Returning to Work Anxiety

Hi OzB community,

I was one of the "lucky" ones to receive a phone call from my employer this week that I am expected back to work from next Monday. The closer I get to tomorrow, the more anxious I get.

Are there any legal ways not to go back to work without getting reprimanded?

My anxiety comes from not understanding how we were all sent home two weeks ago with 100 cases and now we are expected back when the cases have more than doubled. It just doesn't make sense to me. There's no logic to it, all I can see is that construction lobbyists have done a bloody good job.

I am one of these tradies, who spends their day travelling from household to household (3-5 on a normal workday). So there is quite a high risk of getting and spreading the virus.

TLDR: Is there a legal way of not returning to work tomorrow, because I don't feel safe from COVID?


  • +56

    Get the vacc? Also wear your p2 n95 for dust work you should be very safe

    • +17

      ^This. Get vaccinated, including your second shot.

      Unless you can avoid society for the next 2 years, getting the vaccine is the best bet at returning to 'normal life'.

      You could hide under a rock for 2 years but that would me much more detrimental to your health than covid.

      Anyway, just try and social distance from the other trades and be firm about it - I'm on site and it's clearly evident the trades most likely get covid cause someone talks too close or doesn't wear their mask at all, including at meal breaks - you should be sitting apart, or in completely different rooms if possible. Wear gloves, and sanitise your hands.

    • +3

      Also wear your wraparound safety glasses at all times, these infections can enter through the eyes.

      • +2

        Was this ever proven, I recall hearing about the possibility of the eyes being susceptible but seems inconclusive? Bit of a worry if that's the case.

        • +2

          it gets transferred through liquid.. if someone spits/ sneeze into his/her eyeballs … why not?

        • -2

          The risk of contracting the virus is proportional to how much of the virus you take in. The amount you get from the contaminated air contacting your eyes is pretty minimal.

        • +1

          It's true, full PPE includes eye protection

    • Yep I got my first shot 5 days ago best decision especially if you're going to be out in public

      • -58

        Just go back to work as directed, otherwise resign and allow someone else with a better work ethic to take your position.

    • +7

      How is it this easy for people? I have been on the register to be vaccinated since mid 2020 and still no word from the government.

      • +24

        Just walk in and get the Astrazeneca shot

      • +2

        Register again. I don’t think they are using a central registration of any sort, ever, so I do not know what you registered at. Vaccine hubs are health district centered.

      • State or Federal register? I was on the Fed register for ages without hearing anything, went on the state register and got an invite within a week.

        • This may be the trick! Was on the fed register. Trust the fed govt to not be talking to the states.

      • I rang my GP in March, got my first jab in April, Plenty of people at work have been ale to organise a Jab thru local medical centre.

      • +1

        I was registered with the gov from day one. Never heard from them. Looked up my local health clinic and they actually developed their own online system. Four weeks later full vaccinated. Was easy.

      • +1

        show up at a clinic near closing time and ask if they have any spares

    • -4

      Or OP can just follow these steps
      1. Transform ( through various means, look at history ) the current government into a Socialist-Communist* one.
      2. Then tell them to make a bill of " No work, lots of paid ".
      3. Terminated all the opposition ( through various means, look at history ).
      4. Profit.

      *Half of the job already done.

      • +5

        The choices are not, as you appear to believe, force working class people to risk death via the vaccine or have a totalitarian communist government. It is possible to have a moderate social-democratic government that prioritises people over corporations and the greater good over private profits.

        • -3

          Nothing out of question for these lib-lab politicians.

      • +1

        Yep, you've got it all figured out, genius!

    • This really doesn't help him come Monday though does it? Let's say he can book in, take the risk and get the Astrazeneca tomorrow, he's still 6-12 weeks away from being "fully vaccinated".

  • +3

    I don't think there's anything you can do, maybe apply to use your annual leave as soon as they'll let you. In the meantime mask up and book vaccination as soon as possible.

  • +9

    You're returning to work with new covid related working policies in place.
    What risks do you perceive from the work you need to do, with these new work policies in place?
    If you don't feel 'safe' tomorrow then it's going to be a long time till you're going back to work.

    • If you don't feel 'safe' tomorrow then it's going to be a long time till you're going back to work.

      You reckon the NSW measures are going to be that ineffective hey?

