CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) KNOWLEDGE BASE
This knowledge base article will become a repository for all Coronavirus (COVID-19) related content from Employment Innovations and our partners, to provide clarity for our customers & Australian businesses during these times of previously unseen challenges.
TABLE OF CONTENTS – CORONAVIRUS KNOWLEDGE BASE
Where to begin
Implement a Coronavirus Workplace Policy
We highly recommend implementing a coronavirus workplace policy within your business or ask your employer to do so, if they have not done so already. We have provided the following templates which cover to following;
- What steps should I take to combat infection?
- What if I suspect I have symptoms of coronavirus?
- What if I am diagnosed with coronavirus?
- What if I come in contact with someone with a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus?
- What if I have recently travelled abroad?
- What arrangements might the company introduce at this time?
Planning a Return to the workplace
The federal government have announced a 3 step “roadmap to recovery” plan and State and Territory governments are slowly easing restrictions to their own respective timelines. What this means is that businesses are starting to think about how they may return to their normal physical workplace, albeit with different systems of work and safe work arrangements in place.
For many businesses that have been able to successfully adopt a remote workforce strategy (with employees working from home), there are certainly going to be permanent changes to expectations around how different roles in the business can be performed.
Read more about planning a return to the workplace on a blog by our CEO, Shane Duffy:
Do you need HR & Business support during the coronavirus pandemic?
Important business information
What if we experience a downturn in business?
Many businesses who rely on customers physically visiting their premises (hospitality, retail, etc) are facing a significant slackness in trade due to the increased number of people staying at home and following the Governments guidance to socially isolate. We recommend reading our blog on downturns in work and redundancies as a result of COVID-19, which provides general guidance on your rights and obligations as an employer. Need specific advice, request a call back from our experts below:
Update regarding employee requests for Separation Certificates
Please note in line with a recent coronavirus (COVID-19) update from Centrelink, the obligation to provide a Separation Certificate to employees who have recently been terminated or stood down has been removed. Centrelink has indicated that when the need for these documents is again required, their website will be updated. We, in turn, will update you when this process again becomes a necessity. Further information available from servicesaustralia.gov.au
Business closures during coronavirus
Business closures and stand downs during the coronavirus outbreak may occur because of government directions, reduction in trade or health and safety concerns.
Read more for fairwork.gov.au | business closures during coronavirus
The Government’s response to coronavirus
Australian Government Announces $70 billion JobKeeper Payment program
On 30 March 2020, the Federal Government announced a further round of support for employers and their employees with the introduction of a JobKeeper Payment, as a subsidy to help businesses impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic in keeping people employed.
Eligible employers will be able to claim a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee from 30 March 2020, for a maximum period of 6 months.
When legislation to support this was passed by the Federal Government on 8 April 2020, further amendments were also made to address inflexibility within the Fair Work Act and has enabled employers with unprecedented powers to vary employment terms on a unilateral basis in order to reasonably manage their business and workforce during this period.
Extension of the JobKeeper Payment program (JobKeeper 2.0)
The Australian Government has extended the JobKeeper Payment for a further 6 months to March 2021. Support will be targeted to businesses and not-for-profits that continue to be significantly impacted by the economic effect of COVID-19.
Eligibility for JobKeeper 2.0 will be more strictly applied and the payment rate will be reduced (including a lower payment tier for those who work fewer hours).
The new arrangements for JobKeeper 2.0 are expected to cost an additional $16.6 billion.
Read more about the scheme on our JobKeeper Payment & Directions knowledge base & FAQs
The Australian Governments’ economic response
The Australian Government has responded in the nation’s interest to support households and businesses and address the significant economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
The three targeted areas (below) are outlined in further detail within the following Treasury article; Economic Response to the Coronavirus.
Fact Sheets: Economic support for individuals
Book a free 30 minute 1:1 JobKeeper advisory session with an HR expert!
Fact Sheets: Economic support for businesses
Australian Government announces border closures & travel restrictions to reduce the spread of coronavirus
In an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia will close its borders to all non-citizens and non-residents on Friday 20 March 2020 from 9 pm Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) onwards.
The Government has since announced further inbound and outbound travel restrictions as part of the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Overseas Travel Ban Emergency Requirements) Determination 2020 that came into effect at 12 noon Wednesday 25 March 2020.
Jules Pedrosa, our migration expert wrote a blog on how the border closures and travel restrictions will impact businesses, existing visa holder currently outside Australia and new visa applications.
Temporary Visa holder concessions
Recently, the Government announced several changes for temporary visa holders during the coronavirus pandemic including:
- Temporary Skilled (TSS) Visa holders,
- International Student Visa holders,
- New Zealand Citizens – holders of the 444 visa,
- Working Holiday and Seasonal Worker visa holders (currently onshore).
