As an employer, you have obligations to keep your employees safe. This includes during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, how far do these obligations extend when your employees are uncomfortable using public transport to travel to and from work? 

This article sets out:

  • your obligations as an employer; 
  • whether you need to assist your employees before or after work; and
  • alternatives if your employees are uncomfortable using public transport to commute to and from work.

Health and Safety

Under various health and safety legislation, employers are obligated to keep their employees safe while at work. This includes:

  • providing a workplace that is free from health and safety risks; and 
  • monitoring employee health and workplace conditions to prevent illnesses or injuries to your employees.

However, this does not always extend to when employees are travelling to and from work.

For instance, what happens if an employee is injured while commuting to work?

Your responsibility as an employer to this injured employee will vary from state to state, depending on the law. But if an employee contracts a communicable diseases like COVID-19, it is difficult to confirm whether this is an injury caused during a work-related commute, or if the disease was contracted elsewhere. 

Keep Communication Open

State and territory governments are issuing COVID-19 updates daily.  Stay up-to-date on whether it is safe for your employees to use public transport for their commute.

Provided the advice from authorities is that the commute is safe, you should communicate this advice to your employees. 

Alternative Options

If your employees are adamant that they will not commute to work on public transport, regardless of the advice of state or federal governments, you may wish to offer alternative solutions.

  • If an employee is able to commute to work in a private vehicle, you can investigate whether parking subsidies are available at a local car park.
  • You can negotiate with employees to stagger their start and finish times so that they are not commuting in peak travel times.
  • Consider whether the employee can work from home.

It is important to discuss with your employees where their concerns lie and how you can find a solution that is practical for you both. However, ultimately it is important that you have employees who are ready, willing and able to work when and as required.

Where No Alternative is Available

If your employees are concerned about commuting to work for a defined period of time, and no other option is available, you can request that they take leave without pay until their concerns are resolved. 

It is not practical to provide open-ended support to employees. This is especially true in times where your business may be facing a slow down in sales, or reduced revenue. If your employees are unwilling to attend work and as such are not able to perform the inherent requirements of their role, you may look to terminate their employment.

Key Takeaways

Start by understanding why your employees are reluctant to catch public transport when commuting to and from work. Once you understand their reasons, you can consider alternative arrangements that are suitable for both your employees and your business. 

However, it may be necessary to place your employees on unpaid leave or to terminate their employment if no alternative arrangements can be made. If you are concerned about your employees travelling to or from work, or if you have questions regarding your obligations as an employer, our employment lawyers can assist. Complete the form on this page or call 1300 544 755.

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