With news of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 dominating daily news headlines, the REIV encourages people to remain calm and to act on official public health advice. The public, employers and employees need to take reasonable steps to keep themselves informed and up to date.
As an industry, it’s important to be prepared. Most, if not all, roles across the Victorian real estate industry involve high contact with people, including:
Administration: Client meet/greets and handling of documents;
Sales: Auctions, listing appointments and private inspections;
Property Management: Open homes, property inspections and supplier management.
Likewise, for your own businesses we would encourage you to take precautionary and proportionate measures which are reasonable for your specific circumstances. When it comes down to the interaction of employment law and HR matters arising from Coronavirus, it is important to consider seeking expert HR advice to ensure the continued health and safety of staff.
Practicing high levels of hygiene is widely considered by health experts to be one of the keys to disease prevention and management. Some steps to consider include:
For owners and principals:
- Provide hand-washing facilities that are clean, properly stocked and in good working order;
- Provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser, disinfectants, disposable hypoallergenic tissues and cleaning supplies;
- Promote good hygiene practices such as displaying posters on handwashing and respiratory hygiene;
- Keep the workplace clean and hygienic by regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces such as door handles, counter tops and workstations;
- Supply staff working off-site at open homes or attending external meetings with travel-sized bottles of hand sanitiser and gloves;
- Encourage any staff who are sick to remain at home until they’re fully recovered;
- Isolate any staff who become ill in the workplace. Arrange for the staff member to be sent home and advise them to seek medical advice;
- Discourage any staff member who may be considered vulnerable and/or is suffering from illness attending open-homes, inspections, client meetings and other activities that involve client interaction including:
- Pregnant women;
- Elderly people with underlying health conditions;
- People with compromised immune systems;
- People with serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer.
For staff (in office):
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water and/or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser and disinfectants on surfaces;
- Cover their nose and mouth with a disposable hypoallergenic tissue or flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing, disposing off tissues immediately after use and either washing their hands or applying hand sanitiser;
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms; and,
- Remain home if feeling unwell.
For staff (out of office):
- For agents with private showings, follow up the day before a showing to ensure clients are not unwell or if there’s been any illness recently in the family;
- Wear gloves before touching objects, furniture and fixtures within the home, especially high-touch surfaces such as door handles, tap handles, table/desktops and window fittings;
- Request clients attending open homes and inspections to avoid touching all fixtures, fitting and furniture within the home and instead ask the on-site agent or property manager to demonstrate the functionality of any devices if required;
- Provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser and request all clients use it;
- Provide and advise the use of disinfectants to owners at the end of an open-home;
- Minimise physical contact with clients or owners where possible;
- Reduce documentation handling where practical or consider using tablets for sign-ins;
- Consider including a budget for cleaning/hygiene services as part of your packages for sales and rentals; and,
- Reassure clients and owners that you’re simply following best-practice precautionary measures.
Public health recommendations
- For the latest COVID-19 health alerts, follow :
- Department of Health – Australian Government
- Department of Health and Human Services – Victorian Government
- Contact the Australian Government’s Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 should you require any further advice.
Information for your workplace
- For information from the Fair Work Ombudsman about workplace entitlements (such as leave) and obligations if affected by the outbreak of coronavirus, click here.
- For information about workplace health and safety please visit the WorkCover Victorian website here.
- If you have taken advantage of the REIV’s joint venture with the Service Industry Advisory Group (SIAG) known as realestatehr.com.au as a member benefit, you can contact them for specific advice in relation to your business and its obligations. SIAG offers HR, industrial relations and employment law advice and support for your specific needs. As part of an annual subscription fee when you subscribe to realestatehr.com.au, your office receives amongst other benefits free initial telephone advice with experienced HR advisors as well as industry relevant employment updates to help support and advise your business. SIAG also offers consulting services on a client discount fee for service basis. If you are not subscribed you can still contact SIAG for advice on a full fee for service basis. For more information please contact SIAG on 9644 1400 or visit realestatehr.com.au.
- Consider using techonology to substitute face to face interaction, where feasible. Facilities for online auctions like Anywhere Auctions are worth considering. Please contact Gary Giritharan on 0439 493 504 for more information.