Returning to work and the workplace

Published 29 May 2020 | Updated 20 April 2022

As Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination coverage increases and restrictions start easing, industries and businesses are opening again. This means that many employers and employees are planning their return to work or to the workplace.

In this section, you’ll find information and guidance on returning to the workplace and managing any workplace issues that might arise.

Check your state and territory restrictions and requirements

Restrictions and requirements continue to be updated as the situation evolves. Employers and employees need to stay up to date with the restrictions and requirements that apply in their state or territory:

State and territory governments are making public health orders requiring certain workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Employers and workers need to comply with any public health orders that apply to them. Find out more at Orders and directions during coronavirus.

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Planning the return to work

We encourage employers and employees to work together as they transition back to the workplace. This includes:

  • planning for employees starting to work again after being stood down
  • making changes to start or finish times
  • returning to work at their usual workplaces when they’ve been working from home or another location.

Employers and employees should communicate regularly with each other about plans to return to the workplace and discuss any issues or concerns. Learn more about this process at Managing the return to work and the workplace.

Use our employer tool and checklist

Our Returning to the workplace – interactive employer tool helps employers get their businesses back up and running during coronavirus.

The tool helps employers find information about returning to the workplace, scaling up operations and adapting to workplace changes. It can help you find the information you need when:

  • transitioning employees back to the workplace, including lifting a stand down
  • changing employees’ hours, duties or work location
  • introducing alternative working options for staff
  • keeping up to date with changes to workplace laws.

Use the Returning to the workplace – interactive employer tool now.

Employers can download our Return to work checklist for small business (DOCX) (PDF) to help make sure they’ve got key issues covered when bringing employees back to the workplace.

Workplace health and safety

All employers are required to take care of the health, safety and welfare of all workers, customers and visitors at their workplace. Employers and employees have to consider their obligations under workplace health and safety (WHS) laws in their state or territory when reopening. This could include:

  • COVID-19 vaccinations
  • physical or social distancing
  • cleaning and hygiene
  • risk assessments.

Safe Work Australia has information and guidance on WHS laws during coronavirus. This includes on COVID-19 vaccinations and returning to the workplace. Some useful links include:

For other general WHS information, see Health and safety in the workplace.

State and territory guidance

Each state and territory has information and guidance for businesses on reopening or operating during coronavirus. This includes on issues such as:

  • when they can reopen after a lockdown
  • how to reopen safely (and if any rules apply, such as QR code requirements)
  • whether COVID-19 vaccination requirements apply to staff (for example, because of a public health order)
  • measures needed to ensure a workplace is safe and healthy to operate.

Access your state or territory government website and find business guidance and information at Check your state and territory restrictions and requirements.

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Resolving issues when returning to work

From time to time, issues can arise. We encourage employers and employees to work together to find solutions that benefit both the workplace and affected individuals.

Resolving workplace issues on your own can be quick and easy with the right information and tools. In our experience, most workplace issues can be resolved by employers and employees at the workplace.

For more information and guidance about resolving workplace issues, go to our Workplace problems section.

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