FairWork provides comprehensive guide to employer obligations during COVID-19 risks

by Freya Lucas

March 13, 2020

The FairWork Ombudsman has issued guidance about the obligations of employers, including those in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, should they find themselves impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Before making any decisions, the Ombudsman said, employers should visit the Australian Government Department of Health website for the latest information on the virus, including requirements and conditions for quarantine periods.

 

“We encourage employees and employers to work together to find appropriate solutions that suit the needs of individual workplaces and staff. This may include taking different forms of leave, working from home, or taking extra precautions in the workplace” the Ombudsman said. 

 

In an information release, the Ombudsman outlined responses to several questions, including: 

 

Full and part-time employees who can’t come to work because they are sick can take paid sick leave. If an employee needs to look after a family member or member of the employee’s household who is sick with coronavirus, or suffering an unexpected emergency, they are entitled to take paid carer’s leave.

 

Casual employees are entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion. Full and part-time employees can take unpaid carer’s leave if they have no paid sick or carer’s leave left, the Ombudsman noted. 

 

Employees, they added, should contact their employer immediately if they are unable to attend work because they can’t return from overseas or are required to enter quarantine because of the coronavirus.

 

If an employee wants to stay at home as a precaution against being exposed to coronavirus, they will need to make a request to work from home (if possible) or to take some form of paid or unpaid leave, such as annual leave or long service leave. These requests are subject to the normal leave application process in the workplace.

 

Where an employer directs a full-time or part-time employee not to work, the employee would ordinarily be entitled to be paid while subject to the direction. Here, the Ombudsman suggested that employers should “consider obligations under any applicable enterprise agreement, award, employees’ contracts of employment, and workplace policies.”

 

To read the information as provided by the Ombudsman in full, please see here

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