Covid-19, what’s changed and what’s going on?

What we hear mostly, is that workers are unsure what’s going on, their fears are:

  • they may not have a job to return too;
  • they might be dismissed or made redundant;
  • if they are going to get paid is it going to be reduced and if so by how much.

These are all valid concerns. Unfortunately, the future is uncertain and there are just no definitive answers for employers or workers right now.

The Federal Government acted quickly to implement financial measures with the goal of ensuring that businesses are able to return to normal when the restrictions end.  The Fair Work Commission has acted quickly to ensure that there is flexibility for both workers and employers to ensure that workers can continue to work during the restrictions if that’s possible, and for all workplaces to return to normal once the restrictions pass, which is what everyone wants.

The current environment is new and unknown for both employers and workers. It is for this reason its more important than ever to know how the changes effect and can affect an employees rights and entitlements. If your unsure take advantage of our obligation cost-free initial consultation, you are better off knowing than not knowing.

I’ve been told to work 2 days but I’m still working 5 days

The restrictions have impacted on most businesses so much so that workers have been told that there’s no work or reduced hours of work available. Given the nature of the restrictions this is unsurprising. It’s understandable that employees, including full and part time employees who are entitled to guaranteed hours, are grateful for the opportunity for paid employment.

So what happens if an employee is told that they will only be paid for 2 days work but that they have to work 5 days? Regrettably, we are hearing cases where this is happening.

Workers are entitled to be paid for all of the hours that they work. Neither the effect of the restrictions, the changes made by the Federal Government nor the Fair Work Commission has changed this fundamental entitlement. The changes that have been made are to promote and encourage flexibility in working arrangements between workers and employers. These changes do not entitle an employer to not pay an employee for the hours worked or pay them less than what the worker is entitled to under the Award, and enterprise agreement of the Act.

I’ve been made redundant?

The reality is that the impact that covid-19 has had on our society, economies and communities is that are businesses that simply won’t be able to continue. It is unsurprising that because of the present circumstances that businesses will look to reduce costs, including wage costs. There is nothing improper about an employer reducing costs by making positions redundant, especially when the survival of the business is at stake and legitimately so.

However, we are hearing stories of employers, who have not endured any downturn because of the restrictions but who have surprisingly elected to make positions redundant.

A dismissal made under the guise of redundancy that has been made for reasons other than genuine commercial reasons is not a genuine redundancy. If your unsure take advantage of our obligation cost-free initial consultation, you are better off knowing than not knowing.

Award changes from 8 April 2020 30 June 2020 Unpaid pandemic leave 

Employees who have been directed to self-isolate so that they are unable to work or an employer has shut down are entitled to up to 2 weeks unpaid pandemic leave.

Notice of taking unpaid pandemic leave can include giving notice whilst self-isolating. Similar to personal careers leave obligations, if requested by an employer, an employee must provide an employer with evidence of the reason for the unpaid pandemic leave.

Importantly, if an employee takes unpaid pandemic leave it does not affect other entitlements under the Award or National Employment standards. For example, an employer cannot reduce an employee’s Annual Leave Entitlements because the employee takes 2 weeks unpaid pandemic leave.

Agreement to annual leave at half pay

The changes are around there being an agreement between employees and employers. A good example of this is the change which is, subject to agreement between the employer and employee, that annual leave entitlements can be paid to an employee and half of the rate over a longer period of time, this is self-explanatory.

This change is premised upon an employer not operating, and an employee being unable to engage in paid employment and is intended to allow an otherwise full-time worker to have money coming in by way of using the annual leave entitlements.

What happens if I’m dismissed because I’ve taken unpaid pandemic leave? 

We hope that this never happens. The amended Awards make express notice that an employees entitlement to unpaid pandemic leave is a workplace right.  This means if an employer does dismiss and employee because they have taken unpaid pandemic leave or are proposing to take unpaid pandemic leave the employer faces the prospect of having to pay the employee compensation and penalties. If your unsure take advantage of our obligation cost-free initial consultation, you are better off knowing than not knowing.