COVID-19 Current Workplace Snapshot

Fair Work continues to update its commentary, and more recently Awards, to deal with the industrial issues concerning COVID-19. Here is a snapshot of what is currently happening and the issues that we are advising on, and a reminder to businesses about some of the key requirements.

  1. Check Award before you act

    Businesses must check relevant Awards before they act as those Awards are being regularly updated and there are different requirements for certain industries. For example:

  1. In the restaurant industry, employers can direct employees to take annual leave on 24 hours’ notice.
  2. Under the Clerks Award, a business can direct their employees to do work which isn’t their normal work.
  3. In the hospitality industry, there is a limit on how many hours permanent employees can be reduced to working.
  4. Under the Clerks Award, there is a provision for voting when hours are being reduced.
  1. Standing employees down

    Businessesshould notbe electing to stand down particular employees because their workload has reduced. In order to stand down employees, there must be a stoppage of work. In addition to the requirement for a stoppage of work, there is also a requirement that employees cannot usefully be employed in the business.

Businesses using stand down provisions incorrectly risk penalties being issued by Fair Work and also risk a claim from their employees to be paid their normal pay for the period of the stand down which was not a proper stand down under the rules.
If a business does not satisfy the definition (which in practice means there isn’t a stoppage of work, but there is a reduction of work), it should be considering gaining the consent of its employees to reduce hours, or consider redundancies.
A reminder also that employees continue to accrue leave during stand down.

  1. Public Holidays

    Easter is coming up and so too are some public holidays. For those employees who have been stood down, Fair Work has indicated that those employeesshould bepaid for the public holiday if they would have normally been absent from work and paid for the public holiday on that day. i.e. if an employee normally worked a Friday and Monday, before they were stood down, then the business must pay those employees their public holiday pay.

    4. JobKeeper

    There has been much commentary about JobKeeper but we still await the detail. It will be particularly interesting to see how payment for public holidays, for example, is treated. If businesses need to pay their stood down employees for the April public holidays, and if they qualify for JobKeeper, can the employer reimburse itself for the public holidays paid from JobKeeper? Does the business have to pay the employees the entire $1,500 to then be reimbursed? The devil is in the detail, so watch this space……

    For now, businesses should ensure that they register for JobKeeper and give themselves the best opportunity to receive it. As the detail unfolds, we will provide our clients with practical advice on how to navigate the stimulus.

    If you have any questions regarding any of the information above or would like to discuss anything further please don’t hesitate to contact our team on (02) 4927 2900.