This week saw the lifting of a number of COVID-19 restrictions across Australia, as the country begins to take the first “step” in a three step plan aimed at progressively easing restrictions. A copy of this plan can be found here.

To help guide business through this first “step”, which largely focuses on carefully reopening the economy and allowing for some local and regional travel, governments and regulatory bodies have continued to release guidance to help employers develop a clear plan for working through and after the COVID‑19 pandemic.

This week we have also been having conversations with our clients about preparing your workforce for “the new normal”. Our #Emergingfromthecrisis series includes short videos from our Employment, IR and Safety team offering their perspectives on considerations for businesses preparing to return their people to work. Click here to read more.

More information on the various developments in the employment space this week are outlined below.

Release of the ‘COVIDSafe Plan’

On Monday, the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission released the “COVIDSafe Plan” to help businesses develop a plan to keep their workers, customers and the community safe as they reopen or increase their activities in the weeks and months ahead. The plan aims to:

  • help employers work out what resources are available and where they can go for support; and
  • help employers develop a clear plan for trading through and after the COVID‑19 pandemic.

The plan itself takes about 30 minutes to complete, and can be found here and on the Prime Ministers website.

Greater privacy protections for the COVIDSafe App

This week, IR Minister Christian Porter introduced the Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020, which aims to ensure strong privacy protections to support the download, use and eventual decommissioning of the app. In his second reading speech, Porter said the legislation clarified the prohibition on requiring a person to use the COVIDSafe app:

“A person will not be liable for this offence if they require a person to use COVIDSafe before entering their private residence, reflecting the normal expectation that a person is generally free to deny another person access to their home for any reason. However, this exemption is limited – it would not apply to other situations covered by the offence involving a commercial relationship, such as a landlord/tenant relationship, a share house relationship or an employment relationship.”

You can find a link to the new Bill here.

FWC hands down first JobKeeper dispute decision

In what is believed to be the first published ruling in the JobKeeper dispute jurisdiction, Commissioner Jennifer Hunt found that a stood down part-time employee receiving double her usual wage on the JobKeeper scheme unreasonably refused a request to use up one day’s annual leave each week over 16 weeks. The FWC determined under the Fair Work Act’s Part 6-4C coronavirus economic response provisions that the Village Roadshow Theme Parks’ worker had no justification for spurning the request.

Please see a link to this decision here.

JobKeeper test case: Qantas Airways Limited v Mathew Mazzitelli

Listed for a full bench hearing next week, the appeal challenges a finding by Deputy President Peter Anderson last Friday that the FWC can deal with a Qantas planning and engagement manager’s JobKeeper dispute over his first payment. The employee argues that the airline underpaid him by wrongly factoring in his monthly pay up to this point and deducting it from his first JobKeeper instalment.

Links to the initial decisions can be found here and here.

New workers’ compensation and death benefits for worker’s diagnosed with COVID-19

NSW’s new emergency measures legislation for COVID-19 has been amended to provide presumptive workers’ compensation and death benefits to workers across multiple industries diagnosed with the virus. Other jurisdictions have been urged to follow suit.

Please see a link to amended legislation here.

Private members bill introduced into parliament to provide for COVID-19 paid leave

The Fair Work Amendment (COVID-19) Bill 2020, which was introduced on Tuesday, proposes to provide 14 days of COVID-19 paid leave to all workers, including part time, casuals and gig economy workers. Paid COVID-19 leave will be available where an employee:

  • has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • is unable to attend work because the employee’s workplace has been shut down due to COVID-19;
  • is self-isolating in accordance with a Commonwealth, State or Territory government policy relating to COVID-19; or
  • is caring for another person, who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is self-isolating in accordance with a Commonwealth, State or Territory government policy relating to COVID-19.

If the Bill passes, the paid COVID-19 leave will be added to the National Employment Standards. A copy of the Bill can be found here.

#Emergingfromthecrisis video series

As Australia’s restrictions on movement begin to ease, many organisations are preparing to either return to their physical workplaces or to ramp up their workforces as operations transition into “the new normal”. The transition will take time.

As part of our ongoing #Emergingfromthecrisis campaign, this week our experts share their views on the key issues for Australian organisations to consider as we set out on the quest for a resilient and sustainable future. Click here to read more.

Managing your labour through the post-lockdown recovery

The Australian economy remains in a period of forced hibernation. Although each industry has been impacted differently to others, no business is unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the number of new infections continues to drop each day and governments start to ease restrictions, the focus of many businesses has now shifted towards proactive planning for the future. Click here to read more.

Weekly Webinar

Hosted by Drew Pearson (Partner in our Employment, Industrial Relations and Safety team), this week’s session focussed on preparing businesses to return their people to work and will include:

  • Safety first – planning the transition back to the workplace by Nerida Jessup (Special Counsel in our Employment, Industrial Relations and Safety team)
  • Returning to the physical office – navigating ‘the new normal’ by Catherine Pase (Senior Associate in our Employment, Industrial Relations and Safety team) and
  • Real life case study our approach at HSF – by Alan Peckham (our Chief Administrative Officer)

Please click here to view the webinar.

For more information, please contact:

Anna Creegan

Anna Creegan
Partner, Perth
+61 8 9211 7135

Kirsty Faichen

Kirsty Faichen
Partner, Brisbane
+61 7 3258 6492

Natalie Gaspar

Natalie Gaspar
Partner, Melbourne

Drew Pearson

Drew Pearson
Partner, Sydney
+61 2 9225 5492