Stage Four Restrictions Emphasises The Need For Ongoing Access To IR Flexibility

Published August 05, 2020 -

Employers in Melbourne must ensure they are aware of their obligations if they have to stand down staff under stage four COVID-19 restrictions, according to Employsure, Australia’s largest workplace relations advisor.

The Victorian Government has announced that from 11:59pm Wednesday night most retailers in metropolitan Melbourne, with the exception of those deemed essential, will be closed for six weeks in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

Metropolitan businesses like restaurants, cafes, beauty salons and gyms that have been shut since stage three that have been receiving $5000 grants from the Government, will be entitled to another $5000 under stage four restrictions. Those under stage three in regional Victoria will also be eligible for $5000.

“Business owners will feel the financial pressure under these new restrictions like never before, and it is up to them to know what themselves and their employees are entitled to,” said Employsure Managing Director Ed Mallett.

“Now more than ever we need employers not just in Melbourne, but all over Victoria, to be extremely aware of their obligations if they have to consider standing down their staff. While these $5000 grants by the Government will act as some form of lifeline for businesses that are already receiving the JobKeeper wage subsidy, it may not be enough.

“The changes we’ve seen in the industrial relations sector since April have given small and medium-sized enterprises the flexibility they need to continue to operate in these challenging conditions; a JobKeeper enabling stand down has been the lifeline for a business that may have otherwise crumbled.

“It has taken a crisis like this to highlight just how inflexible and complicated Australia’s workplace relations system has become. The JobKeeper changes have benefited employers and workers across the country by both saving and creating jobs.

In addition to the new lockdowns, WorkSafe Victoria has advised employers they will receive large fines for not reporting COVID-19 cases under temporary Occupational Health and Safety regulations. The limited number of businesses that will remain open under stage four must ensure their employees wear a face covering while at work, unless an exception applies.

“If an employee or independent contractor has tested positive to COVID-19 and physically been in the workplace while infected, the employer must notify WorkSafe immediately as soon as they become aware,” continued Mr Mallett.

“Employers need to ensure that if their employees bring their own face covering to the workplace, they are meeting the relevant Australian Standard and their OHS regulations. It needs to be covering both an employee’s nose and mouth, and should be worn not only the entire time they are on the clock, but from the moment they step outside their front door.

“What we don’t want to see is more cases reported as a result of a workplace becoming complacent, or simply failing to follow the rules, especially over the next six weeks.

“Business owners need to remain vigilant, and realise that the responsibility falls directly on them. We’ve seen in instances overseas, where shoppers have become angry at having to wear a mask and security has become involved. In these cases, employers should be encouraged to call security if they feel their staff are being threatened, or even police if violent behaviour occurs.

“I encourage all small businesses to stock up on whatever PPE is necessary for their workplace, especially while there are shortages in supermarkets and pharmacies.”

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