The Australian Public Service Commission (ASPC) has issued a new circular advising federal agencies on how to manage COVID-19 in the workplace, as the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) recommends employers consider allowing workers to work from home.
Removed from the new circular is the May 2020 advice that public servants should return to the office ‘as soon as it is safe to do so’.
Remaining is the recommendation agency heads continue to act on the advice of both the government and health authorities while ‘ensuring the continued delivery of services to the public’.
Minister for the public service Katy Gallagher said it was ‘important’ agencies were prepared for the next wave of COVID.
“We have seen throughout the pandemic that public servants, like many Australians, have successfully worked remotely.
“Agencies will make decisions about how to manage their own workforces while taking into account health advice and service delivery requirements,” Gallagher said, as quoted in The Canberra Times.
The new advice comes as the country faces another wave of COVID cases, caused by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variant.
The AHPPC has recommended the reinfection period of COVID be shortened from 12 weeks to 28 days, as has been implemented in the ACT, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory.
The circular advises agencies should pay ‘careful attention and consider adopting’ best practice advice from state or territory health agencies.
“Given the emergence of new COVID-19 variants and fluctuations in cases, agencies should remain flexible in responding and adapting to changes in such advice.
“For operational reasons, some employees will be required to physically attend their usual workplace. For others, flexibility, including working from home arrangements, may be a suitable option,” the advice states.
Earlier this week, the AHPPC recommended, amongst other pieces of health advice, that employers ‘should consider the feasibility of some employees working from home and support employees to take leave when sick’.