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** This advice is now superseded.

Advice for agency managers

This advice is designed to assist agencies in developing and implementing transition plans to facilitate the transition to usual workplaces (as outlined in Circular 2020/5: Transition to usual workplaces in response to the gradual relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions).

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) agencies must:

  • 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, and
  • monitor the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace for the purpose of preventing illness and injuries.

Actions for agencies

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 it is important that agencies: 

  • Implement measures to allow physical distancing in the workplace. This could mean moving desks to allow adequate spacing between employees, or altering work locations (e.g. Team A works in the office one week while Team B works from home. The next week they swap and Team B works in the office). 
  • Minimise face to face meetings, and ensure that meetings are less than 2 hours long.
  • Consider reducing the maximum capacity of meeting rooms to no more than one person per four square metres, including communicating the maximum capacity to employees with “maximum occupancy X people” signs in each meeting room.
  • Provide and promote sanitisers for use on entering buildings.
  • Increase the frequency of cleaning of communal areas to daily, where possible, as well as supply extra cleaning products to work areas.
  • Ensure that employees are regularly cleaning “hot desking” work stations.
  • Regularly communicate any changes to their employees.

Remember: Physical distancing doesn’t just apply to desks, workstations and meeting rooms. Agencies should also consider how to implement physical distancing in other areas like kitchens and bathrooms. Agencies might wish to consider actions like staggering lunch breaks to minimise the number of people in the kitchen at once. 

Actions for individuals

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 it is important that individuals: 

  • Inform themselves of government requirements relating to physical distancing restrictions, and comply with all requirements (including while traveling to and from work).
  • Follow all agency procedures relating to physical distancing and transmission reduction.
  • Report any unsafe or unhealthy situations (e.g. a lack of soap in the bathroom) to your supervisor, HR area or health and safety representative (HSR). 
  • Wash their hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet. Make sure hands are dried well afterwards.
    • Alcohol based hand rub may also be used if there are no washing facilities and the hands are not visibly soiled.
  • Cover their cough and sneeze with the crook of their elbow or a disposable tissue, dispose of tissues, and then wash or sanitise their hands.
  • Stop shaking hands or kissing as a greeting.
  • Avoid touching their face with unwashed hands.
  • Stay at home if they are unwell.
  • Get vaccinated for influenza.
  • Avoid crowds where possible.

Remember: Health and safety at work is everyone’s responsibility. Your agency is responsible for making sure that the workplace is safe, and that your health and safety are not put at risk. You are responsible for looking after your own health and safety. You must take care not to put other people at risk.

Useful Resources

Safe Work Australia provides a useful overview of how employer and employee duties under the WHS Act relate to COVID-19.

Comcare has also compiled guidance, resources and practical tips to support employers and employees.

The latest health guidance is available on the Department of Health website.

Australia.gov.au is the official Australian Government response website to provide support and updates to Australians on the COVID-19 pandemic.


Last reviewed: 
15 May 2020