Not-for-profit Law
Legal help for community organisations

Managing people through COVID-19

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Is your workplace safe for employees and volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Employers have a duty to provide a safe and hazard-free workplace for their staff and volunteers. 

Government advice

Safe Work Australia 

Safe Work Australia has published National COVID-19 safe workplace principles. The principles operate subject to the measures agreed and implemented by governments through the National Cabinet process.

As government restrictions ease around Australia, organisations are transitioning workers and volunteers back to the workplace.

Victorian Government 

Victorian government online platform to connect volunteers and organisations - The Victorian Government, in partnership with Volunteering Victoria, has created an online platform that connects volunteers and organisations to support community recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic - the We Volunteer platform. In doing so, the Victorian Government has implemented one of the recommendations we made to the inquiry into the Victorian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Through the We Volunteer portal, people looking for volunteer roles can register their skills and search for roles that match their interests. Some of these roles can be performed from home.  Volunteer organisations will also be able to use the portal to recruit volunteers for various projects. For more information visit the Victorian Premier’s website and the We Volunteer portal.

WorkSafe Victoria 

Employers must notify WorkSafe Victoria if an employee receives a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.  

Since 29 July 2020, Victorian organisations have been required to notify WorkSafe immediately if an employee has a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis. This includes people who are self-employed and contractors who may have attended a worksite during their infectious period. The requirement is in force until 29 July 2022.

For more information on this requirement visit WorkSafe Victoria's website

Australian Department of Health

It has been tricky for organisations to understand what to do if they have volunteers that fall into categories that the government has declared to be at increased risk of a serious COVID-19 infection.

To see the updated categories of people that the Department of Health considers may be at increased risk of a serious COVID-19 infection, refer to the Department of Health website.

Guidance on managing permanent and casual employees and volunteers during a crisis

Follow our links below for information on managing workers (including volunteers) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vaccines in the workplace 

  • Can your organisation make a COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for employees or volunteers?  
  • What are the employment-related legal requirements and considerations for COVID-19 vaccines?
  • What are the key considerations for mandatory vaccine directions?

Volunteers and COVID-19 

  • How do you manage the return of volunteers to the workplace?

  • What happens if a volunteer contracts COVID-19 and they aren't covered by volunteer personal accident insurance? Could your organisation be held liable (legally responsible)?

  • Should you let volunteers work from home?

  • Your organisation may be getting lots of interest from people who want to volunteer with your organisation, how do you manage this safely? 

  • Should your organisaition have a policy that addresses volunteering in the COVID-19 environment?

Changing workers' tasks or shifts

  • If your organisation's income has decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be looking at reducing hours of paid staff. Can you ask volunteers to perform the work of your paid staff instead?

  • The demand on your services may have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Are you allowed to ask your paid staff to volunteer extra hours to meet service demand?

  • Do you need to give your casual employee their shifts back?

Working from home

  • Does your organisation need to return employees to the workplace? Can employees remain working at home?

  • How do you make sure your organisation is meeting its work, health and safety requirements when employees are working from home?

  • If your workers (including volunteers) are working from home, do you need to conduct a safety inspection?

  • If employees need to care for children at home, are you obliged to make reasonable adjustments to their work?

  • How do you manage performance if you don't think employees are doing adequate work at home?

  • What do you do if employees refuse to return to the workplace?

Organisation liability and insurance 

  • If there is an increased risk of your employees contracting COVID-19, could your organisation be held liable if they are infected in the course of their employment?

  • If an employee contracts COVID-19, will this be covered by workers’ compensation?

Managing employee absences and leave entitlements

  • How do you manage your organisation's employees’ absences and leave entitlements at this time?

  • Can employees be made to take personal leave?

  • What if an employee is a carer for someone who is unwell?

  • Can your organisation force employees to use long service leave?

COVID-safe workplace 

  • What work health and safety issues should you consider when planning your organisation's return to the workplace?

  • What reasonable precautions can your organisation take to manage the safety of your workers (including volunteers)?

Other useful resources

Back to the top

Back to the main COVID-19 page

Read our resources on employees and volunteers for more information about your obligations. Please contact us if these don't answer your specific query.
Last Updated: 07 December 2021