Workplace health and safety should always be a concern for businesses, particularly during the current situation that many are facing. A well-fitted, clean and correctly functioning face mask is essential to assist in minimising the spread of COVID-19. As an employer, you want to make sure that your staff are protected while performing their duties – and a facemask may be the protection that they need.
Is Wearing A Mask Mandatory?
Different industries may have different rules about wearing face masks at work, depending on whether there is an enforceable government or public health directive that may be applicable. As an employer or business owner, you will need to check to see if those directions are applicable to your business.
Failure to comply with any requirements in place may result in you being held legally accountable and liable for failing to fulfil health and safety obligations as an employer, particularly if in doing so you put your employees’ health at risk.
As an employer, protecting the health and safety of your workers is a legal requirement that you must oblige by. Under certain industry legislation and public health orders, your business may be legally required to provide your workers with masks and for those workers to use masks to prevent transmission of respiratory infections.
If the wearing of face masks is mandatory in your workplace or business (such as for those involved in hospitality venues, or as personal protective equipment) you need to ensure that it is communicated clearly to your employees. There should also be a clean supply of face masks in the workplace for them to use, and that they are properly informed of how to use, store, decontaminate and dispose of them safely. If an employee’s mask becomes unusable during work-related travel, you may reimburse them for the cost of purchasing new protect (but make sure that they keep receipts and records of the purchase).
What If My Employee Is Refusing To Wear A Mask?
There might be a number of reasons why an employee may not be able to or is refusing to wear a mask. First of all, it’s important to hold an honest and open discussion with any employees that are refusing to find out exactly what is preventing them from wearing a mask.
If there is a valid medical condition, illness or disability that is preventing them from wearing a mask, this can be examined on a case-by-case analysis but should be discussed with experts for alternatives. If a valid reason is provided, alternative duties for the employee should be investigated (such as work from home).
If working from home is not an option, you may be able to agree with the employee to take any accrued annual or long service leave or leave without pay while you investigate alternative options for the employee’s ongoing employment.
Employers need to balance these refusals with an employee’s anti-discrimination, unfair dismissals and general protections while ensuring that the refusal does not cause the business to breach health and safety and public health directives.