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Coronavirus: FAQs and Resource Hub For Employers

Published August 03, 2020 (last updated September 25, 2020) Author: Employsure
fridays with Ed Mallett, managing director of Employsure

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To help your business navigate the COVID-19 crisis and understand the changes to Jobkeeper, join Ed Mallett, Employsure’s Founder and MD, as he answers questions and shares tips to help you through these unchartered waters.

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Important Information For Victorian Employers

Permitted Worker Scheme

From 11.59pm Wednesday 5 August essential workers in Melbourne who need to leave their homes for work will now be required to carry a permit. The permit needs to be signed by both the employee and their employer when commuting to and from work.

Breaching the requirements carries a penalty of up to $19,826 for individuals and $99,132 for businesses, or on the spot fines of up to $1,652 for individuals and up to $9,913 for businesses. To download the form, visit the Department of Justice website.

 

Stage 4 Business Restrictions

The Victorian Government’s Stage 4 Restrictions means that workplaces in metropolitan Melbourne are closed unless the workplace is part of a permitted industry. All Victorians are required to work from home, except where this is not practicable.

This table outlines examples of workplaces that are closed for on-site work, open for on-site work with a COVID Safe Plan, and where there are restricted operations or industry specific obligations.

 

Business Support Fund – Expansion

To support businesses impacted by these restrictions, the Victorian Government will make available one-off grants to eligible businesses under the Business Support Fund – Expansion program.

This includes:

  • $10,000 for employing businesses in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire in recognition of spending longer under restrictions
  • $5,000 for employing businesses in regional local government areas (except Mitchell Shire)
  • Businesses which have already received a Business Support Fund – Expansion grant, or have applied for one, will not need to re-apply. Successful applicants will automatically receive this additional allocation.

Applications for the program will be extended until 14 September 2020. For information, visit the Business Victoria website.

*The information provided above is accurate at time of publication 5 August 2020.

COVID-19 Resource Kits for Employers

If you are an Employsure client, please ensure you read the tips here for maximising your Employsure Mutual before using the below resources.

These bundled kits contain many helpful resources to assist employers prepare for operating during COVID-19.

COVID Safety Plan Kit

This kit contains resources to help you make sure you’ve prepared your workplace for staff and visitors.

Download here.

Workplace Ready Resource Kit

The resources in this kit can help you communicate social distancing measures, and proper hygiene measures. It includes customisable capacity signs so that staff or visitors are notified of the capacity of the room, and what seating is and isn’t available. Also includes hygiene posters.

Download here.

Employees Working From Home Kit

If you have employees working from home, this kit may help. It includes an agreement form, a policy and two checklists, one for you and one for your employees, to help give you confidence that you’re both meeting your workplace health and safety obligations.

Download here

Other Resources For Employers

Coronavirus Workplace Policy.Download
Template Memo. Help communicate the Coronavirus Workplace Policy to staff Download
Absence Options. Whether your employee is infected, or just refusing to come to work, this table outlines your options.  Download
Agreement to Take Leave. Template letter Download
Confirmation of Stand Down. Template letter Download
Stand Down Options. This table will help you understand your stand down options Download
JobKeeper Enabling Directions Step-by-Step Guide. This quick guide will take you through implementing Enabling Directions Download

Exclusive Webinars – Navigating The Coronavirus Pandemic

Navigating The Coronavirus Pandemic Webinar

In our free webinars, specialists from Employsure offer you a clear path in order to navigate the days, weeks and months ahead during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

A must watch event for any employer, our webinar topics continually change with the latest information. For more information, visit this page.

Official Government Sources

Make sure you’re getting only correct, official health and travel from government sources. Resources are listed below:

Frequently Asked Questions

  • I Cannot Afford to Keep My Employees. What Can I Do?

    If you have been experiencing a downturn in business due to the coronavirus and you:

    • Cannot sustain paying all of your employees
    • Only have enough work for some but not all employees
    • Have temporarily shut down but now you do not believe that your business will recover any time soon, or
    • Are permanently ceasing operations

    You will need to consider commencing the redundancy process with some or all employees. If you’d like more information on redundancy, get in touch with Employsure.

  • Can I Stand Down My Employees Without Pay If My Business Has Been Told To Shut Down?

    Situations where unpaid stand down does apply

    In the circumstance that your business has been told by the Government to shut down as a whole due to the coronavirus and your employees cannot be usefully employed (as outlined above), then you may be able to stand down your employees without pay under the Act.

    Another situation which may occur is that the Government shuts down one part of your business (Part A) and as a direct result another area of your business (Part B) cannot operate as it was intrinsically linked to Part A. In this situation, where operations in Part B cannot continue (not just slow down) and the employees in both Part A and Part B cannot be usefully employed, you may be able to stand down these employees without pay.

    Your obligations prior to invoking stand down

    Be aware that invoking the stand down provision under the Act is a last resort. As an employer, it is your responsibility enact all reasonable steps to avoid stand down.

