Can you direct employees to wear face coverings at work?

Can you direct employees to wear face coverings at work?

A common question we get asked on the Positive HR hotline is whether an employer can reasonably direct their employees to wear a face mask. After all, as employers, we are legally obligated to create a safe working environment.

The main benefits of wearing a face mask is to protect not just ourselves but others too. Face coverings can help stop droplets spreading, especially when someone speaks, laughs, coughs, or sneezes. If a person wearing a mask is unknowingly infected, it will help reduce the chances of spreading the virus. 

If an employer considers face masks essential to protect workers, they can lawfully direct employees to wear them. This is important in environments where there is a high degree of customer interaction, and physical distancing is not practicable. 

Different States and Territories may have different rules when it comes to face covering. We encourage you to regularly check. At the time of writing this article, if you live in metropolitan Melbourne, regional Victoria or Mitchell Shire, it's mandatory to wear a face mask (unless there is a lawful reason for not doing so). Even with a face covering, physical distancing measures still apply. 

What are my obligations as an employer in Victoria?

Everyone must wear a face covering to and from work if your workplaces is located within metropolitan Melbourne, regional Victoria or Mitchell Shire.

If the work requires a specific type of face coverings, this must be provided by the employer. Employers can encourage employees to bring their own face covering, but there is an obligation to provide face coverings if an employee does not have one.

Employers have a duty to identify whether there is a risk to the health of employees from exposure to coronavirus in the workplace, as well as areas where employees are unable to stay 1.5 metres apart.

Do face-coverings need to worn in the office or at the desk even if there is physical distancing?

If you live in metropolitan Melbourne, regional Victoria or Mitchell Shire, you must wear a face-covering when you leave your home.

If an employee is in an enclosed office on their own, there isn't a need to wear one while at the desk. However, if someone enters your space and when you leave it, you need to wear a mask.

Do I need to wear a face-covering at home if I work from home?

If you are working from home, you don't need to wear a face covering, unless you are caring for someone in a home.

Where can I buy face masks and who pays for it?

Single-use masks or ones made from cloth is now available from many wholesale and retail outlets including chemists, safety equipment providers, office suppliers and hardware stores. 

Unless the workplace is in a State or Territory where face covering is mandatory, if an employer directs employees to wear face coverings, employers may be obligated to provide and pay for the costs of face masks.

Where can I get more information?

Positive HR can help you make sense of all the changes in your workplace obligations. If you have any questions about work, health and safety, we can help. Simply book in a free 15-minute consultation with one of our Positive HR Consultants here.

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