed to, to a significant degree, by the employee’s employment (section 5B).
For coverage to exist, a determining authority would need to be satisfied that the employment significantly contributed to the employee contracting the virus. For viruses, it can be difficult to accurately determine the exact time and place of contraction. As a result, it may be difficult to determine that employment significantly contributed to the virus.
However, where an employee’s employment puts them at greater risk of contracting the virus the significant contribution test may be easier to meet. For example, if the employment involves:
- travel to an area with a known viral outbreak
- activities that include engagement or interaction with people who have contracted the virus
- activities that contravene Department of Health recommendations.
Each claim needs to be considered on its individual merits, having regard to the individual circumstances and evidence in relation to the claim.
Coverage while working from home
An employee’s home can be their place of work, just like any other work location.
When an employee has approval to work from home (including if you are an overseas employee), their home can become their ‘place of work’ for the purposes of the SRC Act.
To determine if an employee is covered for workers’ compensation, the same SRC Act tests apply. That is, an injury has to arise ‘out of, or in the course of, the employee’s employment’ (section 5A) for coverage to exist. A disease must be ‘contributed to, to a significant degree, by the employee’s employment’ (section 5B) for coverage to exist.
Any injury sustained in the home is only covered under the SRC Act if it is connected to an employee's employment. This connection is determined by applying the same legislative tests that would apply to any other place of work (such as an office).
Employers should provide clear guidelines to employees regarding work hours and break times so that any injury that occurs while at home can be properly assessed for compensation purposes.
Coverage while travelling overseas for work
The significant contribution test applies to both employees working overseas and those working within Australia. Each case will be assessed on its own facts.
Note: For locally engaged overseas employees (employees engaged overseas to perform duties overseas) different legislative considerations will apply. For further information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 366 979.
During this challenging time, it is important that you continue to focus on your recovery and, where possible, return to work. Your employer will continue to provide support, although there may be some changes to the way this support is delivered to you.
Rehabilitation assessments and rehabilitation programs
Rehabilitation assessments and activities related to your rehabilitation program can still take place during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have concerns about participating, you should contact your rehabilitation case manager to discuss your circumstances. Your rehabilitation case manager will take into account a range of factors, including:
- your concerns about participating
- whether you fall within the category of those most at risk of serious infections
- whether any rehabilitation appointments or activities place you or others at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19
- whether any rehabilitation appointments or services need to be delivered in a different way or postponed to a future date
- how you can still participate in rehabilitation and work towards your goals
- the potential benefits of providing you with rehabilitation services
- the impact that a potential suspension of compensation have on your circumstances.
If available and appropriate, assessments and activities under your rehabilitation program may be able to be undertaken using telehealth. See Telehealth for more information.
Your workplace rehabilitation provider
If your employer has engaged a workplace rehabilitation provider they may have new arrangements in place to provide support for your rehabilitation. It is likely that services will need to be delivered differently such as through video-conferencing or telephone. Your rehabilitation case manager will keep you updated on any changes.
Working remotely with an injury or illness
Your employer may have made arrangements for you to work remotely during the pandemic. We have developed a Working From Home checklist (PDF, 672.4 KB) to help ensure your home environment is set up safely. You should also talk to your rehabilitation case manager about any additional modifications you may need to work from home effectively such as bringing home, or being provided with, ergonomic equipment or adjustments to work tasks.
For more information
For additional advice about your rehabilitation during this time, contact your rehabilitation case manager.
During this challenging time, it is important that employers continue to support the recovery of their employees and, where possible, return to work.
During this time, workplace rehabilitation will need a particular focus on good communication, the coordination of stakeholders and an individualised approach to be effective.
An individualised approach
If you are arranging a rehabilitation assessment or developing or monitoring a rehabilitation program, it is important to consider the employee’s individual circumstances, including any impacts from COVID-19 restrictions. We encourage you to take a common sense approach and consider:
- any concerns the employee may have
- whether the employee falls into one of the at-risk categories. Please refer to the Department of Health for advice about who is most at risk:
- does the employee have a compromised immune system?
- are they elderly?
- are they Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, as they may have higher rates of chronic illness?
- do they have a chronic medical condition?
- are they in a group residential setting?
- whether any rehabilitation appointments or activities place the employee or others at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19
- whether any rehabilitation appointments or services need to be delivered in a different way or postponed to a future date
- how the employee can still participate in rehabilitation and work towards their goals
- the potential benefits of providing rehabilitation services to the employee
- the impact a potential suspension of compensation (as a result of refusal or failure to attend) will have on the employee’s circumstances.
Maintain contact and coordinating stakeholders
Think about ways to maintain contact with injured employees who are isolated from the workplace, whether this is related to their injury or COVID-19 restrictions.