    As such you must first review whether these impacted employees can be usefully employed in another capacity. This may be another role within their skill and expertise, or may be completely outside of their experience but they are able to do the work with proper training. It could mean finding work with an associated entity or from another location or working from home. If there is any alternative to standing down your employees, you cannot lawfully invoke stand down.

    If you can reasonably provide your employee with another position, ensure that you communicate the offer in writing. Be aware that the employee has to accept this offer prior to commencing the new role, you cannot unilaterally change the employee’s occupation or role without consent. Ensure that you also confirm the temporary nature of this change in writing.

    When temporarily moving an employee to another role, their pay and hours of work may need to be maintained, even if they are doing a role that typically attracts a lower rate of pay.

    Proceeding with stand down

    If the employee cannot be usefully employed, you should communicate to your employees in writing that stand down will commence. Ensure that you keep in contact with your employees during the period of stand down.

    Please note that unpaid stand down should only be used for reasonable temporary or short-term stoppages of work and not for an ongoing stoppage that has no resolution in sight. How long is deemed reasonable will be dependent on the circumstances facing your business.

    If you are unsure when you will be operational again and believe it may be an extended period of time before you are, you may need to consider making your employees redundant.

  • What Constitutes Stand Down?

    Stand Downs: In Short

    If the Government or Department of Health orders you to fully shut down, and your employees can’t reasonably work elsewhere, you may be in a position to stand them down without pay.

    And even if the Department of Health doesn’t advise you to fully shut down, you can still request that employees work remotely, or shut down the workplace based on health and safety grounds and / for any other stoppage of work for which the employer cannot be held responsible.

    The requirements under the Fair Work Act for unpaid stand downs can only be accessed when an employee cannot usefully be employed during that period because of a particular circumstance. An employer must show that all steps were taken to find useful employment for the employee(s).

    This does not mean an employer is bound to place employees in positions that are drastically different to their contracted position or significantly amend the entire system of work.

    Prior to standing down an employee, you should consider any consultation and notice requirements.

    The requirements under the Fair Work Act for unpaid stand downs are complex.

    Things to Consider:

    • Are there stand down provisions in the Modern Award, Enterprise Agreement or Contract of Employment?
    • Can you establish causation? Is the Coronavirus (COVID-19) the real reason for the stoppage of work?
    • Has there actually been a stoppage of work? By definition, this must be more than a downturn.
    • Are there other opportunities for the employee to be usefully employed?
    • Is the Employee on a period of authorised leave (paid or unpaid)? If so, they are not taken to be stood down.
    • If you cannot satisfy these requirements, the decision to stand down employees may be challenged by way of Application to the Fair Work Commission.
    • As the employer is relying on an exception to the general obligation to pay wages, it bears the onus of proof that the exception applies.

    Under the Fair Work Act (the Act), you have the right to temporarily stand down employees without pay where:

    • The employees cannot be usefully employed
    • Because of a stoppage of work which you cannot reasonably be held responsible

    If you have an enterprise agreement or contract of employment with the employee which has specific stand down provisions (which is rare), those provisions will apply.

    Usefully employed

    The question here is: Is it possible for the employee to be employed to do something that will result in a net benefit to your business? This could be the employee doing another role temporarily or parts of their role temporarily or working from home. If the answer is yes, you cannot stand the employee down without pay. If the answer is no, the next step is to assess whether there is a stoppage of work.

    Stoppage of work

    A stoppage of work means that the business or part of the business can no longer operate. This does not include:

    • A slow down of work
    • Inability to operate in your usual fashion
    • Inability to operate without difficulty
  • Do Leave Entitlements Accrue During A Period Of Unpaid Stand Down?

    The simple answer is yes. If the employee is stood down, the employee’s leave entitlements must continue to accrue.

Maximise Your Mutual

If you are a client of Employsure, you are most likely a member of Employsure Mutual. Here are some tips to make the most of your Protection during the Coronavirus crisis.

Tips to Protect your Business when Managing Covid-19 Workplace Re-Organisation*

  • Contact Employsure for advice on any issues relating to your employees or work health and safety concerns
  • If you need to re-organise your workplace and, in particular, if this is likely to result in reductions to pay or changes to employment contracts, contact Employsure to obtain advice and guidance on how to address these issues (what to do and day and what not to do and say) and follow the advice as to recommended processes and documentation
  • Provide Employsure with accurate and detailed information
  • Before making a decision to dismiss an employee or change their employment conditions, contact Employsure for advice

Remember: It is a condition of Employsure Protect that Employsure’s advice is sought and followed in relation to matters that have the potential to result in a claim.  Claims arising where advice has not been sought and followed are excluded under Clauses 4 and 6 of Section 2 of the Employsure Protect Product Disclosure Statement.

*You are required to seek and follow advice from Employsure when you become aware of circumstances which may give rise to an Employment Claim or Health and Safety Claim in order to have the benefit of Protection through Employsure Protect (please refer to the Product Disclosure Statement for full terms and conditions).

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