  • Read: Safework NSW Guide to help you stay safe at work during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • +4

    Get a test everyday and isolate?

    Consider the vaccine?

    Could quit too.

  • +1

    use mask, social distancing, and wash hand or use sanitiser. Speak up if someone invades your space. I had 2 girls behind me like glue at the post office. When I moved, they moved. Also watch for closed spaces, where stale air circulates, where other people are breathing

  • +1

    Our workplace has a vulnerable workers policy eg if you’re older or have a heart condition you can ask for different duties /wfh that expose you to less risk. It’s a large employer though.

    Depending on what your employer is like, maybe just tell them how you are feeling about it and see if there are any alternatives.

    Otherwise, follow all the advice from others above. Also make sure you call each house you visit first and ask if they have symptoms, been to exposure sites etc - I assume your company has a screening questionnaire for this?

  • +1

    I believe when you do work the home owners can't be there with the current rules, correct? So the likelihood you pick up the virus from breathing it in is very low, especially with a good mask on. Droplets don't stay airborne for that long. Where you could catch it if there was a positive household you visited is from contaminated surfaces. So just be careful with your hands. Consider gloves. Maybe clip some alcohol wash to your belt.

  • +7

    I don't know anyone who wants to be working at the moment. I am self employed and can work from home, but can barely concentrate at the moment and do not have as much work as I used to get pre-COVID, so typically spend my days out enjoying a nice long walk instead then cooking a nice meal for dinner. It is a very depressing and stressful time for many.

    • +34

      What do you mean "at the moment"?
      I don't want to work anytime.

  • +3

    i can understand this - if my employer told me to go back to the office tomorrow, i'd be like um F off?

    Guess you could use up your sick leave and annual leave, ask for unpaid leave for a while, and maybe put in extra precautionary measures if you do return to work. e.g. asking residents to wait outside if you need to work indoors, double masking/buying a plastic face shield.

    last year when this all started and most offices had already started WFH - mine hadn't and the higher ups were Fing clueless and not communicating with us at all. eventually i just said F it, i'm on annual leave from today until you let us WFH. I say this as an e.g. of the fact that it is appropriate to use your own AL if you are making a choice.

    • +1

      Guess you could use up your sick leave and annual leave

      This is likely to get you blacklisted/fired in construction, where most people are contractors

    • +4

      Zombie businesses and zombie workers are the real pandemic.

      It would be if viruses got outta control and dead people came back to life.

  • Are you vaccinated? If not why not?

  • +5

    The work from home order has an exception for construction at unattended building sites and emergency works at occupied premises.
    If your employer is not operating within these arrangements, by sending you to occupied premises for non-emergency works, for example, you should call the covid hotline and ask how to proceed.

    • +2

      There are other examples of trades that can resume.

      “Works in occupied premises including residential homes can also resume from this Saturday where there is zero contact between workers and residents. There will be a limit of up to two workers for indoor services and five workers for outdoor services, and works will only be possible where it is feasible for residents to vacate the area. If contactless arrangements are not possible, work cannot go ahead."

      So painters can go into homes if residents can vacate the area. Concreters can do the driveway as long as the resident stays in the home or is somewhere else. Landscapers can work without contacting. I'd even suggest the client can give instructions to the trades as long as distance is maintained.

      • Thanks for this. Do you have a link so OP can read the direction?

  • +2

    This question was certainly bait to people with non-mainstream views on VOVID.

      • +13

        On medical matters, the majority view of doctors is generally considered the "mainstream view".

    • +3

      This question was certainly bait to people with non-mainstream views on VOVID.

      Got a bite.

  • +5

    When you rock up at a house, do your own “covid safe spiel” prior to entering. “ in the interests of minimizing risks and keeping everyone safe” Eg. Ask if anyone unwell, ask that windows be opened to increase ventilation, ask for 1.5m distancing, everyone to wear masks etc.

    • +5

      1.5m is going to work when Delta like 4m indoors and even that is not safe .
      Treat it like smelling cigarette smoke distance which can never be applied .
      N95 mask or better and hand sanitiser protocols the best bet .

      • +8

        Don’t know why this is getting negs. The new variant has lots of data saying it is substantially more infectious and the old standards of 15mins within 1.5m are no longer adequate.

