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CQU experts share in ‘The Conversation’ of COVID-19 health and safety within businesses

Published:30 July 2020

TOP: Senior Lecturer in Environmental Health Dr Lisa Bricknell. BOTTOM: Professor of Human Resources and Employment and Deputy Dean (Research) Julian Teicher.

CQUniversity academics have weighed in on how businesses can impact the spread of COVID-19 from both public health and human resource management perspectives following on from new advice from the New South Wales and Victorian Premiers.

Public health expert Dr Lisa Bricknell shared advice relevant for both venue patrons and staff to keep safe in bars, cafés or restaurants amidst advice from New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian for businesses to register as COVID Safe.

“Check to see the venue’s COVID Safe certificate is clearly displayed and that they are taking every patron’s contact details. If a patron is dining in, the venue must be recording their contact details or checking they are registered with the COVIDSafe app.

“If they’re not recording people’s details in some way, leave. If a COVID-19 positive case visits that venue, contact tracers are unable to do their job unless all patrons’ details are recorded.”

She also advised patrons to be more aware of how venue staff are following appropriate health and safety procedures.

“Check if tables are appropriately spaced and that cutlery, napkins, glasses, plates, bowls or straws aren’t left lying on tables — even if they are disposable,” she cautioned.

“Watch what happens when a patron leaves. Are staff appropriately sanitising tables and chairs with spray and, ideally, disposable paper towel? They should be.”

“Look around to see if the venue provides hand sanitiser for patrons — and keep an eye on the staff to make sure they are using it too.”

With NSW at a critical point, Dr Bricknell suggested to reconsider dining in any Sydney hotspots and advised for people to leave if they don’t feel comfortable with any of the safety measures within the venue.

“Breaches of any of the above would be enough to make me want to leave. But here are some more triggers that would make me think, “I’m getting out of here.”

“If the place is starting to fill up and you sense physical distancing is not being observed — leave.

“If you see staff or patrons with symptoms — they have a cough, or cold, or seem unwell — leave,” she said.

Further south, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews complained that ‘far too many people’ are going to work with COVID-19 symptoms which CQUniversity’s Professor of Human Resources and Employment and Deputy Dean (Research) Julian Teicher explained can be a stark choice for those in the casual and part-time workforce– stay home or get paid.

“Casuals account for 25% of the Australian workforce, mainly in lower-paid jobs. This creates huge vulnerability, both in terms of these workers’ personal circumstances and in the public’s efforts to suppress COVID-19,” he said.

While the Andrews government has offered various forms of assistance to encourage workers to stay home if unwell or being tested for COVID-19, Professor Teicher highlighted there are some exclusions.

“Workers can claim a one-off payment of A$1,500 if unable to work during isolation, and a A$300 payment to cover isolation while awaiting COVID-19 test results, but only if they don’t already receive any other benefits or income and have already exhausted any paid leave entitlements.

“In April, the Fair Work Commission updated the terms of many industry awards to specifically include annual leave or unpaid leave for COVID-19-related absences. Yet this ruling did not cover casual workers or the 40% of workers on enterprise agreements, and unpaid leave would be an unpalatable option for those who have already used up their paid entitlement.”

Professor Teicher believed many Melburnians felt they have no option but to carry on at work in defiance of public health advice which should be a sign that greater social safety net is needed for casual staff.

“The problem is compounded by the fact that many casual and part-time workers need more than one job to make ends meet. This means when they turn up to work despite being sick or waiting on test results, they are turning up sick to more than one workplace.

“It is a profound irony, given how ‘flexible’ work practices have worsened the spread of COVID-19, that Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg are now calling for even more labour market flexibility as part of the process of economic recovery from the pandemic.”

To read the full articles in The Conversation visit: https://theconversation.com/dine-in-or-walk-away-how-to-tell-if-a-venue-is-covid-safe-in-nsw-143603 and https://theconversation.com/far-too-many-victorians-are-going-to-work-while-sick-far-too-many-have-no-choice-143600