This is a trying time for all businesses but especially so the employers and their employees. Many businesses have been forced to close due to the current restrictions in place, but what does this mean for employees?
Q: Can employees be stood down and if so do I need to pay them?
A: You as the employer would need to first discuss any other options to keep your employees usefully employed before making the decision of standing them down. If this means that they work from home then you should do all you can to allow this. However, if you can prove that they cannot be usefully employed and that there is a stoppage of work that you cannot be reasonably held responsible for then you can stand them down. If your employees are under a part-time or full-time agreement then they can access their annual leave entitlements during the stand down period. If they have exhausted their leave entitlement then they would use unpaid leave. Your employees will still be considered employed by you even if they are unpaid during this time.
Q: Can I reduce an employees hours?
A: You as the employer would need to first discuss any other options with your employees to continue their ordinary hours. The employee would also need to agree with the reduction of hours before commencing the new arrangement. If agreed, then you can reduce their hours.
Q: What if my employee has to stay home because they have or may have Coronavirus?
A: Your employee would use their personal/carers leave entitlements and then use annual or unpaid leave.
Q: What if I choose to send my employees home as a precaution?
A: Your employees would generally still be entitled to their ordinary pay. If you direct them to not work but they are willing and able to work then you still have the responsibility to pay them under their agreement. However, if you are forced to send them home then please read the first question and answer again.
Q: What if my employee has to stay home because their children no longer have access to childcare?
A: Your employee would use their personal/carers leave entitlements and then use annual or unpaid leave. However, you can arrange your employee to work from home in this case and should still attempt to provide them with alternative work before commencing unpaid leave.
Q: What if I choose to terminate employees?
A: You would still need to follow the usual Fair Work laws, e.g. provide notice, redundancy pay if applicable, pay out for leave accrued if applicable. Please be careful to ensure that you are not dismissing employees because of discrimination or a temporary absence due to illness or injury.
For more information about your obligations as an employer, please see the Fair Work website at https://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/news-and-media-releases/website-news/coronavirus-and-australian-workplace-laws