What are your employer obligations to employees during a lockdown scenario?
Welcome to groundhog day. The only positive being I get to rehash a blog from a couple of months ago.
With the announcement that we’re heading back into lockdown, what are your obligations when it comes to employees?
From the onset, an employer does not have to pay an employee when the government makes an enforceable direction that prevents an employee from working, but there are options.
- working from home arrangements
- changing duties, hours of work or rosters
- accessing paid or unpaid leave
- stand down
For the purpose of this blog, we will assume you’re all over the working from home arrangements.
Employers should talk to their employees about temporary changing duties, hours of work or rosters to enable employees to keep working and avoid unpaid stand-down. Any changes must be discussed and agreed upon by both parties. The ability to direct employees to change duties, hours of work or rosters no longer applied. This was a temporary measure that ended with JobKeeper.
Another option is to access paid or unpaid leave; these are subject to applicable awards and include:
- taking accrued annual leave (including at half pay)
- taking any other paid leave (such as long service leave or paid leave available under an award, enterprise agreement or employment contract)
- taking any other paid leave by agreement between the employee and the employer.
An important note to remember here is that the provisions that gave employers more flexibility under JobKeeper no longer apply.
Now to the pointy bit of this blog
Once all other options have been considered, employers need to check whether they can stand down employees under the Fair Work Act provisions or their applicable award.
The general provisions under the Fair Work Act allow employers to stand down an employee without pay on the back of a government forced lockdown.
If you are considering going down this path, while it is relatively clear, we recommend jumping on here and making sure you dot and cross the specifics.
For reference and hopefully never used, employees cannot take sick, and carer’s leave or compassionate leave during stand down but are entitled to be paid for public holidays.