Please find updated information that has been passed through to us in regards to leave during coronavirus (COVID-19) – Coronavirus (COVID-19) leave to find the obligations that you need to be aware of when it comes to Coronavirus (COVID-19) leave read on. General government advice regarding coronavirus can be located here: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert
Keep up to date as things are changing quickly
|Sick leave (personal/carers leave)
Can offer annual leave or unpaid leave (or LSL if applicable) if employee has no accrued paid sick leave (personal/carers leave)
|• Employee is positive to COVID-19
• Employee is in Government directed OR optional self-isolation and is sick
• Employee is sick with any illness or injury
• Employee has to care for or support a member of their immediate family or household who is sick, injured or has an unexpected emergency including, but not limited to;
o any illness o COVID-19
o school closure due to COVID-19
o Government directed isolation of child/dependant due to COVID-19 (NB does not include general coverage for own Government directed isolation as this leave is offered for the unexpected care required for the child, not for the isolation itself– see below)
|No paid leave obligation
Can offer annual leave (or LSL if applicable) if employee would like to
|Employee is in Government directed OR optional self-isolation and is not sick (i.e. has returned from overseas and feels well) *
• Employee has come in to contact with a known case of COVID-19 and is in Government directed OR optional self-isolation and is not sick EMPLOYER GUIDELINES & FAQS (Updated 17 March 2020) 2
• Employee has come in to contact with a suspected case of COVID-19 and is in Government directed OR optional self-isolation and is not sick
• Employee is stuck overseas (on a cruise ship etc) due to COVID-19
• Casual employees are not entitled to paid sick (personal/carer’s) leave. A casual employee who has to self-isolate or has contracted the Coronavirus must not attend the workplace, without additional payments.
||Employee is working from home (and employer has approved this)
• Employee is getting an assessment for fitness for work under the direction of the employer; o if the result of the assessment is that the employee is sick then they revert to sick leave o if the result is that they are told to isolate then no paid leave is required (unless they are supplied with a medical certificate stating not fit for work) o if the result is they are fit for work, they should come back to work o if the employer insists they don’t return for 14 days then they should be paid ordinary pay
• Employer requests an employee to not come to work/isolate which is not in line with Government direction
• Employer closes the business/office/location using discretion (not Government directed) as an added precaution but employee’s role does not allow for working from home (i.e. works in a café, cleaner, factory worker, manual labour, mechanic etc).
• Employer closes business temporarily due to a downturn in work/business (refer to redundancy if this is a prolonged situation)
||This does not yet exist for employees – however there is some talk that the Government may need to offer special paid leave (over and above annual leave and/or sick leave) for this pandemic.
|Stand down (no pay)
||Government-issued directive for closure (not at the discretion of the business). Seek further advice before actioning
||Significant downturn in work due to impact of COVID-19 – we’d advise you openly discuss ways to mitigate this with staff such as expressions of interest from employees agreeable to temporarily reduce hours, take annual leave etc
• If this is not possible then begin consultation for redundancies.
• Guidance on the process to follow when considering redundancies can be advised by contacting email@example.com
|How to support employees
||Offer working from home options wherever possible
• Pay employees when no paid leave type is available to them if practical
• Offer EAP to assist with anxiety
• Communicate regularly
*The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has issued guidance on its website which suggests a
permanent employee should be paid when an employer directs them to stay at home in line with
Government advice when the employee is not sick (ie self-isolation after returning from overseas).
This conflicts with many commentators’ views that an employee who is required to stay away
from work due to Government advice is not entitled to be paid. The FWO says:
“Where an employer directs a full-time or part-time employee to stay home in line with advice, for
example in line with the Australian Government’s health and quarantine advice, and the employee
is not sick with coronavirus, the employee should ordinarily be paid while the direction applies”
We will provide further advice when the FWO clarifies its position.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) – The information contained has been produced in good faith based on the Fresh HR Insights Pty Ltd professional interpretation of the relevant legislation and guidance from government and health authorities as of 11 March 2020. As the situation and our understanding of COVID-19 develops, it likely that recommendations from government and health authorities will change. Accordingly, we can make no guarantee that the information within this document entirely corresponds with the position of authorities at the time you are using it. We encourage you to refer to the resources and authorities provided at the bottom of this post for the latest updates and recommendations.