- There may be delays in receiving rehabilitation or services may be delivered in new ways - keep employees updated and reassured.
- Decide who will be responsible for maintaining contact with the injured employee – this may be their supervisor, their rehabilitation case manager or another nominated contact person.
- Discuss and promote the ability for rehabilitation activities to occur in the home where appropriate, taking note of our Working From Home checklist (PDF, 672.4 KB).
Working with providers
Talk to workplace rehabilitation providers about what arrangements they have in place and what meaningful rehabilitation services they can still provide to your injured employees. It is likely that services will need to be delivered differently such as through video-conferencing or by telephone.
You also need to reconfirm the availability of any legally qualified medical practitioners for rehabilitation assessments during this period.
For more information
For additional advice about providing workplace rehabilitation during this time, contact us on 1300 366 979 or email email@example.com.
The Rehabilitation Case Manager handbook (PDF, 952.8 KB) also provides more information about implementing effective rehabilitation.
Telehealth is the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely.
Telehealth services can be provided by doctors, nurses, mental health and certain allied health professionals to provide some services.
The Australian Government Department of Health has released its guidance on Medicare support for telehealth services. The telehealth service allows people to access essential health services while they undergo self-isolation or quarantine and reduces the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the community.
How to access telehealth
To access telehealth services, you should contact your usual care medical practitioner, such as your GP, to ask if they offer the service. Alternatively, you may seek support from a telehealth doctor.
Telehealth services and medical treatment
Telehealth services can be used to obtain medical treatment under the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act) for medical and some allied health services to employees who have a claim.
Payment for the use of telehealth services will be made where deemed appropriate. Each case will be assessed on its own facts. In assessing any request, the claims manager will determine whether the use of telehealth services is reasonable and in line with the requirements of the SRC Act.
Employees and service providers who want to use telehealth services to obtain treatment can contact their claims manager to discuss.
Telehealth services and medical examinations
Telehealth services can be used to conduct a medical examination. It is at the claims manager's discretion to determine if a telehealth medical examination is reasonable in the circumstances. Contact your claims manager if you have any questions.
Telehealth services and rehabilitation
Telehealth services can be used to conduct a rehabilitation assessment and for the development and delivery of a rehabilitation program. The rehabilitation case manager will determine whether telehealth is reasonable for a rehabilitation assessment or rehabilitation program. Contact your rehabilitation case manager if you have any questions.
In response to coronavirus (COVID-19), we have introduced temporary item codes to allow allied health providers to deliver services via telehealth.
Support provided by employers
Where employees are potentially exposed to the virus as part of their employment, employers should provide guidance and assistance to the employee to make a claim for workers’ compensation.
Employers should also support the health and recovery of their workers through early intervention while the claim process is pending.
Calculating incapacity payments
The application of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act) to the calculation of normal weekly earnings and incapacity payments during COVID-19 will depend on the individual circumstances of a claim.
We are providing general guidance about applying the SRC Act to normal weekly earnings and incapacity payments through a range of possible scenarios. Decision makers may need to apply multiple options for their specific situation. We also advise decision makers to contact Comcare if they have any questions about the application of the SRC Act.
For more information about adjusting an employee’s normal weekly earnings, see Scheme Guidance – Adjusting Normal Weekly Earnings under section 8(10) of the SRC Act.
The Government’s introduction of the JobKeeper payment is likely to impact the application of the SRC Act in the following scenarios. Where JobKeeper payments will affect incapacity calculations, Comcare will update these scenarios accordingly.
On 9 April 2020 the Australian Government passed legislation to enact a wage subsidy plan – JobKeeper payments - to help keep more Australians in jobs and support businesses affected by the significant economic impact caused by the coronavirus. For more information on the JobKeeper payment, refer to the JobKeeper payment page on the Treasury website.
Note: As further information on the JobKeeper payment becomes available, we will update our information accordingly.
An employer is unable to offer suitable employment
Where an employer is no longer able to provide an employee with suitable employment (for example, as part of a rehabilitation program), the employee can claim incapacity for the time that employment is not able to be provided. Incapacity payments are calculated as normal under sections 19(2) or 19(3) of the SRC Act.
Note: Where an employee is part of a group of employees, in the same or similar roles, whose duties are no longer able to be offered, the employee's normal weekly earnings may also be affected. Refer to the information below.
An employee is stood down and asked to use their own paid leave
Where an employee with a compensation claim has been asked to use their own paid leave (annual or sick/carers) while stood down from employment, they may still be entitled to incapacity payments where they are on a graduated return to work or are totally incapacitated for work.
