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Voice Lawyers Coronavirus Employment Update

Whilst the health and safety of all those around us is the most important consideration during these uncertain times, many of you may also be experiencing worry over your employment status, or your responsibilities as an employer, and where you stand legally on this.

One thing to first note is the difference between a legal obligation and a moral one. As a society, we’re dealing with a great deal of unknown at the moment, which changes daily and affects us all on many levels, and I do urge you, to be compassionate to one another at this time. The law is the lowest form of ethically-enforceable behaviour, and I’d love for us as a society to support others above and beyond the legal base line, if in a position to do so.

Now is the time for us to come together and care for one another, particular those who are less fortunate.

However, within my role as a lawyer and mediator, I do want to update you on where you stand legally, when it comes to home-working, taking sick or parental leave, unpaid leave, and in terms of casual workers and contractors.

Above all, we need to follow the federal directives at this time, and I will be following updates on a daily basis.

Personal Sick Leave

  • Leave is not available to be taken by employees who are not ill or showing symptoms of illness

  • Businesses are reminded that all employees, except casuals are entitled to accrue 10 days paid personal leave per year. This includes part-time employees also. To ensure compliance with the National Employment Standards, please ensure your payroll systems have up to date balances for full-time and part-time employees in the case of extended illness.

What happens if an employee doesn’t have sick leave?

  • Directing an employee to remain away from work without pay where they need to be isolated would only arise where there is a materially greater risk of that employee attending at work, than other employees, and only where that risk cannot be mitigated.

  • This approach, under current Government Medical advice is likely to be limited to the 14-day isolation period for high risk persons as recommended by the Australian Government and should not be approached lightly.

Flexible Work and Reasonable Measures - Working from home

If you are an employer, the first thing to be aware of is that you have a duty to protect your workers and to take all reasonable measures to do so. These expected measures often depend on the size and resources available to your organisation. Many companies already operate a flexible home-working strategy and can seamlessly transition over to this model and set up divert systems for telephones.

Remember, employees do have a right to refuse to follow any unreasonable direction from an employer. If a team member fears for their safety when encouraged to continue to travel to their workplace, they are within their rights to refuse, for example.

If any of your team members are sick, as an employer you’d be in your rights to send them home for the protection of other workers. They will need to adhere to the standard sick leave process.

Several schools are closing, or parents are withdrawing their children so ensure you are above the law when compensating staff members who have to be at home. As it stands, these employees will have to follow the usual protocol in regards to carers leave and personal leave.

Many businesses are