Many of our clients may be facing changes to their regular working arrangements surrounding COVID-19, so we have compiled some helpful information about your employment rights and responsibilities while navigating these uncertain times.
As of 15 March 2020, if you have been overseas, you are required to undertake 14 days quarantine before returning to work. It is an offence punishable by 6 months prison and/or a fine of up to $11,000 for those who fail to self-quarantine under the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW).
States such as Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia and Northern Territory have also closed their borders to the rest of the nation, meaning anyone from interstate must also quarantine for 14 days. NSW is yet to implement similar restrictions.
There are no specific rules surrounding working in quarantine and you should come to your own arrangement with your employer to undertake remote working arrangements if required.
If you are feeling unwell or are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, you are required to take leave from work and either work from home while self-isolating, take paid sick leave, or carers leave if you are looking after a family member.
If you would like to stay at home as a precaution, you will need to make suitable arrangements with your employer and work from home if you are able to do so, or alternatively take annual leave. You will only be entitled to take sick/personal leave if you are unwell or become unwell during the period of isolation.
If your employer asks you to stay home as a precaution but you are unable to undertake your duties from home, you may be required to take a mix of accrued annual leave or long service leave, work reduced hours or complete alternative duties from another location. If you are required to work from home, your employer must make sure you are working in appropriate workplace that meets health and safety standards. Make sure you discuss with your employer your home workstation needs.
While you may be entitled to take carers leave to look after an ill family member, you are not currently entitled to paid leave in the event schools are closed and you are required to stay at home and look after children. If school closure occurs, you may need to take accrued annual leave or discuss alternative working arrangements with your employer. Given the COVID-19 circumstances we anticipate there may be development in this area. We will provide further update when and if changes are made.
Long Service Leave
On Tuesday 24 March 2020, the NSW Parliament passed an amendment to the Long Service Leave Act 1955 (NSW) to allow flexibility for employers and employees. The Treasury Legislation Amendment (COVID-19) Act (NSW) 2020 allows employees to take long service leave in shorter blocks such as a day a week and the one month’s notice period has been removed. However, both you and your employer must agree to such an arrangement.
The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) will protect you from being dismissed because of any temporary absence caused by illness or injury, for example in circumstances where you provide a medical certificate. It also provides you can only be stood down without pay if you cannot be usefully employed because of equipment breakdown, industrial action or a stoppage of work for which the employer cannot be held responsible.
If your position is made redundant as a result of decrease of business, you may be eligible to receive a redundancy payout as calculated in accordance with your employment contract, your Award and the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). Furthermore, under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), employers must provide notice before terminating employment, and are often subject to Awards rules and obligations if seeking to dramatically change your roster.
If you believe you have been unfairly dismissed, you can file an Unfair Dismissal Application within 21 days with respect to compensation. You should at the first instance, seek immediate legal advice.
For further information about workplace entitlements, including legal obligations of your employer, go to Fair Work Ombudsman, Australian Government Department of Health and SafeWork Australia.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your workplace, employment contract and Award, please do not hesitate to contact us.