Continuity of business is a significant issue for employers and their employees during this unprecedented and difficult time. FairWork Australia have developed the below coronavirus information to help employees and employers understand how coronavirus impacts Australian workplace laws.
Find out about your workplace entitlements and obligations if you’re affected by the outbreak of covid-19, including information about stand-downs from work, working arrangements impacted by school closures, and pay and sick leave entitlements.
Arranging Flexible Work
There are a range of flexible working arrangements that employers and employees can explore together. These include:
- working from home
- changing the number of hours an employee works
- changing the start or finish times of employees’ shifts
- changing patterns of work, such as rostering arrangements
- changing the type of work done by employees.
Employers and employees need to consider and comply with any requirements under the Fair Work Act, an applicable award, enterprise agreement, employment contract or workplace policy.
Using paid leave
Employers and employees are encouraged to explore options that enable an employee to take their accrued leave entitlements during the coronavirus outbreak. Options include:
- taking accrued annual leave
- taking any other paid leave (such as long service leave or paid leave available under an award, enterprise agreement or employment contract)
- directing employees to take accrued annual leave in certain circumstances
- taking any other paid leave by agreement between the employee and the employer.
Using unpaid leave
In many circumstances, employees won’t have access to paid leave during the coronavirus outbreak. For example, if they are permanent but have already used all their accrued leave entitlements. In these situations, employers and employees can agree for an employee to take unpaid leave.
Under the Fair Work Act, unpaid leave is also available for employees in certain circumstances, such as unpaid carer’s leave for casual employees.
Standing down employees
Employers may be able to stand their employees down without pay during the coronavirus outbreak for a number of different reasons. These can include where:
- the business has closed because of an enforceable government direction relating to non-essential services (which means there is no work at all for employees to do even from another location)
- a large proportion of the workforce is in self-quarantine meaning the remaining employees can’t be usefully employed
- there’s a stoppage of work due to lack of supply for which the employer can’t be held responsible.
Importantly, employees can be stood down without pay under the Fair Work Act if they can’t be usefully employed because of a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer can’t reasonably be held responsible.
More information here: Business closures during coronavirus
If other options have been exhausted, or if they aren’t feasible, some employers may need to make their employees’ positions redundant in response to a business downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Where this happens, employers must make sure they comply with any requirement to notify and consult about the redundancies under an applicable award, enterprise agreement, employment contract or workplace policy, and make reasonable efforts to find their employees other jobs.
They also need to provide those employees with their correct entitlements, which may include notice, redundancy pay and payment of any accrued leave entitlements.
The Fair Work Act protects employees from being dismissed for a number of reasons, including:
- because they are temporarily away from work because they are sick (such as with coronavirus)
- any reason that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable or another protected right.
Business bankruptcy & insolvency
During these challenging and unprecedented times, some businesses may need to close because they are no longer profitable or run out of money.
This can mean that employees lose their jobs, and in some cases where a business is bankrupt or goes into insolvency, employers may not be able to pay their employees the wages and entitlements they’re owed.
When an employer is bankrupt, or goes into liquidation or insolvency, employees may be able to get help through the Fair Entitlements Guarantee (link below).
Sometimes, an employer might close their business and abandon it without placing it into liquidation. Where this happens, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) may be able to help recover unpaid employment entitlements.
Please refer to coronavirus.fairwork.gov.au for further information relating to the above. This page also houses links to advice on health, childcare, business support, workplace health & safety, tax & superannuation and online safety.
Finally, visit www.australia.gov.au for the latest coronavirus news, updates and advice from government agencies across Australia.
This article is informational only and should not be construed as individual advice as it does not consider your individual needs. You should consider if the insurance is suitable for you and read the Product Disclosure Statement or policy Wording before buying insurance.