In response to a number of inaccurate articles discussing HWL Ebsworth’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic, we would like to provide the following update.
Distressingly, in early July 2020, we received the news that six of our Victorian team members tested positive for Coronavirus. One of the employees was already working remotely and hadn’t been near the office while infectious. None of the other team members experienced any symptoms while they were working within our offices. None of those team members’ work stations or offices were located within close proximity to each other, and having liaised closely with the Department of Health & Human Services on the circumstances leading up to the infections, it is believed that the transmissions occurred outside of the office.
As soon as we identified that staff members had been in the office prior to showing symptoms, we instructed all team members to vacate the relevant floors immediately. Our entire Melbourne office was subjected to an intensive deep cleaning exercise, and the team members who ordinarily work on the affected floors were instructed to stay at home for 14 days. All team members were instructed to be tested twice for Coronavirus before re-entering our offices.
The most recent positive case was almost three weeks ago and pleasingly, no other team members within our Melbourne office have tested positive since that time.
We have been working closely with DHHS and Worksafe to ensure that we have complied with all guidelines and recommendations to date. DHHS has complimented the firm’s proactive response to the positive tests, and we have liaised with Worksafe in accordance with their “standard Coronavirus (COVID-19) response process”. We have not, however, been advised of any formal investigation.
Our current working arrangements
- In our Melbourne office, all staff are working remotely.
- In Sydney, all professional staff are working remotely unless it is not possible to perform their role from home.
- In Canberra, we are encouraging half of our professional staff to work from home to ensure that social distancing requirements can be adhered to.
- In all other offices, the majority of our staff are working in accordance with their usual work practices, regardless of whether that is in the office or remotely. Where individual team members have a particular circumstance that requires them to take a more cautious approach to the Coronavirus, we have authorised them to work remotely for the foreseeable future.
What impact will this have on our clients
Throughout the last few months, we have been operating a model whereby some staff have been working within our offices and some have been working remotely from home. That has served as an important risk management strategy to balance our desire to protect the health of our team members while ensuring that we can continue to service our clients in an effective and timely manner. We are also in the fortunate position to have team members with relevant skills located in our offices in every State and Territory of Australia, which further protects the interests of our clients during this challenging time.
The risk management protocols that have been implemented across the firm will ensure that we will be in a position to continue to service our clients in an optimal manner.