WR - What you need to know!

The Federal Government have implemented a range of changes in order to try to slow the outbreak of COVID-19 and stay ahead of the curve. Click here to download an employer guide to help you manage and protect your business, your staff and your customers.

To assist management of you your staff, click on the below links.

JobKeeper FAQ

COVID Marshals

WHS obligations

Working from Home checklist for staff

Agreement to take Annual Leave

Agreement to reduce hours of work

Stand Down Checklist

Coronavirus standing down template letter

Tips for Managing Worker Stress from COVID-19

JobKeeper and Return to Work Premiums (SA Only)

Safe Work Australia - National guide for safe workplaces - COVID-19

The MTA has prepared an FAQ to try and answer your questions. If you can't find the answer below, please call 8291 2000.

Click here for Current Restrictions

Click here for Social Distancing and Self Isolation

CURRENT RESTRICTIONS

1. What are the current travel restrictions?

South Australia:

Currently travellers from the NT, QLD, TAS, NSW, ACT and WA are able to enter into SA directly without any restrictions being placed on them.

Those who entered into SA from NSW prior to 12:01 am Thursday 24th September 2020 however are required to complete the 14 day self-quarantine.

Travellers from Victoria other than those who have been classified as an Essential Traveller will not be permitted to travel to South Australia.

Those who reside on the SA/VIC border are permitted to enter into SA however provide that they reside within 40km of the border and that the reasoning for entering SA is for an essential purpose.

Exemptions will apply for essential transport including health and medical supplies, and health personnel and patients, food and commercial supply chains (i.e. the carrying of goods), health workers, near border interactions, travel of a relative/carer of a dependent individual, and for emergency services.

Any person looking to travel to South Australia from interstate should also complete a cross border travel registration form, with further information on this via the following link: https://www.police.sa.gov.au/online-services/cross-border-travel-application.

All people entering Australia from overseas will be required to quarantine for at least 14 days under the supervision and direction of the Department of Health.

The Federal Government has issued a complete travel ban on travellers exiting Australia. Only limited exceptions to the travel ban will apply, including those involved in aid work in the Pacific, compassionate travel, and essential travel for employment.

Northern Territory:

Currently travellers from the SA, QLD, TAS, ACT, NSW and WA are able to enter into the NT directly without any restrictions being placed on them.

Travelers from designated hotspots, which is currently all of Victoria who are not granted an exemption and those returning from overseas, will be required to undertake mandatory supervised quarantine for 14 days at their own cost.

The NT Government has however indicated that from the 2 November 2020 they will remove almost all of regional Victoria as a hotspot.

To find the current designated hotspot areas please refer to the following link: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1FrtL9mdMHjZ3YNGkh0kkVmHVgqir4qx9&ll=-33.9379320547799%2C146.89724293666077&z=7

Anyone who is seeking to enter the NT will be required to fill out a border entry form.

Exemptions will apply for essential transport or freight goods including health and medical supplies, health workers, persons providing maintenance or repair of power, water and communications and members of a flight crew.

Anyone seeking to get an exemption will be required to fill out an online application for exemption as well as a border entry form. Where an employer is seeking to get exemptions for its employees they will additionally have to complete a COVID-19 management plan.

All people entering Australia from overseas will be required to quarantine for at least 14 days under the supervision and direction of the Department of Health.

The Federal Government has issued a complete travel ban on travellers exiting Australia. Only limited exceptions to the travel ban will apply, including those involved in aid work in the Pacific, compassionate travel, and essential travel for employment.

2. If somebody is returning from overseas or interstate and they are required to self-isolate or quarantine but they are not sick what do we pay them?

As they would now be aware that they will need to self-isolate or quarantine, unless the travel is work-related, the employee will need to take annual or long service leave or unpaid pandemic leave.

3. What are the current closures?

South Australia

The following restrictions on gatherings apply:

  • A cap of 50 for gatherings in private homes (including the occupants)
  • Gatherings at a private place which other than a private residence has a cap of 150 people
  • Funerals and Weddings – limited to a maximum of 150 people

Physical distancing and social distancing principles will still apply, mainly that people should attempt to stay at least 1.5 meters from each other. This however does not apply to people who live together are family or friends, or people who regularly associate with each other.