This post should not be taken as a statement of the law and it is intended as a guide only, and we do not accept any liability for loss or damage sustained on the basis of this information.
BUSINESS CONDITIONS AND DOWNTURN
When can I stand employees down without pay?
Under Fair Work legislation, a permanent employee can only be stood down without pay in limited circumstances. In the case of Coronavirus (COVID-19), if the business is open to trade then you will not be able to stand employees down without pay. However, if the business is not open to trade for a reason that is beyond your control, this may amount to a stoppage of work and allow you to stand employees down without pay. If your business is covered by an industrial instrument such as a modern award or enterprise agreement, it may contain additional terms relating to stand-downs. Before doing so, you should first consider alternative work options, such as asking employees to perform work at another store or work from home if practicable.
If you are unsure of whether your situation permits you to stand down employees with pay, please don’t hesitate to contact Fresh HR Insights Pty Ltd on 0452471960
See also: Absence from Employment
ABSENCE FROM EMPLOYMENT
If I direct an employee to self-isolate, do I have to pay them?
Yes. If you have directed a full-time or part-time employee to self-isolate because they have exhibited symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19), then you should ask them to self-isolate and they may take personal leave until they are no longer exhibiting symptoms. You could also request that the employee seek medical clearance that their symptoms are not as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19), and depending on the result of this, they may not need to self-isolate. If a full-time or part-time employee is absent from work at your direction, and not because they are required by the Australian Government to self-isolate, then you are required to pay them at least their base rate of pay for their contracted hours during this period.
If an employee is self-isolating at the direction of the Australian Government, do I have to pay them?
If the employee can perform their work remotely or from home, then you should pay them for the hours that they work. If they cannot work remotely, and they have been required to self-isolate by the Government, you do not have to pay them. However, employees may in some circumstances access personal leave, or you may agree to allow them to access annual leave, in order to maintain their income.
See also Can I direct employees to take personal leave? and Can I direct employees to take annual leave?
Can I direct employees to take personal leave?
There is no power under Fair Work legislation for an employer to direct an employee to take personal leave. An employee is not strictly entitled to take personal leave unless they are unfit for work because of an illness or injury – that is, unless they are actually displaying symptoms of illness. However, employees may agree to access their personal leave in order to maintain their income, even if they are in self-isolation as a precautionary measure only.
When are employees entitled to take personal leave?
Permanent employees are entitled to take paid personal/carers’ leave if:
- they are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19) illness; or
- they are caring for a member of their household or immediate family.
Permanent and casual employees are entitled to two days’ unpaid carers’ leave per permissible occasion to take care of a member of their household or immediate family who is unwell. As these are minimum entitlements, employers can at their discretion elect to allow employees to access paid personal leave in excess of what has been accrued, or to access additional periods of unpaid leave. We have noticed that a number of employers are choosing to pay their casual and independent contractors during this time however that is a business by business and case by case situation and not an obligation.
Can I direct employees to take annual leave?
In general, annual leave is taken by agreement between you and the employee. Employees covered by a modern award or enterprise agreement may be directed to take annual leave, but only in the circumstances prescribed by the award or agreement. In most cases, these circumstances are limited to situations where the employee has accrued and excessive leave balance. If an employee is not covered by a modern award or enterprise agreement, you may require the employee to take annual leave if the direction is reasonable. Whether the requirement is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of each particular case. If an employee does not have sufficient annual leave accrued, you may wish to consider granting annual leave in advance. However, modern awards and enterprise agreements may stipulate specific requirements for the provision of annual leave in advance.
Can employees access annual leave while in isolation?
Yes. If an employee is required to self-isolate for Coronavirus (COVID-19), and they wish to access paid annual leave, you can agree to this request.
