Legal Insights

COVID-19 and the workplace

• 16 April 2020 • 0 min read

The World Health Organisation has declared COVID-19 a pandemic and Australian employers need to ensure that they are taking active steps to monitor risk to employees, put in place alternative working arrangements and know how to deal with leave requests.

Various measures have been taken and recommendations issued by public authorities to contain the spread of COVID-19. While, for many, it is business as usual, there have been a multitude of changes to business operations. We are seeing large volumes of staff working from home, office closures, restricting business travel and recommending employees reconsider personal travel.

The workplace


Partners Catherine Debreceny and Catherine Dunlop talk about the challenges and advice regarding OHS and the workplace.

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The Victorian Government has now announced the details of Stage 4 restrictions for workplaces. It is expected that workplaces in metropolitan Melbourne are closed,

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Safety Regulators are requesting that employers notify them of COVID-19 issues that may impact on their workplace, with the Victorian Government amending legislation to make confirmed COVID-19 cases among employees and contractors a notifiable incident.

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COVID-19 increases risk of modern slavery and complexity of compliance – Government extends the deadline to report

The Department of Home Affairs has released guidance on how to tackle COVID-19 issues in their modern slavery statements.

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Paying for the pay rise: what are your options?

The middle of the year is, in ordinary times, often when employees expect a pay review, and that their pay will increase as a result. But what if this year, the business simply cannot afford to increase what it pays its staff?

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An update on JobKeeper Rules: What do you need to know?

We provide an update on key aspects of the JobKeeper program, including key dates and frequently asked questions.

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What you need to know about the new JobKeeper legislation – the ins and outs for employers

We can now provide more details on the Commonwealth Government’s JobKeeper scheme.

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Coronavirus/COVID-19: What should Australian employers be doing?

Australian employers need to ensure that they are taking active steps to monitor risk to employees, put in place alternative working arrangements and know how to deal with leave requests. This article is a useful guide for both private and public sector employers in Australia.

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Coronavirus – the ABCH guide for Australian employers

To keep regular track of the major issues for employers, we have outlined the ‘ABCH’ approach for keeping on top of the key issues related to the impact of coronavirus on workplaces. This article is a useful guide for both private and public sector employers in Australia.

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The next question employers may need to ask – Can stand down provisions be used to address COVID-19 or quarantine?

As the number of coronavirus cases rises, many organisations are considering whether they need to cease operations altogether, or at least limit any activities that are client facing. You should ensure your organisation has a pragmatic strategy in place to handle this ‘social distancing’ effectively, support your employees appropriately, and, where possible, limit the disruption to your business operations.

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Security tips for working from home

Many companies are encouraging, or enforcing, employees to work from home, so as to reduce the impact of the spread of COVID-19. This quick response to a rapidly changing situation may leave organisations at risk of security vulnerabilities. This article sets out some security tips for working from home.

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Changes to Clerks Award eases burden on employers during COVID-19

The Fair Work Commission has granted an urgent application to vary the Clerks – Private Sector Award 2010, making changes to annual leave, minimum hours and notice requirements. The decision provides much needed flexibility to employers and employees in the rapidly changing environment of COVID-19.

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Paying your employees during COVID-19: Is your business entitled to JobKeeper?

On 30 March 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the Commonwealth Government will roll out a $130 billion wage subsidy program, called the JobKeeper Payment. Who is eligible for the JobKeeper Payment?

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Paying for the pay rise: what are your options?

The middle of the year is, in ordinary times, often when employees expect a pay review, and that their pay will increase as a result. But what if this year, the business simply cannot afford to increase what it pays its staff?

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Federal Court says no entitlement to paid personal leave while on stand down

In a decision that will affect many businesses and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Court has ruled that employees are not entitled to access paid personal leave during a period of stand down.

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Your casual employee does not want to return to the workplace … but still receives JobKeeper. What can you do?

This eAlert, as part of our Business unUsual series, looks at the question of casual employees who are refusing to attend and perform work, yet their employer must still pass on their JobKeeper payment.

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When is a casual not a casual? The saga continues

In a decision that will add to the pressure businesses are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Full Federal Court has ruled that an employee incorrectly classified as a casual by their employer is entitled to both leave entitlements and the casual loading already paid to them.

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JobKeeper payments: your questions answered


  • What is the JobKeeper payment?
    The Rules confirm the Government will provide eligible businesses with a flat payment of $1,500 (before tax) per fortnight for each eligible employee. The Rules also confirm the payment will be available between 30 March 2020 and 27 September 2020, 26 weeks in total. The payment is designed to help businesses suffering reduced turnover to cover the costs of their employees’ wages, keep people in their jobs and maintain employer-employee connections so that businesses can reactivate operations quickly without having to rehire staff once the pandemic is over.
  • Which employers are eligible for the JobKeeper payment?
    Example set out in the Rules: Patrick Enterprises assesses its eligibility for JobKeeper payments on 6 April 2020 based on a projected GST turnover for April 2020 of $6 million. It considers that the comparable period is the month of April 2019 for which it had a current GST turnover of $10 million. The April 2020 turnover falls short of the April 2019 turnover by $4 million, which is 40 percent of the April 2019 turnover. This exceeds the specified percentage, so the decline in turnover test is satisfied. If an employer qualifies for the JobKeeper payments for the first fortnight because its turnover has declined by the relevant amount, ATO guidance says it will remain eligible and does not need to keep testing turnover in following months (although there will be ongoing monthly reporting requirements).
  • How and when are JobKeeper payments made?
    An eligible employer or Eligible Entity will be paid $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee or Business Participant. These payments will be made by the Australia Taxation Office (ATO) by no later than the later of: 14 days after the end of the calendar month in which the fortnight ends 14 days after all requirements are met by the eligible employer or Eligible Entity. This means that if an eligible employer or Eligible Entity satisfies all of the requirements, the earliest it will be paid for the fortnight commencing 30 March 2020 (and the fortnight commencing 13 April 2020) is likely to be early-mid May 2020.
  • What if I have made my employees redundant? Can the JobKeeper Payment assist me?
    If you have already made an employee redundant, you can choose to re-employ them and stand them down as an alternative. If entitlements were already paid out, employees will likely be entitled to retain severance payments which they received on termination, though employers may seek to negotiate terms upon which they may be able to re-hire retrenched employees, taking care to always comply with applicable industrial instruments. This situation is likely to be treated in the same manner as though they have been re-employed. Specific advice should be sought in these circumstances as some entitlements may be treated as if service was continuous. In addition, an employer will only be eligible to claim JobKeeper payments for the fortnights after it re-engaged its employee.
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