  • +4

    Just ask your union for help:

    • +1

      Worth a try

  • -1

    The union says "Get back to work".

    The “pause” on construction was not reversed, prompting an angry response from the Construction Forestry Energy and Mining Union (CFMEU). Union Secretary Darren Greenfield told 2GB Radio: “We’re still angry but we need to start telling this government—everyone in the industry does—that we need to get back up and running.”

    Greenfield said this was because, “If this goes past Friday week, the date we’ve got set now, businesses will start to collapse.”

    • -1

      haha, yeah OP might not want to express views opposing the CFMEU

    • +1

      union last week: we need tradies back at work, its their livelihood at stake
      union this week: tradies can't go back to work, its their safety at stake

      disclaimer, not a tradie nor a unionie

  • You could request annual leave. You could use personal leave if you are ill or injured. You could request your boss that you take unpaid leave.

    • +2

      That doesn't mean they have to approve the leave. Or that they still have leave accrued.

      Considering they will have a backlog (NSW Gov is authorising working on Sundays and Public holidays to assist with the backlog) I would say they have reasonal grounds to reject annual leave or unpaid leave (unless there are good reasons).

      So unless the anxiety leads to them using sick leave, I don't think it will work

  • Imagine all the frontline workers who have had no choice but to go to work every day.
    Some of them have knowingly had to work in environments where they know they are in contact with covid positive people.
    Just do what all of them did with their anxiety and suck it up

    • +4

      We should make conditions better for them not reduce everyone's conditions because they suffered.

      If you care you'd stop voting for the party (LNP) that keeps defunding hospitals.

      • -1

        Hospitals are a conspiracy, everyone only ever dies of old age.

        • This is a bizarre comment

          • +1

            @kcbworth: Couldn't see the satire I guess. This is what the covid deniers would have you believe.

    • +1

      And are earning a hell of a lot less.

  • +15

    A legal way to not go to work is to resign.

  • -3

    Try wearing a neat hat 🙂

  • +7

    Not really ethical, but you could just tell them you were in close contact with a positive covid person and you need to get tested and isolate. In the meantime get vaccinated and buy the right ppe, e.g. proper masks, disposable gowns and a face shield and plenty of hand sanitiser. Do not tolerate anyone invading your personal space.

    You also quite within your rights if people are refusing to follow the rules - e.g. insisting on staying in their house when you're there - simply refuse to do that in that case, because it is the law. Not sure if that is the law, but it bloody well should be.

    • This is technically fraudulent

      • Technically but without proof, diddy du dat?

  • +20

    If you are suffering anxiety I suggest seeking some medical help, your GP is a good start, lots of other help out there as well..Lifeline 131114

    Please try and ignore some of the more disgraceful, archaic comments in this thread.

    Putting effort into managing your mental health (in particular during a pandemic) is important IMO.

    • +1

      This is a really important point, and I wish more people could read and take heed.

      Mental health shouldn't just be mental first aid or mental cures, we really have to be proactive and look after ourselves well before anxiety and other issues take hold and start affecting our qualities of life.

  • +7
    1. Get vaccinated
    2. Wear a mask
    3. Wear safety glasses
    4. Carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser on your belt so you don’t forget to use it. You can get little clips to attach them to your clothes or backpack so you won’t forget.
    5. Social distancing

    It’s not hard. But you have to WANT to do it.

    • This,

      In addition to above, ask and have clients to sign statements declaring they do not have or been exposed to COVID. Like car service centres do.

      Most of all get vaccinated now, I was a close contact but had my 2 shots and nothing happened. I still needed to self isolate but no infection.

  • If ur worried about going back to work as a tradie in Sydney, given the current environment. U can take the jump and look for another job that doesn’t require u be outside to work. If u carry out covid practices, u should be fine, u cant carry out any work in a household, if the resident is in the same room, or even present, from my understanding. You have been cooped up at home too long scaring yourself with statistics and bad news articles, get vaxxed, arm yourself with covid safe practices, and get on with life.

  • If its Sydney we are talking about the rules and health requirements are quite clear.
    Just work within those rules and requirements - specifically: NO CONTACT

  • +3

    If you are truly anxious then see your GP and take sick leave

    • It's really hard to self diagnose mental health issues, especially before it's too late to easily sort yourself out.