COVID-19: Workplace update and resources

As many of you know, the ER Strategies office and our team are located in Sydney, NSW. Even though we are subject to the stay-at-home orders, we are still available to assist you with all things ‘employee relations’ during this time. We have a skeleton crew in the office answering calls as well as directing some of them to team members working from home.

You can still reach the team on our usual number (ph. 1300 55 66 37) during business hours AEST. We will either take your call on the spot if the relevant team member is available, or we will take a message and organise for someone to call you back as soon as possible.

We want to take this opportunity to remind you that relevant state and territory government resources should be the first place you consult in relation to how the varying COVID restrictions may impact your workplace and your staff. Links to the individual state and territory government websites can be found at the bottom of this memo. Whilst we endeavour to stay across this information, the advice is changing rapidly and it is the responsibility of each employer to stay across the information and determine what actions your business may need to take in order to comply with the directions.

Unlike the JobKeeper Scheme of 2020, all financial aid for employees and businesses is to be sought through government agencies directly and have little to no interaction with workplace law. This limits the amount of information ER Strategies can actively provide to businesses around these payments, or the conditions of payment (such as employee eligibility or interaction with paid leave), beyond what is already available via federal/state government websites.

Clients of ER Strategies should review government resources before calling us in the event the enquiry solely relates to financial support. At the end of this memo is a list of enquiries ER Strategies will be able to assist with during this time.

COVID-19 Lockdown and Restrictions:

Restrictions and essential/non-essential workplaces: 

For more information about workplace restrictions and essential services, please consult the relevant government pages.

NSW: Additional Restrictions for NSW (as at 18-07-21)

VIC: Table of Restrictions (as at 15-07-21)

SA: Current Activity Restrictions (as at 20-07-21)

Financial Support for Businesses and Employees: 

Business Support

For more information about support for businesses during this time, please follow the links below to the appropriate state government resources.

NSW: https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/campaign/covid-19-help-businesses

VIC: https://business.vic.gov.au/grants-and-programs/circuit-breaker-business-support-package

SA: https://business.sa.gov.au/COVID-19-business-information-and-support  

Employee Support

There are two types of financial aid available to employees impacted by lockdowns and other restrictions preventing employees from working.

1. COVID-19 Disaster Payment

COVID-19 Disaster Payment is a payment to support workers who are unable to work due to a state or territory public health order that imposes restrictions on movement, such as a lockdown. The Payment is available for the second and any subsequent weeks of restrictions (with the exception of the Victorian lockdown, in which funds will be available for the duration of the lockdown as announced by the Treasury.)

Individual employees will need to apply to Services Australia in order to confirm eligibility and receive the payment. More information can be found here: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/covid-19-disaster-payment

2. Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment (PLDP) is a lump sum payment of $1,500 to provide financial support to individuals who cannot work and earn an income because they are directed to self-isolate or quarantine as a result of COVID-19.

Again, individual employees will need to apply to Services Australia in order to confirm eligibility and receive the payment. More information can be found here: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/pandemic-leave-disaster-payment

Employer Involvement 

We recommend that employers consider pushing employees towards government resources if they have questions about these payments. Employers should work with employees to assist them with any requests for paid leave during this period, however employers should refrain from providing advice to employees about whether they are eligible for the payments, or how the payments interact with paid leave entitlements, as this will be based on the employees’ individual circumstances. Employers should comply with any requests employees may make for supporting evidence that employees may require to make a claim.

Many enquiries that have come through to ER Strategies are around the interaction between the government payments and leave entitlements. Please review this document as per Services Australia: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/covid-19-disaster-payment/who-can-get-it/general-eligibility-rules/leave-entitlements

Note: Personal / carer’s leave as per the Fair Work Act 2009 is only required to be paid to employees in the following circumstances:

(a)  because the employee is not fit for work because of a personal illness, or personal injury, affecting the employee; or

(b)  to provide care or support to a member of the employee’s immediate family, or a member of the employee’s household, who requires care or support because of:

(i)  a personal illness, or personal injury, affecting the member; or

(ii)  an unexpected emergency affecting the member.

If an employee, or a government agency, is asking you to process personal/carer’s leave and the employees’ circumstances do not meet the criteria for personal/carer’s leave as per the Act, you should request additional information from the employee/government agency as to the basis for their claim.

ER Strategies will be able to assist with any enquiries relating to: 

  • Employee entitlements during periods of lockdown
  • Stand-down provisions (or more specifically, IF stand down provisions apply to your business)
  • Leave requests during lockdown
  • Employee absences relating to mandatory isolation or testing requirements
  • Changes to rosters, or changes to employee hours
  • Any other matter relating to HR/IR/ER

It is important to remember that since JobKeeper is no longer applicable, the JobKeeper enabling stand down directions and additional flexibilities also no longer apply. Employers should review their processes to ensure they are complying with existing applicable legislation.

If you are a client of ER Strategies, please call us on 1300 55 66 37 to speak to one of our consultants if you have any questions in relation to this memo.

We hope you and your staff are all staying safe during this time!

Links to individual state/territory COVID-19 information:

NSW
ACT
VIC
SA
WA
NT
QLD

Free Download: Termination Letter Template

Need to let an employee go? Use our letter of termination template to ensure you are using the correct format. 

termination letter template