Temporary Update: The economic effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have resulted in significant changes to the lives of both employees and employers.
On 8 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission, pursuant to section 157(3) of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), varied the Schedules of ninety-nine modern awards to achieve the modern awards objective during the COVID-19 pandemic. The variations include access to 2 weeks of unpaid pandemic leave, and greater flexibility to annual leave entitlements. The variations will operate until 30 June 2020, unless an application is made to the Commission to extend this date. Since this time, variations to other awards have been made.
As at 7 July 2020, the Fair Work Commission have extended some end dates for certain awards. Please see the Fair Work Ombudsman website for further information [link opens in a new window].
The Fair Work Ombudsman can also provide information and advice about employee’s workplace rights and obligations during this time; including information for migrant workers.
Specific information is available on stand downs from work, flexible work arrangements, workplace health and safety, and pay and leave entitlements.
Fair Work Ombudsman [link opens in a new window]
JobKeeper Wage Subsidy Scheme
On 30 March 2020, the Australian Government announced a wage subsidy called the JobKeeper payment for entities that have been significantly affected by the economic impacts of the Coronavirus.
On 9 April 2020, the Federal Treasurer made the Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments and Benefits) Rules 2020 (Cth)to outline the eligibility requirements for the Job Keeper Payment. An Explanatory Statement was also released at this time. The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) was temporarily amended to help with the implementation of the JobKeeper payment scheme.
The Rules were made pursuant to the Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments and Benefits) Act 2020 (Cth).
According to the Explanatory Statement, the purpose of the Rules is to establish the JobKeeper payment scheme and specify details about the scheme, including:
The Rules specify that the JobKeeper payment is available in fortnightly periods between 30 March 2020 and 27 September 2020 – a period of 26 weeks.
A business that is entitled to the JobKeeper payment will receive a fixed payment of $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee. The payment must have already been passed on to the eligible employee in full. The payment provides the equivalent of approximately 70 per cent of the national median wage. In addition a business may be entitled to the JobKeeper payment for the business owner or a nominated owner regardless of whether the business has eligible employees.
By temporarily offsetting wage costs, the JobKeeper scheme supports businesses to retain staff – and continue paying them – despite suffering decreased turnover during this period of downturn. The payment also supports these businesses to recommence their operations or scale up operations quickly without needing to rehire when the downturn is over.
Goods and services tax does not apply in relation to JobKeeper payments made to employers because the payments are not consideration for supplies made by employers to the Government.
Enrolment for the initial JobKeeper periods was extended from 30 April 2020 to 31 May 2020.
JobKeeper Payment Extension
On 21 July 2020, the Australian Government announced it is extending the JobKeeper Payment until 28 March 2021 and is targeting support to those businesses who continue to be significantly impacted by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
If an employer currently receives the JobKeeper Payment it remains unchanged and is available until 27 September 2020.
From 28 September 2020, employers seeking to claim JobKeeper Payments will be required to reassess their eligibility for the JobKeeper extension with reference to their actual turnover. The JobKeeper extension will be available to qualifying businesses from 28 September 2020 until 28 March 2021. The Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments and Benefits) Rules 2020 were amended to incorporate the new changes (compilation date 7 July 2020).
Further changes were announced on 7 August 2020 to adjust the reference date for employee eligibility, and make it easier for organisations to qualify for the JobKeeper Payment extension from 28 September 2020.The Rules have been subject to a further compilation here (latest compilation date 15 August 2020). See also the Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Jobkeeper Payments) Amendment Act 2020.
For further information on the JobKeeper scheme, including the new changes, please see the following websites [links will open in a new window]:
Paid Pandemic Leave Scheme in SA
The South Australian Paid Pandemic Leave Scheme provides financial support to eligible South Australian workers who are required to self-isolate or quarantine because of a public health direction from SA Health and mandatory COVID-19 testing, and do not have access to paid leave or other income support.
The Scheme came into effect from 24 August 2020.
A single payment of $300 is available for eligible people who are part of a designated COVID-19 cluster.
Payments of up to $1,500 are available for eligible people who have been instructed to self-isolate or quarantine due to a public health direction or a positive COVID-19 test.
For further information, please visit the SA Government's dedicated COVID--19 website here [link opens in a new window].
There are legislated set of minimum standards that must be met by employers in any employment relationship. There are also Awards, which set out special conditions that apply for particular industries. Unions also bargain for better conditions and consequently, some workplaces are covered by Enterprise Agreements setting out conditions of employment.
An employer and employee can still agree as to any terms and conditions they might want to have in the contract of employment, but if any of those terms or conditions falls below the minimum standard set by legislation, an award or an enterprise agreement, that covers their industry, the legislation, award or agreement conditions generally prevail (with limited exceptions).
All workers in South Australia, apart from State public servants and local government employees, come under the national system (Federal law). The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) applies in respect of employers and workers under the national system. For State government and local government employees, the main legislation is the Public Sector Act 2009 (SA), the Local Government Act 1999 (SA) and the Fair Work Act 1994 (SA), along with other Acts particular to specific government bodies and departments.
The Fair Work Commission is the national workplace relations tribunal.
Telephone: 1300 799 675
The Fair Work Ombudsman provides advice on workplace rights and responsibilities and investigates workplace complaints under Federal law (all except State government or Local government).
Telephone: 13 13 94
The Fair Work Ombudsman also has the ability to receive concerns about employers anonymously - See: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/how-we-help-you/anonymous-tipoff
Safework SA administers occupational, health and safety and welfare laws (including bullying) and also provides information on awards and conditions. Complaints can be made to Safework SA about contraventions of occupational, health, safety and welfare laws.
Telephone: 1300 365 355
Dispute resolution and Decision Making for the Return to Work scheme, SA Industrial and Employment Law, Equal Opportunity Discrimination Cases, Breach of Contract Cases, Monetary Claims (eg. underpaid wages) and Work Health and Safety Law.
Telephone: (08) 8207 0999
The Working Women's Centre provides free information, advice and support to women, and in some cases very vulnerable men, on issues related to work.
Telephone: 8410 6499 ; 1800 652 697
Training and Skills Commission provide information, assistance and support in relation to traineehips and apprenticeships.Telephone: (08) 8226 3462
The Training Advocate provides information, advice and advocacy services to trainees.
Telephone: 1800 006 488
The Young Worker's Legal Service provides information, advice, and representation to workers under the age of 30.
Telephone: 8279 2233
A free legal advice service run by the University of Adelaide - providing assistance in areas of Equal Opportunity Law (e.g. sexual harassment, discrimination, etc.).
Telephone: 8207 1977 (between 10am - 3pm)
For work place health and safety and injuries see the Law Handbook section on Accidents at Work.
For discrimination at work see the Law Handbook chapter on Discrimination.
For issues relating to getting help from an employer whilst experiencing family or domestic violence (including your leave rights) - see the Law Handbook on Family Violence.
The information about Federal industrial law on this site has been partially reproduced from information from the Australian Government Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, Copyright Commonwealth of Australia reproduced by permission.