The decision maker will need to continue to monitor the employee’s capacity for work to aid them in determining the employee’s incapacity payments.
Section 116 of the SRC Act provides that an employee is not entitled to be granted any kind of leave of absence with pay (other than maternity leave with pay) during, or in respect of, any period when the employee is receiving incapacity payments. That is, the employee cannot be paid both incapacity payments as well as paid leave (except maternity leave) from their employer for the same period.
An employee is on a graduated return to work
Where an employee is on a graduated return to work, they can claim incapacity payments for the hours they are unfit to work due to their compensable condition and use their own paid leave for the hours they are fit for work but unable to do so due to the stand down. Any paid leave must be included in incapacity calculations and will form the actual earnings (AE) component.
In these circumstances, and in line with section 116, the employee is claiming incapacity payments and paid leave for different periods.
An employee’s normal weekly hours are 40 hours per week. They are currently certified fit for, and are working, 25 hours per week on a graduated return to work. The employee can receive incapacity payments for the 15 hours per week they are unable to work due to their compensable condition and use paid leave to cover the 25 hours per week that they are fit to work but unable to work due to the stand down.
An employee is totally incapacitated
An employee who is totally incapacitated for work can choose to use their paid leave or claim incapacity for a week. In line with section 116, the choice of paid leave or incapacity is for the whole period (a week). Therefore, the employee cannot use both for the same period.
Where an employee is still in their first 45 weeks of incapacity - entitled to 100% of their normal weekly earnings – they may choose to continue to receive incapacity payments instead of using their paid leave. When they exceed 45 weeks of incapacity and are only entitled to incapacity at 75% of their normal weekly earnings, they may choose to use their annual leave to continue to receive their full pay.
An employee has exhausted their own paid leave
Where an employee with a compensation claim has exhausted their paid leave entitlements, the decision maker will need to consider what arrangements or agreements are made between employee and employer at that time before determining incapacity payments.
An employee is affected by changes to work hours, overtime or allowances
Where an employer has modified employee hours, overtime or allowances in response to COVID-19, employees’ normal weekly earnings may also be affected.
Subsection 8(10)(a) applies to current employees and provides that normal weekly earnings should be reduced if this figure would be greater than the amount the employee would earn in that week if they were not incapacitated for work.
Where those who are employed in the same or similar role as the employee are affected by such modifications, the decision maker must assess if those changes would have applied to the employee had they not suffered their compensable injury. If the modifications would have applied to the employee, the decision maker can then apply the same modifications to the employee’s normal weekly earnings under section 8(10)(a) of the SRC Act to align with those same or similar roles.
An employer has advised that all administrative staff are required to reduce their hours to 50% of their normal 37.5 hours per week. An employee with a compensation claim works in a role where they provide administrative support in their team.
The decision maker compares the employee’s role to other administration support staff and identifies that, had they not suffered their injury, they would have been required to reduce their hours by 50% as well. While the employee’s normal weekly hours cannot change under the legislation, the decision maker can apply subsection 8(10)(a) to reduce the employee’s normal weekly earnings to reflect this 50% reduction.
Employer has stood employees down on leave without pay
Where an employer has stood employees down on leave without pay, in response to COVID-19, employee incapacity payments will likely be affected.
Where those who are employed in the same or similar role as the employee are required to take leave without pay, the decision maker must assess if the employee would have been required to take leave without pay had they not suffered their compensable injury. If so, the decision maker can reduce the employee’s normal weekly earnings under section 8(10)(a) of the SRC Act to align with those who are employed in the same or similar role as the employee.
Employment has ended
Where an employer is no longer able to offer employment, in response to COVID-19, refer to Scheme Guidance – Adjusting Normal Weekly Earnings under section 8(10) of the SRC Act.
An employee accesses their superannuation early due to COVID-19
If an employee has been financially affected by COVID-19 they may be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21.
For employees claiming incapacity payments, the early release of superannuation is unlikely to affect their payments under the SRC Act. For superannuation to be taken into account, the employee must be retired from employment and in receipt of superannuation as a result of that retirement. The early release of superannuation due to COVID-19 is unlikely to meet this criteria.
Superannuation accessed in other circumstances may impact incapacity payments. It is recommended that an employee contact their claims manager if they are accessing their superannuation in any circumstance to discuss how it may impact their incapacity payments.
Mental health and wellbeing
The mental health of workers either directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19 is an important consideration. Some people may be struggling to deal with feelings of uncertainty, stress and anxiety, and others may be adjusting to self-isolation or working from home.
Resources and practical tips
Finding ways to stay connected with friends, family and colleagues during periods of self-isolation and working from home is vital.
Employers need to ensure they maintain daily contact with their workers via phone, email or online to stay in touch and monitor their health, safety and wellbeing.
Some resources and practical tips to help you look after mental health during this time:
- Five Important Ways Managers are Talking with Teams infographic
(PDF, 357.2 KB)
- Guidance for Parents and Carers factsheet (PDF, 536.4 KB)
- The Importance of Physical Health factsheet (PDF, 547.2 KB)
- Supporting Others in Times of Uncertainty factsheet (PDF, 523.8 KB)
- Responding to Uncertainty factsheet (PDF, 519.8 KB)
- Beyond Blue provides resources about coping with COVID-19, including online forums where you can connect with other people.
- Mentally Healthy Workplaces and COVID-19: Emerging Issues series from the National Mental Health Commission.
Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan
The National Cabinet has endorsed the Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan developed by the National Mental Health Commission.
The plan acknowledges the significant impact COVID-19 has had on the mental health and wellbeing of Australians, including mental health impacts from economic downturn through loss of income and job losses.
All governments have agreed the need for each jurisdiction to ensure Australians receive the mental health services and support they require at this time, and in the coming phases of recovery and rebuilding.
Safe Work Australia’s information hub has information for managers on how to support their staff’s mental health and wellbeing.
You can also access support via the following confidential helpline services:
- Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
- Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800.
Service providers and COVID-19
Comcare is here to support service providers to deliver effective and efficient services during this difficult time.
Please visit this page for updates. We will be providing information and advice on changes that may affect your business during the pandemic.
How we are assisting service providers
Comcare is providing assistance to service providers by:
- supporting alternative ways of delivering services, including the use of telehealth, videoconferencing and telephone consultations, where appropriate
- paying for personal protective equipment used to provide medical treatment to an employee, where reasonable and appropriate
- making payments as soon as practicable
- continuing to update you through this web page and responding to your queries.
Information for providers
Being safe and managing risk during the pandemic
Providers should tailor services to the needs of the client or stakeholder and consider how their services can have the most impact while reducing the risk of exposure.
All providers are expected to have procedures in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic. These procedures should consider how you will safely operate your business and deliver services to injured employees, employers and others.
Comcare supports the use of alternative ways of delivering quality services to employees and employers.
Use of telehealth services
Telehealth can be used where appropriate and where there is agreement from the employee and/or employer.
Telehealth services refer to specific healthcare services delivered through telephone or video. Telehealth services can be used to deliver some medical and rehabilitation services, including by:
- medical practitioners
- mental health professionals
- allied health professionals
- workplace rehabilitation providers.
Service providers should consider the effectiveness of alternative service delivery methods on a case-by-case basis. We also encourage providers to visit their professional associations for guidance on how to effectively use telehealth services.
Telehealth allied health service rates and codes
In response to coronavirus (COVID-19), we have introduced temporary item codes to allow allied health providers to deliver services via telehealth.
See the Telehealth Allied Health Rates and Codes guide (PDF, 120.2 KB) for upper limit fees for allied health treatment via telehealth. For other provider services, see rates for allied health treatment.
Advice on personal protective equipment (PPE)
Comcare has issued scheme guidance on what it will pay for the provision of medical treatment. Each case is decided on its own facts.
Where it is determined that the use of PPE is appropriate and necessary to provide medical treatment to an employee, the claims manager will pay for the reasonable cost of the PPE.
Payment rates for providers
Comcare has issued scheme guidance on the appropriate cost of medical treatment.
Comcare has also issued scheme guidance to rehabilitation authorities and workplace rehabilitation providers on the appropriate cost and duration of workplace rehabilitation provider services.
This scheme guidance continues to apply during the pandemic.
Processing of invoices
Invoices sent directly to Comcare for approved medical treatment or other services will be paid as soon as practicable.
The payment of a cancellation fee cannot be made, as the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act) only provides for the payment of services provided.
Providers should consider other options such as telehealth or videoconferencing to provide the service. Failing that, the appointment should be rescheduled.
Payments prior to delivery of services
The SRC Act does not permit payment to be made in advance of a treatment or service being provided.
Comcare service delivery during COVID-19
Our highest priority is the health and wellbeing of our people and our clients.
We are restricting entry into all Comcare offices and face-to-face contact with Comcare staff. Most face-to-face events and training are currently suspended.
Be assured that we are still working and available to assist you through our other channels. You can still call us Monday to Friday between 8.30 am and 5 pm AEST on 1300 366 979 or (02) 6276 0333, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. See Contact us for more information.
We continue to redesign our training content and forums experience so we can deliver these online.
Training and learning
We provide training through our learning management system called Comcare LMS.
For more information about the courses we offer, see Training and learning.