Read more about the specific concessions for holders of temporary visas.
Temporary changes to legislation
Coronavirus: Changes to legislation and modern awards
In almost every area of the law, there have been changes to existing rules and procedures to help deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
This is especially true of the employment law sphere, and we set out below some of the key changes to legislation and modern awards that have been introduced over the last week that employers need to be aware of.
On 28 March, the Fair Work Commission announced amendments to the Clerks Private Sector Award 2010. The amendments are designed to give employers and employees greater flexibility in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and will operate until 30 June 2020.
Fair Work Commission proposes further flexibility during coronavirus
Proposed new pandemic leave
On 1 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) issued a statement outlining its intention to update 103 awards during the coronavirus pandemic. The proposed updates would provide:
- an entitlement to unpaid pandemic leave,
- flexibility to take annual leave at half pay.
The proposed variations would operate until 30 June 2020.
Read more about the proposed Award flexibility on fairwork.gov.au
Public holidays during a stand down
Employees that are stood down by their employer under the Fair Work Act are still entitled to be paid for public holidays that fall during the stand down period. This is only if the public holiday falls on a day that the employee would have usually worked.
Different rules might apply if the employee has been stood down under an employment contract or enterprise agreement.
New South Wales Government responds to COVID-19 with two changes to Long Service Leave Act
The NSW Government has passed urgent changes to the NSW Long Service Leave Act in response to the coronavirus pandemic to help businesses keeping employees ‘in pay’ while managing business slow down due to COVID-19.
Helpful resources during the coronavirus pandemic
Download Policy Templates
Download Letter Templates
Other resources, guides and articles
Webinars and Live Q&A sessions
Returning to the Workplace post COVID-19
Started thinking about asking your staff to return to their normal physical workplace? But you’re not sure of your obligations, responsibilities and rights… Then, you should watch this webinar recording.
Our Head of HR, Alana Giddy spoke with one of our Senior HR Partners, Louise Alagich on the key things that employers should consider when returning to the workplace post COVID-19 including:
- Working from home vs the physical workplace,
- Developing and implementing a COVID-19 Safe Plan,
- Ensuring you have met your Return to Work requirements,
- Our tips and tricks on managing the transition.
How COVID-19 drove change in our remote working program!
In these extraordinary times, like all businesses, Employment Innovations (EI) had to adjust its operating rhythm to a 100% remote workforce.
EI’s Amanda Daff (Head of Growth) & Bronwen Kaspers (Head of P&C) shared helpful tips and strategies you can use based on our learned experiences including:
- The biggest challenges (and how to overcome them) of a remote workforce,
- What worked when engaging remote teams,
- What clearly didn’t work!
- How we see the nature of HR changing into the future.
JobKeeper + Commercial Leasing Debrief
Join our CEO, Shane Duffy and Employment Hero CEO & Founder, Ben Thompson at 3 pm on Wednesday 15 April as they talk through the recent JobKeeper announcements and the commercial leasing relief offering.
As well as the discussion, there’ll be regular audience involvement and a live Q&A session.
Unpacking the small business stimulus
Hosted by Simon Obee, Head of Legal & Ben Thompson, CEO Employment Hero with special guest panellists of the ‘From The Trenches’ Podcast. During this webinar session, we unpacked the small business stimulus including;
- What financial help is available now?
- What financial help is on the way?
- What financial help is planned?
- Financial help state-by-state,
- The best way to access financial support.
The human response to COVID-19
Hosted by Ben Thompson, CEO and Alex Hattingh, Chief People Officer at Employment Hero. Ben is a seasoned business owner and Alex has a wealth of HR experience. Together they spoke about:
- How to best support your leaders and employees through these very uncertain times,
- Alternatives to redundancy,
- How to navigate stand-downs and redundancy,
- Live Q & A.
COVID-19 and Employer Obligations
Our first live Q&A webinar session was held on Monday 23 March 2020. If you missed it or would like to rewatch it, you can access the recording below:
Our second live Q&A webinar session was held on Thursday 26 March 2020. You can access the recording below:
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Helpful information from our partners
Other helpful coronavirus related articles
About Employment Innovations
Employment Innovations is one of Australia’s leading providers of employment services designed to increase productivity and ensure compliance. Its services and solutions include all the tools that every Australian small to medium sized employer needs – including workplace advice, legal services, payroll solutions, migration, human resource management and HR software.
The information provided in these knowledge base articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact Employment Innovations for advice.
The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic will continue to change over the coming weeks and we recommend following the advice of State & Federal governments & health authorities. This article was originally published on 19 March 2020 and last updated on 14 September 2020.
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