If an employee refuses to self-isolate, can I direct them to not attend work if they aren’t presenting any symptoms (for example, if they have recently travelled)?
You can direct an employee to not attend work as long as the direction is reasonable. You should be guided by the principle that it will be reasonable to direct an employee to not attend work if:
- they are returning from a country or region considered by the Australian Government posing a higher risk of transmission; or
- have been in close contact with a confirmed case of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
You should consider whether the employee should be asked to work from home while in quarantine, otherwise if they refuse to access any paid leave entitlements they may nevertheless be entitled to be paid for the period that they are directed by you to not attend work.
What are my obligations if someone is directed by the Australian Government to self-isolate?
The Australian Government has certain powers under biosecurity legislation, including the power to direct individuals to remain at their place of residence or be isolated in a medical facility. In general, these powers are only to be used as a last resort to limit the spread of the virus. Currently, the Australian Government requires persons to isolate themselves for a period of 14 days if they:
- have left, or travelled through, mainland China or Iran in the previous 14 days; or
- have left, or transited through, the Republic of Korea on or after 5 March 2020.
The Australian Government also requires persons who have been in close contact with a proven case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) to isolate themselves for 14 days from the date of the last contact with the confirmed case. If an employee meets these circumstances, they are required to self-isolate even if they are not specifically directed to do so by the Australian Government. If an employee cannot attend work as a result of these requirements, they should be encouraged to access personal leave or annual leave.
Can I ask someone to work remotely whilst in quarantine?
If an employee is able to work remotely whilst in isolation, this option ought to be explored as it allows the employee to remain an active participant in the workforce and maintain their usual income without being required to access their paid leave entitlements. However, if an employee is in self-isolation and accessing annual leave, personal/carer’s leave, or unpaid leave, then you should not ask them to work.
How do I manage productivity if someone is working remotely?
In essence, when managing productivity for employees working from home, you should take similar steps to manage employee productivity as you would in the workplace. That being said, you will have to adapt your approach to account for your inability to visually supervise them and the potential for miscommunication.
A few easy steps employers can take to more effectively manage remote workers include:
Clearly outline what you want, when you want it done by, how you want it done, and ensure you encourage employees to clarify anything they are not clear on. Avoid assumptions and vague or ambiguous directions.
- Maintain regular communication
Organise regular catch-ups, and try to maintain multiple lines of communication in addition to email, such as voice calls, and instant messaging.
- Provide the appropriate technology
Where possible, provide employees working remotely with the technology required to do so. Productivity is likely to suffer where an employee has technical issues, and this is more likely where they rely on personal laptops or home internet.
What happens to casual employees if they are required to go into isolation?
Casual employees are not entitled to paid leave, as this is intended to be accommodated in their higher rate of pay. Employers may choose to make discretionary payments to casual employees during this period, however, any such payment would be purely discretionary and not required by law. It is recommended that independent legal advice be obtained before making any such payment, as these may constitute as evidence that the employee is not truly a casual employee, but a part-time or full-time employee, if not managed correctly. As at the date of post various options to assist casual employees are being considered by the Australian Government, however, no formal policy position has been announced.
Might the disruption caused by Coronavirus (COVID-19) interfere with casual conversion rights?
It is possible that the disruption caused by Coronavirus (COVID-19) could interfere with casual conversion rights under modern awards and enterprise agreements, where applicable. Specifically, the disruption caused may:
- disrupt a casual employee’s pattern of work to such an extent that they no longer satisfy the eligibility requirements for casual conversion; or
- result in reasonable grounds for refusing a request for casual conversion.
It should be noted that notwithstanding this, employers can still agree that employee convert from casual to permanent employment if this is appropriate for the needs of their business.
Can I dismiss an employee who refuses to self-isolate?
No. However, if an employee refuses to self-isolate, you may wish to issue them with a reasonable and lawful direction not to attend the workplace until the self-isolation period has passed for the employee. The employee should be paid for their contracted hours at their base rate of pay. If an employee does not follow this reasonable and lawful direction, then this will amount to misconduct, and may provide a valid reason for dismissal. However, employers should always ensure they follow a disciplinary process that affords the employee with natural justice and procedural fairness when considering disciplinary action against an employee that may result in termination of their employee.
