Mandated Restrictions : COVID-19
Full-time and part-time employees who can no longer work due to a forced business closure as a result of Stage 1 restrictions will fall under the stand down provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 for stoppage of work. This will allow you to stand down those employees without pay for the duration of the restrictions.
Please be aware that an enterprise agreement or common law contract may have different provisions that will take precedence over the Act in some circumstances.
The Federal Government has released sweeping restrictions that will result in a major impact to many businesses across the country. State Governments in Western Australia and South Australia have implemented restrictions to non-essential travel, and Victoria and New South Wales have implemented wider restrictions.
Stage 1 Restrictions
The Prime Minister announced yesterday new Stage 1 restrictions on social gatherings, to be reviewed on a monthly basis. It should be expected that these measures will be in place for at least six months. The following facilities will be restricted from opening, starting midday local time on the 23 March 2020:
- Pubs, registered and licensed clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to those venues) and hotels (excluding accommodation);
- Gyms and indoor sporting venues;
- Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos and night clubs;
- Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square meter rule applies; and,
- Any outdoor space associated with the above venues.
Restaurants and cafes may remain open for takeaway and/or home delivery only. Remote community hubs are exempt from the restrictions. Other facilities are not impacted but may be closed under Stage 2 restrictions which have not yet been defined.
Border Restrictions – WA and SA
As of 1:30pm AWST yesterday (24th March), unless exempted, any person arriving in Western Australia will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. At this stage, exemptions apply for essential services and essential workers. There has been no specific definition of what comprises an ‘essential worker’ but at this stage fly-in-fly-out workers have not been mentioned.
South Australia has placed similar border restrictions, with a 14-day isolation requirement on all non-exempt travellers from yesterday (24th March) also at 4:00pm ACDT. Note that is includes fly-in-fly-out workers in the mining industry; however, it has been suggested by the South Australian Government that these workers could be exempt if approved disease control mechanisms are in place.
Non-Essential Businesses and School Closure – VIC
Full information is still forthcoming from the Victorian Government, but at this stage, in addition to the Stage 1 restrictions required by the Federal Government, Victoria will close all schools starting March 24. This coincides with the beginning of school holidays. Employers should expect an extended impact from employees who may wish to take leave or not attend work to look after their children. Childcare and kindergarten services will remain open for the time being.
Essential services such as supermarkets, freight and delivery services, and public transport remain exempt. Retail outlets remain open but are expected to be directed to close on Wednesday, 25 March pending further consideration. Most other workplaces have not been explicitly mentioned at this stage, but employers should be prepared for Government direction to cease work in the near future. Further updates will be provided as information is released by the Victorian Government.
School Advice – NSW
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has encouraged parents to keep their children at home, and schools will offer online learning options for the remaining three weeks of Term One. However, at this stage NSW schools will be remaining open for the foreseeable future, to cater for parents who have no options or alternative. It is not certain if schools will remain open by the time school resumes after the holidays, on April 27.
When and why can you stand an employee down? Is it paid or unpaid?
- Employer directed stand down
- Employee voluntary non-attendance
- Government directed stand down
- Stand down where your Enterprise Agreement has no stand down clause
- Stand down where your Enterprise Agreement has a stand-down clause
- Stand down relating to common law contracts or Award Free staff
What to do?
CCF QLD Members can contact IRIQ Law to receive 15 minutes free advice on how to prepare your organisation for standing down employees during the COVID-19 pandemic or alternatively IRIQ Law are holding a series of webinars which members can access for a small fee.
Webinar 1: Your Legal Obligations and Elements
- Stand Down Provisions
- Government Directed Isolation and Applicable Leave
- Voluntary Isolation
- Enterprise Agreements and Employment Contracts
Webinar to be held at 11am AEST (QLD) on:
26 March 2020 Cost $57.96
Alternatively, a guide and template are available for purchase at the IRIQ Law bookshop at a cost of $129.00.