Calls to Employer Advice Line Surge as Businesses Grapple with Coronavirus

Published March 13, 2020 (last updated July 17, 2020) Author: Employsure

employsure advisors advising clients on coronavirus

More than 25% of calls to Employsure’s Advice Line now relate to the Coronavirus outbreak as employers scramble to understand their workplace obligations.

Potential business shut downs, advice on isolating staff who have travelled through high-risk areas, and leave entitlements top the list of employer concerns.

The spike in calls has prompted Employsure to set up a dedicated Coronavirus Advice Line for its clients, which has already surpassed more than 200 calls per day. This number is expected to increase after the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak as a pandemic, and Australia feels the pinch of isolation and quarantine measures.

Employsure’s Managing Director Ed Mallett said the outbreak had caused anxiety for business owners who want to know where they stand with their employees.

“There’s certainly some trends emerging in the type of information employers are looking for,” he said. “They want to know what to do in the event that one of their staff members is diagnosed with Coronavirus. They also want to understand their obligations should they have to shut down their business. Employee leave entitlements is a common question as employers brace for a situation where they have employees who have to self isolate.

“We’ve set up a dedicated line for our clients and our Advisers are fielding more than 200 calls per day. We’re expecting that number to top 300 within days.

“Our primary advice to employers is that if they have staff who are presenting as sick, or who are diagnosed with Coronavirus, normal personal leave entitlements will apply. However, if you are forcing an employee to self-isolate who doesn’t meet the criteria for self-isolation and who hasn’t returned from a higher risk area, the employer will need to cover the cost of that leave.

“There’s no precedent for situations where a staff member must self-isolate as a result of a Government mandate even if they are currently well. In those situations, the employer can discuss individual arrangements with the employee, including Annual Leave, Long Service Leave, or Leave Without Pay.

“There are provisions in the Fair Work Act to cover the worst case scenario of a government mandated shut down. Your employees will be not be required to come to work and they will receive leave without pay. If you have the cash flow you can consider paying out entitlements such as annual leave however you have no obligation to do so.

“Australia’s workplace relations system is complicated enough. Navigating it through a pandemic takes it to a whole other level. But we’re here to help.”

Employsure has put together an article explaining frequently asked questions for employers that can be here.

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