A density requirement of 1 person per 2 square meters will apply to activities that are defined as public activities with defined public activities being:

  • onsite purchase and consumption of food or beverages (whether occurring in an indoor or outdoor area)
  • sport (including sports training), fitness or recreation activities
  • indoor public meetings
  • ceremonies
  • provision of personal care services
  • provision of public entertainment
  • provision of recreational transport
  • the operation of a nightclub
  • the operation of relevant licensed premises
  • the operation of a casino or gaming area
  • auctions and inspections of premises for the purpose of sale or rental of any property
  • driver instruction.

Business should also be aware that they are prohibited from having any communal food or beverage services at their premises e.g. buffets, communal water dispensers etc.

Northern Territory

The NT has currently reached stage 3 of their recovery roadmap and can now:

  • Operate all licensed gaming activities including a TAB.
  • Resume officiating, participating and supporting the playing of team sports such as football, basketball, soccer and netball.
  • Attend any cinema or theatre, concert hall, music hall, dance hall, nightclub or any other similar entertainment venue in approved configuration.
  • Attend an amusement venue.
  • Attend a bar without food being consumed.
  • Operate and access all previously restricted services at a place that provides beauty therapy and/or cosmetic services including facial care.
  • Operate and access all previously restricted services at a place that provides tattooing or body art such as branding and piercing.
  • Attend an amusement park, community centre, recreation centre or play centre.
  • Attend an arena, stadium, sporting facility including community and sporting competitions with spectators in approved seating configuration. However, if above 500 people the event requires a separately approved COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • All businesses, facilities and services previously restricted can now resume ensuring adherence to key principles.

Currently restrictions are in place for public events, which are events or gatherings that are ticketed to open to the public at either a private or public place.

Requirements vary depending on the size of the event as seen below:

Less than 100 people:

Events with less than 100 people do not require completion of a checklist or safety plan, however the physical distancing and hygiene principles should still be considered and implemented.

100 – 500 people:

For events with 100-500 people a COVID-19 safety checklist must be completed.

More than 500 people:

For events with 100-500 people a COVID-19 safety checklist must be completed and also be granted approval from the Chief Health Officer.

4. Do we need a COVID Safe Plan?

South Australia

In SA only businesses involved in a defined public activity are required to have a COVID Safe Plan in order to trade.

A defined public activity means:

  • onsite purchase and consumption of food or beverages (whether occurring in an indoor or outdoor area)
  • sport (including sports training), fitness or recreation activities
  • indoor public meetings
  • ceremonies
  • provision of personal care services
  • provision of public entertainment
  • provision of recreational transport
  • the operation of a nightclub
  • the operation of relevant licensed premises
  • the operation of a casino or gaming area
  • auctions and inspections of premises for the purpose of sale or rental of any property
  • driver instruction.

The provision of recreational transport includes those businesses who run tour bus companies.

In addition, a COVID Management Plan, approved by SA Health, will be required for:

  • a defined public activity where more than 1000 people are reasonably expected to be present at or participating in the activity
  • the onsite purchase and consumption of food or beverages at a place where the total number of persons present at the place for the purpose of the purchase and consumption of food or beverages is reasonably expected to exceed 1000 people
  • the operation of a nightclub
  • the operation of relevant licensed premises.

The following businesses will also have to keep contact tracing records (that being the time and date of the activity, the name of the person (unless they refuse) and a contact phone number or email (again unless they refuse:

  • Gaming Machine venues
  • indoor fitness classes
  • indoor public meetings
  • personal care services, ceremonies
  • weddings (including wedding ceremonies and receptions)
  • funeral services (including a wake)
  • auctions and inspections of premises for the purpose of sale or rental
  • provision of recreational transport and
  • driver instruction.

Whilst many members will not be required to have a COVID Safe Plan, the MTA still recommends looking into doing a voluntary safe plan which can be done via the following link: https://forms.sa.gov.au/#/form/5efc156bad9c5913ec274600/app/5f7d22cd4d433145f850c238

Northern Territory:

Businesses in the Northern Territory are not required to have a COVID Safe Plan unless their business was required to be closed, although the NT Government has stated whilst it isn’t mandatory they still do advise that all business do have one.

