26 September 2023

New APS Circular advises on COVID’s third life

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As the country faces a third Omicron wave, the Australian Public Service Commission (ACSC) has issued a Circular to help Commonwealth Agencies manage the impacts of COVID-19.

In Circular 2022/07: Managing the impacts of COVID-19 on Commonwealth Agencies, the Commission says the focus of Agencies and employees in responding to the evolving COVID-19 situation should be the continued delivery of services to the public, as well as ensuring COVID-safe workplaces.

“Given the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, and fluctuations in cases, Agencies should remain flexible in responding and adapting to changes in such advice,” the Circular says.

“Agencies must continue to implement and update their business continuity plans, including risk management contingencies, to account for the emergence of new variants and fluctuations in cases including the impact of staff absences due to illness,” it says.

“The ability for employees to work from home will depend on the public health and other advice available, and the type of work they are required to undertake.”

The Circular says Agency heads should act on Government, public health and other relevant advice to make timely decisions to ensure the safety of employees, while also ensuring the continued delivery of services to the public.

It said each Agency’s approach would need to be tailored to their particular circumstances as a single approach to managing the impacts of COVID-19 across the Commonwealth was not practicable given the diversity of working environments, occupations and workplace locations.

The Circular says Agency heads should refer to the applicable State and Territory public health advice, noting workplace requirements may vary within Agencies, depending on the jurisdiction.

“Where a State or Territory public health Agency is providing advice that is not binding but provides a best practice approach, Agencies should pay careful attention and consider adopting this approach,” it says.

It says Agency heads should also be mindful of their obligations as employers, including all relevant workplace health and safety obligations.

“This includes that all reasonable precautions are taken in line with public health and other advice in relation to those employees required to attend their usual place of work,” it said.

The APSC said Circular 2022/07 superseded and entirely replaced Circular 2020/5: Preparing for a COVID-safe transition for APS workplaces as well as Circular 2020/9: Returning to Usual Workplaces.

Circular 2022/07 can be accessed at this PS News link.

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