Any termination or other disciplinary action because an employee is required to self-isolate, whether they have contracted Coronavirus (COVID-19) or not, may be prohibited under anti-discrimination laws. Before taking any such action, it is recommended that you seek separate legal advice.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
What steps should I take to protect my employees?
Work health and safety laws in Australia require employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace. You must identify hazards at the workplace, and take steps to eliminate or reduce any risks.
To ensure employers are complying with their obligations under WHS laws, SafeWork Australia recommends employers:
- monitor the information and advice published by the Australian Government;
- ensure policies and procedures are in place to deal with infection control;
- communicate the requirement for employees to self-isolate in certain circumstances;
- eliminate international travel in line with the Australian Government’s recommendations; and
- provide regular updates to employees.
Employees also have an obligation to ensure their own health and safety, and the health and safety of others in the workplace.
To prevent the spread of the virus, the World Health Organization recommends to:
- wipe down and disinfect surfaces regularly;
- encourage employees and customers to frequently wash their hands with soap and water;
- place hand sanitiser dispensers in prominent places throughout the workplace;
- ensure that P2/N95 face masks and paper tissues are available; and
- once the virus starts spreading in your community, ask employees to stay at home if they develop any symptoms.
You should also develop a business contingency plan to deal with likelihood of an outbreak. If there is a confirmed case in the workplace, employers should consider whether to:
- close the store and direct employees to not attend work or to work from home;
- have the store professionally cleaned; and
- notify the health department in your state or territory.
Employees who contract the virus at work may be eligible to make a workers’ compensation claim if they contract the virus due to insufficient measures being taken by their employer to ensure their health and safety.
See also: Can a person claim workers’ compensation if they contract Coronavirus (COVID-19) while at work? and Should I quarantine goods coming from China before sale?
Do I have to provide my employees with personal protective equipment (PPE)? (i.e. face masks)
It will depend on your workplace, but depending on the risk present in your workplace you may need to. Employers have a duty to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. Accordingly, if the nature of the workplace poses a significant risk of an employee contracting the virus, then an employer may need to consider making PPE available to their employees.
If an employer decides that face masks or other forms of PPE are appropriate to minimize the risk of an employee contracting Coronavirus (COVID-19), then they will need to provide these masks to employees, and cannot expect employees to purchase their own.
Employers should also:
- select PPE that is:
- suitable with regard to the nature of the work, and how Coronavirus (COVID-19) is transmitted; and
- For example, surgical masks may be adequate, but depending on our latest understanding of how the virus transmits, it may be more appropriate to provide P2/N95 masks.
- a suitable size and fit for your employees to wear;
- provide information and training on how to use, wear, store and/or maintain the PPE properly;
- maintain, repair, and replace PPE to ensure employees are provided with clean, hygienic, and functioning PPE;
- ensure that employees use or wear the PPE provided.
However, if employers believe that the risk to employees was such that the use of masks was appropriate then employers should also consider whether it is even safe for the shopfront to continue to operate. Particularly as PPE is the least effective form of risk prevention in the workplace, while the elimination of the risk is the most effective.
If an employer believes there is a lower risk of Coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission in their workplace, they may just wish to make use of other risk reduction approaches, such as ensuring employees have access to hand-washing facilities and soap or alcohol-based hand rub to reduce the risk of infection.
Can a person claim workers’ compensation if they contract Coronavirus (COVID-19) while at work?
Yes. It is possible that an employee could claim workers’ compensation if they contracted Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the course of their employment, and their employment was a significant contributing factor. However, as the spread of CCoronavirus (COVID-19) continues, it may be more difficult for the employee to prove that they contracted the virus in the course of employment, as opposed to them contracting it from the wider community outside of work.