Those Businesses that continued to operate however will still be required to complete a Safety Plan Checklist, which can be completed by following this link: https://forms.nt.gov.au/Produce/wizard/0b08e5a0-0fa4-4ed8-8978-8f77e288fe85/?ChecklistType=general&prepared=true&logGuid=369b7aa8-6a87-4175-af1a-f5937778a2b0

SOCIAL DISTANCING

5. What is social distancing?

Social distancing requires people where possible to keep 1.5 meters between themselves and others. Additionally people should avoid non-essential travel and be aware of any restrictions on entering aged care homes to protect older Australians.

In South Australia there is also a direction to maintain a maximum of 1 person per 2 square meters.

6. An employee was on the same plane, bus, train etc. as someone who has been diagnosed with Coronavirus; does this mean they must self-isolate?

No, not necessarily. Whether or not they will have to be quarantined depends on whether they have been in ‘direct contact’ with the person.

This will in part be determined by the proximity that someone had to the person confirmed with the virus, that being if they were in the same seat row as him or her, the one in front or behind etc.

7. What may count as ‘direct contact’?

Below is a definition for on what may constitute as ‘close contact’:

Close contact means greater than 15 minutes face-to-face or the sharing of a closed space for more than two hours with a confirmed case without recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) which is droplet and contact precautions for the definition of contact.

Contact needs to have occurred during the period of 24 hours prior to onset of symptoms in the confirmed case until the confirmed case is no longer considered infectious to be deemed close contact.

Additionally if someone with the virus has coughed on you, touched you etc. then this would also constitute direct contact and the person should proceed to contact either their doctor or go to one of the testing facilities ASAP.

8. One of my employee’s family members has been diagnosed with Coronavirus, do they have to self-isolate themselves?

Not necessarily. Again, it will come down to whether they have had direct contact and if they have, they should go to see their doctor ASAP.

Business Stand Down

9. What is stand down?

Under the Fair Work Act, an employer may stand down an employee during when an employee cannot usefully be employed because of the following circumstances:

(a) industrial action;
(b) breakdown of machinery or equipment;
(c) a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible.

10. What is the difference between shut down, slow down, lock down and stand down?

Shut down is where the government uses legislative powers to compel the closure of certain individual businesses or categories of businesses.

Slow down is where business has slowed down due to reduced customers or need for the services, whether from the pandemic or otherwise.

Lock down is a final stage we have seen overseas, where all businesses other than absolutely essential services are shut down, and all residents are restricted to home other than to obtain essential supplies (ie groceries) as directed.

Stand down is an industrial relations term, and refers to a closure of the business or part of a business for a period of time due to circumstances outside the employer’s control.

11. If we are forced to stand down employees, what do we have to pay our employees?

In this event the default positon will be that the employee will not be given work and will not be required to be paid, but will have continuity of service (which means normal leave accruals will continue). They are also required to be paid for any public holidays which occur during stand down on days they would ordinarily have worked. If the employee has accrued annual or long service leave and wish to take it they can do so. Payments on stand down may be subject to the Job Keeper program which is described elsewhere on this site.

12. What happens when business slows down?

If business slows down due to the pandemic, businesses can consult with staff about other arrangements during this period, such as reduced hours, taking accrued paid leave, taking unpaid leave, or, if the impact is sufficiently significant, redundancies or stand down of individual employees may be considered. Any agreed reduction in hours or wages should be recorded in writing. Any combination of reduced hours or leave and taking accrued paid leave or unpaid leave may also be considered.

13. What do we need to do with stand down?

Communicate clearly with your employees, advising them that they will be stood down, and the reasons for the stand down. Use the MTA template if necessary.

Please be advised that before an employee can be stood down you would have to clearly show that you have exhausted all other options e.g. reducing hours and don’t have the capacity to offer any work.

Employers should ensure they continue to communicate with their employees during the stand down.

14. Legal Counsel advice on Stand down (Q and A)

Legal counsel was briefed to answer the following questions:

Question relating to temporary closure for mandated sanitising of the workplace

If the relevant Health Departments orders the temporary closure of a business unit or the entire business because an employee (or employees) of a MTA member was diagnosed with the Coronavirus and the business was ordered to sanitise their business, could the MTA member stand down their employees without pay or would the MTA member need to pay ordinary wages to the fit and work ready employees who cannot be usefully employed?

