Over the weekend there have been a number of significant developments as our State and Federal Governments react to the impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Following is a summary of information that you will need to be across as a business owner and employer that will help you navigate your options and support your team.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DIRECTIVES
As from midday local time 23 March 2020, the following facilities will be restricted from opening:
STATE GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENTS
In addition to the above, individual states and territories have made further provisions within their borders:
Victoria and ACT
- Schools holidays have been brought forward and will commence on Tuesday 24 March.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN AS AN EMPLOYER?
Stand Downs due to a Lock Down
If you are impacted by lock down directives by the government, and you have no work that employees can perform outside of the workplace, you may be able to stand down your workforce.
Things to consider include:
There are difficult decisions to make as you may need to balance the survival of your business against employee needs and legal obligations. Be aware that you may have other options based on the type of business you have and whether or not you have work that employees can continue with while working remotely. This may be an opportunity for long term projects or planning to be completed which could place you in a strong position when the lock down restrictions are lifted. Keep in mind also that the how and when you communicate this to your team is extremely important. Please contact the HR Staff n’ Stuff team for advice if you are unsure as to the direction you can or must take in relation to stand downs.
Please note that the ability to enact a stand down of employees is governed by section 524 of the Fair Work Act, and is due to an emergency causing a work stoppage. This provision cannot be used due to a business slowdown.
School / Holiday Care Closures
An employee may take carer’s leave to provide care or support to an immediate family or household member, where the care or support is required because of an unexpected emergency. At this time, the closure of a school in the current climate will amount to an unexpected emergency. Where an employee qualifies for carer’s leave, they may access their accrued paid personal/carer’s leave. However, carer’s leave would not typically apply during the normal period of planned school holidays. In some instances, carer’s leave may be relevant to apply due to a school holiday program closing which an employee was relying on in order to attend work. You will need to assess an employee’s eligibility to access their carers leave on a case by case basis given specific circumstances.
NOT LOCKED DOWN BUT BUSINESS HAS SLOWED
Many industries will be feeling the effect of this uncertain time and whilst they may not be affected by the lock downs, work has slowed and you may need to work out how to manage your employee numbers against what is currently financially viable.
In the first instance, you need to look at any contractors you have and let them go first, keeping in mind any notice period that forms part of their agreement. Secondly, you should look to reduce or cancel completely, any casual employment hours. These are not easy decisions but they will be necessary.
Before you go down the path of making anyone’s role redundant, you may want to approach your team and discuss the following options:
These possibilities, along with others that may be relevant to your business, need to be mutually agreed upon and they could help you avoid more drastic considerations. Please call for support if this is an option you would like to look at for your business.
We all know that this is a fluid and ever-changing situation so please contact the HR Staff n’ Stuff team for support and to check that you have met all your legal obligations We are here to help and also to support you through this unsettling and difficult time and will continue to be available by phone or email should a strict lockdown be directed.
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