NEED HELP? Contact the team at Fresh HR Insights HERE
Further sources of information
As refreshing as the spring may be, keeping your employees refreshed and maintaining a vibrant workplace is not always as easy as it looks. For one, as soon as spring kicks in, the weather starts to bring out the color in most things around us and the environment tend to turn nice and welcoming. As a result, staying inside the work environment can get stuffy and your employees can feel confined, to say the least. Surfing looks more inviting and so do days on the beach.
It is normal to feel a burst of excitement when the spring kicks in, however, it is not always easy to maintain the excitement and channel the energy into more productivity. Although spring can heighten vitality and energy, it can also result in restlessness and disorientation.
Also, the change in season often results in a change in time. As a result, routine activities like eating, sleeping, and exercise might have to change. Unfortunately, most employees find it difficult to adapt to these changes and it often affects their behavior and mood. Luckily in Queensland we don’t have a change in the clocks but as close to the boarder as we are on the Gold Coast we often need to move between two time zones with our clients.
Behavioral changes, either positively or negatively impact workplace productivity. Whichever way it would, it is best to be prepared for these changes than to be caught unawares. To keep the workplace refreshing during spring, it is important to avoid distractions that prevent work from getting accomplished.
How you can get your team healthy for spring
- Make Your Schedule Flexible: Nothing says “killjoy” faster during the spring than a rigid schedule. The inability to feel the warmth outside and spend time with those you care about can play down on workplace productivity. On one hand, you can decide to let in a bit of sunlight at the workplace, however, flexible scheduling has a more psychological impact on employee productivity. This makes it possible for employees to strike a balance between their work life and their life outside work.
- Make the schedule interesting: since it is a fact that an average employee would rather spend time outside work than stay within the walls of an office, your best chance against negative behavioral changes is to make your employee schedule interesting so much that they would be motivated to work and not lazy around. To do this, only delegate tasks that employees would be interested in carrying out.
- Redecorate the workplace: if employees can spend all day outside the office, let them experience it in the office as much as they can. To redecorate the office, open the blinds and window to let in sunlight, bring in live plants or flowers, and encourage a little bit of spring cleaning. The feeling of freshness goes a long way in encouraging positivity in the workplace.
- Make their work challenging: one of the best ways to boost employee productivity and personal development is to make their task challenging. Such challenge encourages them to break their record and stretch themselves to their limit. To effectively implement this, create opportunities for personal development and encourage them to set new goals.
- Create a reward system: although the idea is for employees to spend more hours in the office during spring, you can increase workplace productivity with a reward system that guarantees time off from the office. For example, a reward system like vacation or time off will naturally encourage an employee to put in more effort in the workplace. Such program, although is a way of thanking them for a job well done, is also a way of making sure that they do not miss out entirely on the spring season.
In all, maintain a healthy workplace and focused employee can be difficult during the spring, however, you can keep your workforce engaged and your workplace productivity with the tips above.
Related Tag: HR Workshops And Support
As 2018 progresses enjoy the workplace but stay safe
As we step into February and New Year is firmly behind us, we look to the year ahead and all that it will bring – new appointments, new staff, new offices, and fresh opportunities requiring new strategies! However, these may all bring potential hazards that need to be looked at! What we mean to say, is that now is as good a time as any to make sure your company’s health and safety is up to date. Enjoy the workplace but stay safe.
Fresh HR Insight believes that enjoying your work is just as important as working hard in the workplace. Employees and employers who take time for enjoyment alongside their responsibilities tend to have the healthiest workplace dynamics. Yet as we look at new plans and budgets, we can’t help thinking that maybe it’s time to look, at the same time, at whether our workplaces are safe and compliant with the law!
New strategies come with overtime, and overload of staff! Whatever the business, whether a small trader or a huge conglomerate, tasks increase when new ventures are started. Under so much pressure it is easy to let safety matters slide.
In 2012, the Australian state and territory governments brought the WHS Act and Regulations into force in order that all workplaces and workers would benefit from consistent workplace health and safety law. Yet here in Queensland we have the highest rate of workplace accidents in Australia.
