Employers and COVID-19
If you are concerned about what to do as an Employer in response to COVID-19 and the restrictions imposed by the Government, Aitken Legal’s dedicated Employment Lawyers are available to answer your questions and discuss your options during this challenging time.
We understand that it is a tough time for most businesses and difficult decisions need to be made. The issues that COVID-19 and the Government restrictions bring to the employment relationship are complex legal issues. Therefore, we encourage you to be considered in your approach; review all available information and take legal advice before acting, so as to minimise your risks. It is vital that you act in the best interests of your business whilst doing the best to look after your employees.
All workplaces should be ensuring that:
- they are up-to-date with what is occurring with information released from the co-ordinated Department of Health response;
- they have a COVID-19 Health Officer who coordinates all information for the workplace and who makes that information available for employees;
- the employers update their employees about the virus and its impacts (if any) on the workplace;
- it ensures that those employees that have returned from overseas self-isolate;
- they ensure that all employees who are sick do not attend the workplace;
- if there are impacts upon the workplace, that employees are advised in a timely way of those impacts.
Some of the key issues Employers need to consider include:
- Stand down provisions
- Working from home
- Workplace Health & Safety
- Annual and long service leave entitlements
ALERTS in relation to COVID-19
With our frequently changing environment, we will regularly update and alert Employers as information becomes available. Below is our most recent Alert. You can find our previous alerts here, noting that some of the information may no longer be current given how quickly the situation is changing. To sign up, click here.
The Fair Work Commission has inserted temporary COVID-19 schedules into 3 Awards with variations to provide some flexibility for employers in response to the significant impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on businesses.
The temporary schedules are directed at variations providing flexibility in relation to the range of duties employees can be required to perform, the reduction of ordinary hours of work and directing employees to take annual leave.
Temporary schedules have been added to the:
- Clerks – Private Sector Award;
- the Restaurant Industry Award; and
- the Hospitality Industry (General) Award.
The Fair Work Commission has called for Submissions on variations to 103 other Awards and with Submissions closing on 8 April 2020. We will keep employers updated with consequential changes as soon as we know more.
The Federal Government has clarified some key issues relating to the proposed wage subsidy program (‘JobKeeper Payment’).
Employers should note that at the time of this Alert, the legislation governing this program is currently being finalised and will come before Federal parliament in the week of 6 April 2020. As a result of lack of finite detail, the information provided in this Alert is general in nature and based on the information which is currently available. We recommend that all Employers exercise caution in relation to making decisions around the JobKeeper Payment scheme until the applicable legislation is passed through Parliament.
We encourage all employers to regularly review the following websites for updates and more comprehensive information:
- Federal Department of Health www.health.gov.au
- Queensland Government www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19
The Government has announced widespread support measures and payments, particularly financial support for COVID-19 affected workers and job seekers. Employers should refer employees affected by COVID-19 to www.servicesaustralia.gov.au
Safe Work Australia has specific advice for employers regarding COVID-19. This information and guidance tool can be accessed at www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au.
To contact one of our Employment Lawyers, complete our contact form or call us on 07 5413 4000.