Legal counsel response

Yes, an employer may stand down its employees without pay (in accordance with s. 524(3) of the Fair Work Act) if they cannot usefully be employed because of a stoppage of work caused by the closure of business operations for a period to sanitise as required by an order of a relevant Federal or State government agency for which the employer could not reasonably be held responsible.

Question relating to stand down where a business is subject to an enforceable government direction to close down

If the State or Federal Government orders the ceasing of all work/trade activities due to the spread of the Coronavirus and MTA members would be compelled to close down their businesses, could a MTA member stand down its employees without pay when it closes its business?

Legal counsel response to question

Yes, an employer may stand down its employees without pay (in accordance with s 524(3) of the Fair Work Act) if they cannot usefully be employed because of a stoppage of work caused by the cessation of all work or trading activities ordered by the State or Federal Government due to the spread of the Coronavirus, for which the employer could not reasonably be held responsible.

Question relating to implementing stand down – offer to take leave

Before standing down an employee without pay pursuant to subsections 524 (1) (c ) and 524 (3) of the Fair Work Act at present (when Australia is experiencing the Coronavirus pandemic), is an employer obliged to offer to an employee the opportunity to take the employee’s accrued Annual Leave or Long Service Leave?

Legal counsel response

The better option is an employer is obliged to offer to an employee the opportunity to take some or all of the employee’s accrued Annual Leave or Long Service Leave before standing down an employee without pay pursuant to subsections 524 (1) (c ) and 524 (3) of the Fair Work Act.This is because it is only when that leave has been exhausted or declined to be used by the employee that it can accurately be said that the employee cannot be usefully employed because of a stoppage of work for a cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible.

Question relating to implementing stand down – refusal to grant leave entitlements

Can an employer refuse an employee’s request that their employer allow them to take their accrued Annual Leave or Long Service Leave before the employer stands them down without pay pursuant to subsections 524 (1) (c) and 524 (3) of the Fair Work Act at present (when Australia is experiencing the Coronavirus pandemic)?

Legal counsel response

The corollary of the question is that the better view is that an employer should not refuse an employee’s request that their employer allow them to take their accrued Annual Leave or Long Service Leave before the employer stands them down without pay pursuant to subsections 524 (1) (c) and 524 (3).

Other issues raised with Legal counsel – onus of proving that there is a stoppage of work

The onus of proving whether employees could not have been usefully employed because of a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer could not reasonably be held responsible is on the employer as the party seeking to implement the stand down.

Although the underlying cause of a likely stoppage of work is the Coronavirus outbreak but the direct causal link must be established that the statutory conditions giving rise to the right of an employer to stand down employees – that “because of” not just the underlying Coronavirus issue but also the immediate business or trading circumstances of the employer mean that particular employees cannot usefully be employed. It may be accepted (as it would be likely to be by the Commission) that the underlying cause of a likely stoppage of work is the Coronavirus outbreak. If there is work for them to do, despite the restrictions (e.g. social distancing) imposed as a result of the Coronavirus then they should be permitted to do that work and should not be stood down.

Question relating to end of employment – redundancy situation

Question relating to the situation where business owners themselves decide to close down

Where a MTA member experiences a downturn in their business caused by the Coronavirus related changes in the marketplace and in consumer sentiments, and the MTA member decides to close down part of their business or their entire business before the State or Federal Government compels them to do so, would the MTA member need to comply with clause 119 - Redundancy Pay, of the Fair Work Act?

Legal counsel response

Yes, an employer would need to comply with s 119 Fair Work Act redundancy pay obligations IF it retrenches an employee (terminates their employment on the basis of redundancy – that is, because they no longer want anyone to do the job the employee was doing (permanently) because it has closed part or all of its business permanently.

15. What are the Job Keeper changes to the Fair Work Act?

To implement to JobKeeper scheme and provide further flexibility and support to businesses, additional legislation has been passed making changes to a number of other pieces of legislation, particularly the Fair Work Act.

