Month in review - July 2020

In the News

Working from home arrangements may make employees more  vulnerable to bullying and harassment. There are fewer opportunities for workplaces to detect or observe sexual harassment or to implement early intervention.

The Fair Work Ombudsman announced its  strategic priorities for the 2020-21 year. These include supporting workplaces through COVID-19 and addressing underpayments, in particular in the fast food, restaurant, cafes, horticulture and the harvest trail and franchisors.

City workers are  avoiding using public transport to get to and from work, instead preferring to walk or ride their bike.

The Federal Government has announced  JobTrainer. JobTrainer focuses on training school leavers or those re-skilling and looking for work during COVID-19.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics  released its June unemployment figures. Unemployment reached 7.4% in June 2020. It was estimated that, if not for Government support, the true unemployment figure would be above 13%.

80% of Victoria's recent rise in COVID-19 cases has been linked to workplaces, including an abattoir and a law firm. The Victorian Government, Victoria Police, WorkSafe and the Department of Health and Human Services will be focusing on high-risk workplaces.

In the Courts

The Full Federal Court has  affirmed that whether a worker is entitled to redundancy payments includes consideration of whether the worker had a reasonable expectation of ongoing employment.

The Fair Work Commission (the FWC) has  rejected a Tasmanian produce company's application to reduce redundancy payouts for two employees to nil based on the employer's incapacity to pay. The FWC was not persuaded that the employer was unable to pay the redundancy amounts.

The FWC has  upheld the termination of a second-in-charge installation worker. The employee was terminated after multiple safety breaches.

The FWC has  allowed an unfair dismissal case to proceed after finding that the employer's director and company secretary were employees, bringing the number of employees above the 15 employees small business threshold.

The FWC has  held that an employer had a valid reason for terminating an employee for escalating misconduct, including threatening another employee with 'the Ivan Milat treatment'. However, the FWC has held that the termination was procedurally unfair and harsh.

Our Contributors

PCC Employment Lawyers has been compiling a COVID-19 index as a resource for employers and human resource professionals. The COVID-19 index addresses the critical employment law issues arising from COVID-19 in Australia, including:

  • Cessation of employment, including:
    • implementation of stand down directions under section 524 of the Fair Work Act 2009  (Cth) (the FW Act); and
    • redundancies.
  • The FWC's temporary changes to modern awards.
  • The laws around leave, including annual leave, long service leave, personal leave in the COVID-19 context and the effect on leave entitlements during a stand down under section 524 of the FW Act.
  • An overview of the JobKeeper scheme and the various amendments to the FW Act.
  • Best practice suggestions for employers moving forward.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.