Some of the most common questions we are currently receiving from businesses regard employment matters in this period of uncertainty.

We must firstly make a disclaimer, as Accountants we are not HR experts and information provided by us below should not be relied on. The information provided below is all in reference to documentation on of the Government’s Fair Work Ombudsman website, please refer to that and your industry and employer groups for expert advice.

The common sections of the Fair Work site I would like to bring your attention to are:

  • Enforceable government directions
  • Frequently asked question: Workplace obligations and entitlements (FAQ)

What if my business is deemed ‘non-essential’?

In summary, where an enforceable Government direction, such as in recent days where ‘non-essential businesses’ have been forced to close to prevent mass gatherings and events, an employer is not required to pay employees (unless the employee uses paid leave entitlements).

What does this mean for my employees?

Depending on the individual’s family income, they may be able to access Centrelink benefits.

What if I am still able to operate?

Many employers are feeling unsure of what to do. The decision will differ for each business and there is no one correct decision on how to proceed that fits all.

Until such time as mandated by the Government to cease day-to-day operations, you can continue operating. There is a preference, where possible, to work from home however this may not always be practical. Continue to operate your business as demand allows, but with taking appropriate cautions to social distance and ensure appropriate measures are in place to limit virus spread.

Plan for future events now

Business owners should formulate a plan for if their business is deemed ‘non-essential’ in future or business slows down due to the flow-on effects of social distancing measures or other business shutdowns. The Fair Work document addresses some of these matters in the FAQ section.

Our advice would be as business owners to consider your plan now, be prepared and maybe even discuss this with the team so they are informed and less anxious. Should your team be required to stand down, consider what, if any, entitlements may you allow/offer the team to use before them seeking Centrelink benefits. This is a balancing of your own personal/social responsibility to your team, but also the fact of business cashflow and future ability to continue.

For example, some businesses may request/offer employees to go on leave for a period, before then implementing a stand down. This may be appropriate if you foresee a short shut down period. Issues therefore become:

  • But what if shut down is an extended period?
  • How long can your business maintain its cashflow and what entitlements does the team have? You may decide to implement a designated time period you will pay leave for.
  • What if Employee does not have the accrual? Do you allow them to go into negative leave entitlements or simply stand them down earlier? Will you allow Personal Leave accruals to be used?

As always please feel free to share this link to our website or social media links with your friends, family and fellow business owners.

Important Links

Below are links to information referred to above that may assist you further.

Fair Work Ombudsman:
coronavirus.fairwork.gov.au

Employer Associations:
fairwork.gov.au/website-information/related-sites/unions-and-employer-associations

Social Distancing:
healthdirect.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19-how-to-avoid-infection-faqs