Some people are at greater risk of more serious illness 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 one or more chronic medical conditions 
  • People 70 years and older, and 
  • People with compromised immune systems 

These categories may increase or vary depending on the latest evidence. See the Department of Health website for further information.   

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee advice is that there is limited evidence at this time regarding the risk in pregnant women and so, at present, pregnant women are not included on the vulnerable workers list. 

What to do  

You should follow the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee for vulnerable people in the workplace.  

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee advises that: 

  • Where vulnerable workers undertake essential work, a risk assessment must be undertaken. Risk needs to be assessed and mitigated with consideration of the characteristics of the worker, the workplace and the work. This includes ensuring vulnerable people are redeployed to non-customer-based roles where possible. Where risk cannot be appropriately mitigated, employers and workers should consider alternate arrangements to accommodate a workplace absence. 

One of my workers is a vulnerable person, how do I conduct a risk assessment?

When conducting a risk assessment for a worker that is a vulnerable person for the risk of exposure to COVID-19 you must consider:  

  • the characteristics of the worker,  
  • features of the workplace and  
  • the nature of the work.  

Remember to keep all information about a worker’s medical conditions confidential. 

For further assistance on how to conduct a risk assessment, refer to the model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks, which provides practical guidance about how to manage WHS risks through a risk assessment process. See also our guidance relating to COVID-19:  

  • Guidance on COVID-19 Risk Assessments,   
  • Guidance on key considerations for businesses to take into account when assessing the risks associated with COVID-19, and  
  • the example risk register.  

How do I know what is ‘reasonably practicable’ to manage the risk of a vulnerable person contracting COVID-19? 

Deciding what is reasonably practicable to protect workers or other persons from harm requires taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters, including the degree of harm that is likely to occur if the risk of contracting COVID-19 eventuates.  

If a vulnerable person contracts COVID-19, it can result in serious illness or death, which means the degree of harm that might result from the risk or hazard is very high. You must consider all available control measures to limit exposure to vulnerable people, even if the likelihood of them contracting COVID-19 may be low. This includes whether they can work from home in their usual or other role. 

See the model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks for guidance on how to undertake a risk assessment and our guidance on COVID-19 Risk Assessments. 

Can I just require that my vulnerable workers take leave during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

No. You must first try to identify and manage risks to your worker’s health and safety at the workplace, including considering whether the nature of their job or the workplace increases their risk of exposure to the virus. You may need to explore options for the worker to work from home or arrange for them to move temporarily into a different role. For further assistance, see the model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks and our guidance on COVID-19 Risk Assessments. 

If the risks to your worker’s health and safety at the workplace cannot be effectively managed, then you must consult with them about alternate arrangements such as taking leave.  

Your worker can continue to access all available entitlements, including leave, under the relevant enterprise agreement, award, contracts of employment and any workplace policies. If you are unsure of your obligations regarding worker entitlements, you can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman

Some people are at greater risk of more serious illness 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 one or more chronic medical conditions 
  • People 70 years and older, and 
  • People with compromised immune systems 

These categories may increase or vary depending on the latest evidence. See the Department of Health website for further information.   

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee advice is that there is limited evidence at this time regarding the risk in pregnant women and so, at present, pregnant women are not included on the vulnerable workers list. 

What to do  

You should follow the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee for vulnerable people in the workplace.  

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee advises that: 

  • Where vulnerable workers undertake essential work, a risk assessment must be undertaken. Risk needs to be assessed and mitigated with consideration of the characteristics of the worker, the workplace and the work. This includes ensuring vulnerable people are redeployed to non-customer-based roles where possible. Where risk cannot be appropriately mitigated, employers and workers should consider alternate arrangements to accommodate a workplace absence. 

One of my workers is a vulnerable person, how do I conduct a risk assessment?

When conducting a risk assessment for a worker that is a vulnerable person for the risk of exposure to COVID-19 you must consider:  

  • the characteristics of the worker,  
  • features of the workplace and  
  • the nature of the work.  

Remember to keep all information about a worker’s medical conditions confidential. 

For further assistance on how to conduct a risk assessment, refer to the model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks, which provides practical guidance about how to manage WHS risks through a risk assessment process. See also our guidance relating to COVID-19:  

  • Guidance on COVID-19 Risk Assessments,   
  • Guidance on key considerations for businesses to take into account when assessing the risks associated with COVID-19, and  
  • the example risk register.  

