COVID-19 has no doubt impacted on many businesses and their profitability. As an employer or employee, do you know your legal rights? This article contains some common questions and answers which will hopefully assist you in better understanding your legal rights.
Q: Do I need to pay my employee who is self-isolating under the Government's directions?
A: Your employee should be on unpaid leave unless you allow your employee to work from home. Your employee may also apply for paid leave during the period of isolation. In the case of illness which results in self-isolation, your employee may take sick leave.
Q: My business operation has been adversely impacted by the pandemic, can I stand down my employees for a period of time?
A: Section 524 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) provides that an employer may stand down an employee during a period in which the employee cannot usefully be employed due to a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible, unless there is an enterprise agreement or a contract of employment that states otherwise.
Q: What happens to leave entitlements if I stand down my employees?
A: Accrued leave entitlements continue when an employee is stood down.
Q: What else can I do to minimise my business expenses?
A: As an employer, you may negotiate with your employees for a pay cut or reduce their work hours, to the extent permitted by the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). You may also request your employees to take paid annual leave. Section 94 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) provides that an employer may require an employee to take a period of paid annual leave only if the requirement is reasonable.
Q: Can I require my employees to take long service leave?
A: According to section 19 of the Long Service Leave Act 2018 (Vic), in Victoria, if you require your employee to take long service leave, you must give written notice of at least 12 weeks.
Q: What should I be mindful of when allowing my employees to work from home?
A: As long as your employee is at work, regardless of their physical location, an employer is responsible for the safety and physical and mental health of the employee. Prior to the commencement of the work from home arrangement, it is prudent for employer to first make an assessment as to the suitability and safety of the environment the employee would be working from. An employer may need to provide the employee with necessary equipment and services to enable the employee to work from home.
Q: Can I make some of my employees redundant?
A: If you choose to make some of your employees' positions redundant as a result of a business downturn caused by the pandemic, you must ensure that you have complied with the Fair Work legislations in relation to providing the appropriate notice period and correct entitlements to your employees. Record your decision and the process in writing and be mindful that the Fair Work Act protects employees against being dismissed because of discrimination.
This article aims to provide you with very general legal information and cannot constitute legal advice to any tailored circumstance. If you wish to know more, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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. Madgwicks is a member of Meritas, one of the world's largest law firm alliances.