HR Essentials during COVID-19

Recorded on the 2nd of April 2020 Expert Panel:
  • Martin Reid (Coulter Roache), industrial relations, safety and employment law specialist
  • Sue Kelly (HR4Business), industrial relations and human resources management consultant
  • Thomas Fuimaono-Page (Vicotrian Chamber of Commerce & Industry), industrial relations specialist
Key Points:
  • The job keeper allowance is $1500 a fortnight from the federal government, It’s is a $130 billion funding marks a third tranche of stimulus designed to limit the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic on the country's economy. Any company that has had a reduction in revenue of 30 per cent or more, since 1 March 2020 over a minimum one-month period, can apply for the new $1,500 "job keeper" allowance funding.
  • Even employee’s that are making less than $1,500 part-time or full-time will receive the full $1,500 from the federal government to the employer for the employee.
  • Workplace relations around the COVID-19 crisis is very grey, there has been a lot of information come out regarding this. The fair work legislation isn’t designed for a pandemic; it is designed for short term issues for a business like a fire or flooding. If a business chooses to stand-down an employee they really need to look at that closely on a case by case basis, think about the situation in a few different ways, especially with a long term view of getting through the crisis.
  • There has to be a stoppage of work for there to be adequate grounds to stand down, not just because a business has a down turn and things have got a little slow. They have to be a distinction draw regarding these workplace relations issues. It is still very grey and in the end you need to consult a skilled H.R expert or lawyer for the right information to make sure you are doing everything to comply with the legislation.
  • You need to register for the job keeper allowance through the ATO, it is a good idea to do it now even if you have been largely unaffected as a business throughout this crisis. Your then in a better prepared position if you need to access these allowance to help pay staff’s wages.
  • Businesses need to keep in mind that workplace OHS policies still apply even if staff are working from home. It is a good idea to come up with a working from home check list for your staff. A business needs to make sure their staff are safe at their home workplace, if they are injured at home while working the same OHS laws apply as if they were injured at the office or workplace in general. Your duty of care still applies to all of your staff working from home.
  • Please be mindful of your staff’s mental health throughout this crisis, some staff members will adapt quicker than others. Mental health is a part of a business’s OHS responsibilities.
  • If yourself or a staff member test positive to COVID-19 you can take personal leave as you are ill and unable to complete your work tasks, you can’t take personal leave if you are just self-isolating. You can take annual leave for this period of self-isolation if you cannot work remotely at home.
  • Please be mindful of the changing workplace relations and award wages legislation. For example, if you want to reduce staff hours for those on award wages you need a 75 percent vote amongst your staff.
  • If an employee is stood down a business needs to follow the Fair Work act, for example if an employee is stood down there is no obligation to the business to pay out annual leave or sick leave under those circumstances, these is all listed in the fair work act.
  • Business owners and organizations need to keep in mind we will get through this. Employees need to think that we will start to come out of this and you will need a ready workforce to pick things back up.