The Parliament has made the following changes to the Fair Work Act, which will only apply to employers who qualify for the JobKeeper scheme:

  • If the JobKeeper payment is payable to an employee, the employer must pay the greater of the JobKeeper payment, or the amount that is due to the employee for work performed during that period.
  • An employer can direct an employee to work reduced days or hours (including a full stand down) if they cannot be usefully employed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • An employer can direct an employee to complete alternative duties, or work at a different location, provided such duties or location are suitable and not unreasonable.
  • If either of the above two directions apply, then the employer must pay an hourly rate that is equivalent to the employee’s ordinary base rate of pay, unless they are performing higher duties, in which case the higher hourly rate must be paid.
  • An employer can ask the employee to work different days or times than ordinary, and the employee must consider and not unreasonably refuse the request.
  • An employer can ask the employee to take paid annual leave (provide it leaves a balance of not less than 2 weeks), and the employee must consider and not unreasonably refuse the request.
  • The employer and employee may agree to take twice as much annual leave at half rate of pay.
  • During any reduced hours or annual leave directed under these provisions, leave entitlements will accrue based on normal hours, and these periods will count as service.
  • If an employee requests to engage in reasonable secondary employment, training or professional development during any stand down, the employer must consider and not unreasonable refuse the request.

16. How are WH&S obligations impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The National Cabinet has agreed to 10 ‘National COVID-19 safe workplace principles’ to underpin the development of further work health and safety (WHS) guidance on COVID-19.

Safe Work Australia (SWA) will develop and endorse the guidance to help employers manage health and safety risks posed by COVID-19.

The 10 principles on which the guidance will be based are:

  1. All workers, regardless of their occupation or how they are engaged, have the right to a healthy and safe working environment.
  2. The COVID-19 pandemic requires a uniquely focused approach to WHS as it applies to businesses, workers and others in the workplace.
  3. To keep our workplaces healthy and safe, businesses must, in consultation with workers and their representatives, assess the way they work to identify, understand and quantify risks and to implement and review control measures to address those risks.
  4. As COVID-19 restrictions are gradually relaxed, businesses, workers and other duty holders must work together to adapt and promote safe work practices, consistent with advice from health authorities, to ensure their workplaces are ready for the social distancing and exemplary hygiene measures that will be an important part of the transition.
  5. Businesses and workers must actively control against the transmission of COVID-19 while at work, consistent with the latest advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), including considering the application of a hierarchy of appropriate controls where relevant.
  6. Businesses and workers must prepare for the possibility that there will be cases of COVID-19 in the workplace and be ready to respond immediately, appropriately, effectively and efficiently, and consistent with advice from health authorities.
  7. Existing state and territory jurisdiction of WHS compliance and enforcement remains critical. While acknowledging individual variations across WHS laws mean approaches in different parts of the country may vary, to ensure business and worker confidence, a commitment to a consistent national approach is key, including a commitment to communicating what constitutes best practice in prevention, mitigation and response to the risks presented by COVID-19.
  8. SWA, through its tripartite membership, will provide a central hub of WHS guidance and tools that Australian workplaces can use to successfully form the basis of their management of health and safety risks posed by COVID-19.
  9. States and Territories ultimately have the role of providing advice, education, compliance and enforcement of WHS and will leverage the use of the SWA central hub in fulfilling their statutory functions.
  10. The work of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission will complement the work of SWA, jurisdictions and health authorities to support industries more broadly to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic appropriately, effectively and safely

17. JobKeeper and Return to Work Premiums (SA Only)

We have received confirmation that the JobKeeper wage subsidy payments will not be considered remuneration for calculation of Return to Work (RTW) premiums for 2020-21, the same as for state Payroll Tax.

You can still choose to have your premiums based on your 2019-20 actual remuneration, (with no end of year adjustment), or an estimate of your 2020-21 remuneration (with an end of year adjustment when actual remuneration is known).

Example 1:

Business 'A' pays its workers $500,000 total remuneration in 2019-20, including $100,000 of JobKeeper payments from April to June 2020. Business 'A' chooses the actual remuneration option in July when completing their remuneration return. They should declare $400,000 total remuneration ($500,000-$100,000).

Example 2:

Business 'B' expects to pay its workers $500,000 for 2020-21, and expects to receive $80,000 in JobKeeper payments from July to September 2020. Business 'B' chooses the estimates remuneration option in July when completing their remuneration return. They should estimate $420,000 total remuneration ($500,000-$80,000).

Remuneration returns for 2020-21 premium are due between 2 July and 15 September 2020.