How do I know what is ‘reasonably practicable’ to manage the risk of a vulnerable person contracting COVID-19? 

Deciding what is reasonably practicable to protect workers or other persons from harm requires taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters, including the degree of harm that is likely to occur if the risk of contracting COVID-19 eventuates.  

If a vulnerable person contracts COVID-19, it can result in serious illness or death, which means the degree of harm that might result from the risk or hazard is very high. You must consider all available control measures to limit exposure to vulnerable people, even if the likelihood of them contracting COVID-19 may be low. This includes whether they can work from home in their usual or other role. 

See the model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks for guidance on how to undertake a risk assessment and our guidance on COVID-19 Risk Assessments. 

Can I just require that my vulnerable workers take leave during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

No. You must first try to identify and manage risks to your worker’s health and safety at the workplace, including considering whether the nature of their job or the workplace increases their risk of exposure to the virus. You may need to explore options for the worker to work from home or arrange for them to move temporarily into a different role. For further assistance, see the model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks and our guidance on COVID-19 Risk Assessments. 

If the risks to your worker’s health and safety at the workplace cannot be effectively managed, then you must consult with them about alternate arrangements such as taking leave.  

Your worker can continue to access all available entitlements, including leave, under the relevant enterprise agreement, award, contracts of employment and any workplace policies. If you are unsure of your obligations regarding worker entitlements, you can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman

 

Some people are at greater risk of more serious illness 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 one or more chronic medical conditions 
  • People 70 years and older, and 
  • People with compromised immune systems 

These categories may increase or vary depending on the latest evidence. See Department of Health website for further information.   

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee advice is that there is limited evidence at this time regarding the risk in pregnant women and so, at present, pregnant women are not included on the vulnerable workers list. 

What to do

You should follow the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee for vulnerable people in the workplace.  

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee advises that: 

  • Where vulnerable workers undertake essential work, a risk assessment must be undertaken. Risk needs to be assessed and mitigated with consideration of the characteristics of the worker, the workplace and the work. This includes ensuring vulnerable people are redeployed to non-customer-based roles where possible. Where risk cannot be appropriately mitigated, employers and workers should consider alternate arrangements to accommodate a workplace absence. 

I am a vulnerable person. Do I have to stop working?

Not necessarily. To ensure your safety in the workplace, your employer must first conduct a risk assessment taking into account your specific characteristics, the nature of your workplace and the type of work you do. For example, if your job involves extensive interaction and contact with other people, your employer may require you to perform a different role not involving close contact with other people during the pandemic or to work from home. 

If your employer is unable to appropriately minimise the risk of you contracting COVID-19, they will need to consider other options in consultation with you to arrange your absence from the workplace, including paid leave. 

I am a vulnerable person. Will my job need to change?

Not necessarily. If your job involves frequent interaction with the public or extended close contact with co-workers your employer may consider if it is possible for you to perform your current role in a different way, for example, working from home. They may also talk to you about performing a different role at this time if that would eliminate or minimise any close contact with others. 

Your employer must consult with you about any new arrangements and allow you to express your preferences and any concerns. The Model Code of Practice: Work Health and Safety Consultation, Cooperation and Coordination contains more information about what your employer must do to consult with you. 

If you are a vulnerable person working in a role where the risks of contracting COVID-19 can be minimised, taking into account all the relevant circumstances, your job may not need to change. However, your employer will require you to take all necessary precautions to keep yourself safe such as maintaining good hygiene and not coming to work if you are unwell. 

I am a vulnerable person. Can my employer require me to take leave during the COVID-19 pandemic?

There is no automatic requirement for you to have to take leave from your workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, your employer must identify and manage risks to your health and safety at the workplace and consider if your job increases your risk of exposure to the virus. For example, your employer may explore the option for you to work from home or talk with you about moving into a different role during the pandemic. 

If the risks to your health and safety at the workplace cannot be effectively managed, your employer may consult with you about alternate arrangements such as taking leave. 

Your employer must allow you to continue to access available entitlements, including leave, under the relevant enterprise agreement, award, contracts of employment and workplace policies. If you are unsure of your workplace entitlements, you can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman

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