It should be remembered that employers, employees and customers can suffer because of lapses in good health and safety practice, and that one person’s playground, is someone else’s workplace.
Last year, Australia marked one year from the terrible tragedy at Dreamworld in Gold Coast, when 4 people lost their lives and 2 young children’s lives and those of their families were left traumatised. Whilst investigations continue and the accident’s cause is still not clear, it is currently and widely believed to be an accident that should not have happened.
In 2015, a man tore his shoulder ligaments after lifting heavy classroom equipment too quickly. Under pressure to get the job finished, he let his own safety take second place. 2 years later, after many surgical treatments and a lot of pain, his health is still impacted and he cannot go back to work.
Here are some more instances of workplace incidents from Workcover Queensland
It is easy to bypass the safety of people when other pressures are given priority, and as we plan new work the stresses ahead are great, FreshHRInsight wants to highlight how crucial it is that workplaces develop the policies and procedures that, once in place and adhered to, can mean fun without risk to life and limb.
Fresh HR Insight will advise you and your management team on how to make health and safety top of the priority list and both a corporate and individual responsibility. This will ensure that any pressure brought to bear in the workplace – for any reason, at any time of year – will not displace the safety measures that you, your workers and customers need.
For information on how Fresh HR Insights can work with you on creating safer workplaces drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
WooHoo, The New Gear Is Here, Let’s Go!!
In our last edition we looked at buying new items for your operations, today we will look at introducing those items into your operations.
The biggest mistake is to ‚ ≤assume’ that everyone will know how the new item works or that they will ‚ ≤pick it up’
In the past many people would simply buy a new Widget and expect people to use it without adequate preparation & training. With the demands on manufacturers to constantly innovate there are often new features on equipment that was simply not there before or the functions have changed to allow for a wider range of features.
The biggest mistake is to ‚ ≤assume’ that everyone will know how the new item works or that they will ‚ ≤pick it up’. The short amount of time it takes to
(1)study the operation of a new item
(2)summarise the important points and
(3)hold a training session, is time well spent when you look at the potential costs associated with not doing so, such as lower productivity, damaged stock or personal injuries.
For example, we were recently called to a business with an industrial saw, in the rush to remove the old saw and start using the new one, no training had been done. It turns out that the new saw had clear instructions that an adjuster should not be set past a particular point other than in very specific applications. These instructions were never read and the staff had set the saw up just like the previous unit. It turns out the saw was being damaged whilst on this setting and over time was not cutting stock the way it was designed resulting in unusable stock, frustrated staff and many wasted hours of labour to ‚ ≤repair’ the damage on each item.
Luckily no-one was injured but it is a clear demonstration of how good health & safety practices can also help improve the bottom line. In this particular case the total time for the preparation & completing the training session (supervisor to read instructions and prepare short training session with 8 staff x 15 minutes) would have been about 4 hours, so say $160 in direct costs.
The costs in damaged stock, equipment and lost production time was estimated at $4,500-$5,000. That doesn’t even consider the morale lowering effect of not doing things right in the first place.
The WorkCover records are full of injuries resulting from inadequate preparation for newly introduced plant & equipment into business operations. Take the time, do it right and reap the benefits now and into the future.
Our team have recognised training qualifications and experience, if you have any queries simply make contact, we are always happy to help. Ph 1300 332 322 or email email@example.com
Till next time.
Workplace Health and Safety
Fresh HR Insights is delighted to announce the formation of a strategic partnership with Emilio Barlin who has joined us as our Workplace Health and Safety Consultant.
Workplace Health and safety is a big topic and we know that many of you are unsure where to start.
Over the coming months we are going to do a series of articles on helping you improve the health & safety performance of your operations, regardless of your industry, so let’s go!!
You know your health & safety probably isn’t quite where it should be but what is the first step in starting to improve it? That depends on factors such as location, industry and experience of staff BUT, normally, identifying the hazards in your workplace and your operations is a great place to start.
How? There are many ways to approach this but for most businesses the simplest way is to just ask!!