AUSTRALIAN WORKPLACE LAWS AND COVID-19
By John De Jonge, 26 March 2020
Numerous Australian businesses have been affected by Covid-19 and the restrictions directed by the Australian and NSW Government in response. Queues of people are lining up at Services NSW for Centrelink and employers are worried about the viability of their businesses.
At Carter Ferguson Solicitors we are increasingly providing advice to our clients about the rights of Employers and Employees as they come to grips with the uncertainty and added pressures of the current crisis.
When can an employer stand down an employee without pay?
The Fair Work Act sets out when an employer can stand down an employee without pay and states that this can only be done when the employee cannot be usefully employed because of a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot be reasonably held accountable.
The employer must demonstrate that:
- There is a stoppage of work;
- The employee cannot be usefully employed;
- The cause of the stoppage must be one for which the employer cannot be reasonably held responsible.
To show that an employee cannot be usefully employed, an employer must show that there is no work for the employee to do, even outside of the type of work the employee usually does. If an employer unlawfully stands down an employee the employee will likely be able to recover unpaid wages from the employer. Whilst stood down an employee remains employed for the period.
Employers are not required to make payments to employees for the period of a stand down but may choose to pay their employees. Employees accrue leave as normal.
Employers can consider other options to reduce wages and expenses in these troubled times including:
- Seeking employees’ agreement to take paid (or unpaid) leave for a period;
- In limited circumstances, directing employees to take paid annual leave;
- In limited circumstances, negotiating with employees to change regular rosters or hours of work; and
- Terminating the employment of the employees, in which case the employer may have to provide redundancy pay.
Employer and employee relationships can be complicated and employers must take care to ensure they are not exerting undue influence on the employee. Disputed matters will be decided on a case by case basis and will depend on the facts of the matter.
If you have any questions regarding workplace laws and how the Covid-19 situation is affecting your business or employment, please do not hesitate to contact one of our offices on 1300 235 345 or at [email protected].
ONLINE WILL INSTRUCTION FORM
25 March 2020
Over the last few weeks we have had an increasing number of people get in touch with us because they wish to prepare a will or update an existing will. To make things easier for those who are self isolating, you can now get the process started by filling in our online will instruction form below.CF ONLINE WILL FORM
FAMILY COURT ORDERS AND CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)
By Rebekah Blackmore, 23 March 2020
As we face this unprecedented challenge and as our laws evolve to deal with the threat of coronavirus, the solicitors at Carter Ferguson are keeping up to date with the latest legal developments.
A number of our clients have asked us what they should do if they are unable to comply with Family Court orders because they are isolation, restricted from travel or otherwise unable to comply as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Below is a link to an article prepared by the Law Council of Australia which sets out some helpful tips:-
Stay healthy, safe and remember we are here to support you with any questions you may have.
WE ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS
By Lucy Collett-Carter, 22 March 2020
The threat and uncertainty surrounding coronavirus and the pace at which the situation is changing makes this an incredibly stressful time for us all. As the situation and our laws evolve to deal with this crisis, please be assured that Carter Ferguson is open for business. While it may not be business as “usual”, and you may be video or tele-conferencing our staff rather than seeing them face-to-face, we have the systems, procedures and technology in place to provide legal services remotely if we need to. If you need legal advice, you can contact our office on 1300 235 345 or by emailing [email protected].
THE ENFORCEABILITY AND PENALTIES ASSOCIATED WITH ISOLATION DIRECTIONS FOR CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)
By John De Jonge, 18 March 2020
As a result of the threat caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19), New South Wales has implemented several public health directions. Under section 7 of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW) (‘the Act’), state officials are empowered give directions which require self-isolation and quarantining in certain situations and prohibitions on certain public gatherings. In NSW, failure to adhere to these directions can result in criminal charges, hefty fines and imprisonment. Similar legislation is in effect in other Australian States and Territories.
Currently, NSW ministerial directions include the following:
- All people who arrive in Australia must self-isolate for 14 days
- Individuals who have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus must self-isolate for 14 days
- Public gatherings of more than 500 or more people in outdoor spaces and 100 people or more in indoor spaces are prohibited. This rule does not apply to schools, universities, shops, supermarkets, public transport or airports
- Individuals who are diagnosed with the virus must be placed in quarantine
Section 10 of the Act provides that a person who, without reasonable excuse, fails to comply with such a direction faces a maximum penalty of 6 months in prison and/or a fine of $11,000.
Continued failure to comply with the direction is punishable by a fine of $5,500, for each day the offence continues. Companies face a maximum fine of $55,000, and $27,500 for each day the offence continues.
Australian media has reported that Police have already been called to enforce at least one imposed isolation.
Information and updates about the coronavirus are provided by NSW Health and the Federal Department of Health.
If you have any questions regarding your legal rights and responsibilities under these directions, or any other legal issue, please do not hesitate to contact our office on 1300 235 345.
COVID-19: STEPS WE ARE TAKING TO ENHANCE THE PROTECTION OF OUR STAFF & CLIENTS
By Lucy Collett-Carter, 17 March 2020
The health and safety of our staff, clients and the communities we work within is our priority. We all have a part to play in maintaining a healthy and hygienic environment for our staff, community and families.
For this reason we ask that if you are planning on attending our office, you remain at home if:
1. you are experiencing any flu-like symptoms which may include but are not limited to:• fever;
• sore throat;
• aching body; and
• runny nose;
2. you believe you have had close contact with a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19; or
3. you are exposed to a recently arrived international traveler currently in isolation (in-line with government requirements).
To assist our clients and those who want to avoid face to face contact, where possible, we will conduct appointments online using video conferencing or by telephone.
Please reach out to our team on 1300 235 345 or at [email protected] if you need any support during this time.
– Carter Ferguson Management Team