Why Should I Read This Alert?
In a word: survival.
This alert is for anyone that is an employer, or self-employed or engages in some form of enterprise with an ABN as at 1 March 2020, where the COVID-19 pandemic has had an adverse effect on business.
The Commonwealth Government’s “jobkeeper” legislation (otherwise known as the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus (Measures No 2) Bill 2020) last night made its way through Parliament and was finally passed.
This legislation could very well save your business – or at the very least, change the way you conduct your business over the next 6 months.
In short: A great deal of law, intended to aid employers.
Amongst other things, the legislation amends the Fair Work Act to provide aid for ‘employers who qualify for the jobkeeper scheme’ in order that they make ‘temporary changes’ to employment agreements in order to help ‘people to keep their jobs’ in exchange for financial support by the Commonwealth Government
The changes smooth the way for employers to:
- Change an employee’s duties
- Alter the days and the hours an employee will work
- Stand down employees on hours or day(s) which they otherwise would normally work
- Be flexible in having employees work in a safe location (including from their home)
- Request employees to take some of their paid annual leave
How Does It Work?
In short: During the next 6 months, employers gain legal protection and flexibility in managing their employment needs and overheads. In return, the Government gains an efficient way to deliver financial aid via employers to employees who might otherwise be unemployed.
Employers that qualify under the legislation gain protection when they reasonably decide to take one or more of the actions covered by the legislation, resulting in the affected employee becoming entitled to jobkeeper payments while their employment continues.
The buzzword is ‘reasonable’. Both employers and employees must act reasonably in order to gain the benefits of the jobkeeper financial support measures.
Employers must comply with a number of statutory requirements, including an obligation to act reasonably, to consult with employees, provide notice, keep records and pay superannuation.
Employees’ entitlements and service with the employer are still calculated on the basis of their original employment agreements.
General protections provisions and unfair dismissal protection remains in place.
Can My Business Do This?
In short: If your business has substantially declined due to COVID-19, your business is likely to qualify – but be careful to ensure that the way you deal with your employees doesn’t create risk for your business in the long run.
- Work out if you qualify
Make sure your business ‘qualifies for the jobkeeper scheme’. If you’re not sure, we can guide you.
- Consider how the COVID-19 epidemic has affected (or might soon affect) your business.
You don’t need to have been in business for more than 12 months to be affected and still be eligible. We are available to provide tailored advice on what you need to establish, and how to prepare the necessary information.
- Perform a balancing act
Consider what duties your employees could reasonably be doing for your business whilst it is affected by the pandemic. Balance that against the protected steps you might reasonably need take to ensure the survival of the business. We can advise you on whether or not your steps will be protected under the legislation – and if not, what legal alternatives might be available to you.
- Get it right, get advice
Make sure you take advice to properly understand the process, documentation, and the relevant compliance requirements in order that you can gain the benefit of the jobkeeper legislation and the financial support that comes with it.Book in for a complimentary chat with us here.
Don’t hesitate to contact our legal team if you have any questions or any other legal questions that are arising. Our legal team is highly experienced in all of these areas, and are ready to help.
Other relevant articles:
- Coronavirus: Implications on commercial contracts and force majeure clauses
- COVID19 and Hurdles to Stand Downs
- Coronavirus Employment Law Update – Leave and Stand Downs – Aspect Legal
- Coronavirus: Workplace Health and Safety Considerations
- Amendments to Insolvency Rulings, and Director’s Personal Liability
Relevant Podcast Episode:
- [EP 099] Coronavirus Implications on Commercial Contracts and Force Majeure Clauses
- [EP 0131] Foreign investments, the FIRB approval process and changes in the face of COVID
Disclaimer: The material contained on this website is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should not depend upon any information appearing on this website without seeking legal advice. We do not guarantee that the contents of this website will be accurate, complete or up-to-date. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation