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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Friday, 8 October 2021) . . Page.. 2959 ..

ACT government workplaces; increased and targeted cleaning protocols; promoting hand and respiratory hygiene; and reminding workers to get tested if they have symptoms and to stay home when unwell.

In addition to managing risks associated with COVID-19 itself, changed working arrangements and the unprecedented changes brought about by the pandemic have required a strategic, targeted, whole-of-government approach to identifying and addressing psychological risks and supporting employee wellbeing. A coordinated approach to supporting employee mental health and wellbeing has been in place since April 2020. This includes communication and engagement activities, resources and support materials, and promotion of targeted programs and initiatives.

Managers and workers have had access to a range of supports for managing changed working arrangements, including guidance and support for those working from home and managing remote teams; guidance on preparing for, and responding to, changing public health directions, including lockdown; leave entitlements to encourage workers to take leave when they are unwell and to participate in the COVID-19 vaccination program; and physical health and wellbeing programs, including a new virtual physiotherapy service offering virtual check-ups of home working arrangements with allied health professionals.

A survey conducted in December 2020 provided all ACT government workers with an opportunity to provide feedback about their health, safety and wellbeing at work during 2020. The results provide further assurance that the ACT government has responded well to the pandemic. Overall, employees felt safe and well and are confident about the government’s ability to continue serving the community as the pandemic continues.

Any changes to COVID-19 work health and safety measures will be considered in line with public health requirements and a full assessment of the risks. Directorates and agencies have COVID-19 transition plans in place to assess risks and put controls and measures in place to address these and to respond as the situation changes.

The move to working from home for a large portion of our ACT public sector in response to COVID-19 in 2020 has shown that having flexibility and options about where territory public servants work, where this is possible, is good for people, good for the ACT government and good for the community. Feedback from territory workers who have been able to work from home has been overwhelmingly positive, and wellbeing for many of these workers has improved.

As we now look to what the future of working in the office looks like for the ACT public sector, we cannot lose sight of the benefits that offering flexibility provides. The ACT government’s approach to returning territory public servants to the office has been proportionate and cautious in the past and will remain so. The health and safety of workers, and the community who use ACT government services, have been at the forefront of decision-making throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am grateful to all those who have been involved in this response, including managers, staff and unions. Our collective goal has been safe workplaces, and this will not change.

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