Register for Updates

Practical advice and assistance for businesses

Responding to 
COVID-19

ABN: 96 929 977 985 ACN: 099 891 611 
Copyright © 2020 Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia

Employers have a duty of care to do what they can, within reason, to protect staff from COVID-19. 

We can help Members identify appropriate policy and procedural responses within legislative frameworks.

We can assist with managing and restructuring your workforce during periods of uncertainty.

Get help planning for and managing risk and business continuity.

Support your business continuity with advice about alternative overseas suppliers and export markets.

View Membership packagesMore about Workplace Relations ConsultingFind out about OHS ConsultingVisit International Trade Consulting

Protecting staff

CCIWA can help
CCIWA can help 

The COVID-19 outbreak is rapidly evolving. So far, we have helped thousands of businesses respond — from providing advice on quarantined employees to managing a downturn in trade and supply.  

While each business faces its own challenges, some key considerations can help build your company's resilience and protect our community. We’re updating this website regularly with a range of practical resources to help you navigate the situation.

Employee Relations
Advice Centre

Workplace Relations Consulting

OHS
Consulting

International Trade Consulting

ABN: 96 929 977 985 ARBN: 099 891 611 

Copyright © 2020 Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia

  • Roll out the Department of Health’s hygiene and self-isolation guidelines and communicate them to staff. 
  • Know which of your staff has a higher risk of serious illness from contracting the virus, or has close contact with someone who does.  
  • Investigate social distancing measures for staff like:
    • introducing work-from-home set ups wherever possible; 
    • varying shifts/breaks or flexing hours to reduce staff contactand 
    • splitting up offices and holding meetings online to reduce physical proximity.    
  • Postpone or cancel all travel that isn’t critical to your operations. 
  • Staff are not entitled to be paid whilst self-isolating under Australian Government orders. 
  • Look at updating your leave policy. You may be able to reasonably refuse leave to travel-banned countries. 
  • If staff then go to a travel-banned country against employer approval, on top of the requirement to self-isolate, it may be possible to discipline the staff member.
  • Consider postponing or cancelling all business travel that isn’t critical to your operations.

Get on top of travel

Australian Citizens and Resident arriving in Australia must isolate themselves at home for 14 days. All foreigner travellers will not be permitted to enter Australia from 9pm (AEST), Friday 20 March 2020.

Disclaimer: The content found on this website does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained is free from error and/or omissions, no responsibility can be accepted by CCIWA, its employees or any other person involved in the preparation of information for any claim (including without limitation, any liability arising from fault, negligence or negligent misstatement) for any direct or indirect loss or damage arising from any use or reliance on this information, or otherwise in connection with it.

  • Discuss options with your workforce. Your employees may agree to temporary changes, like reducing hours.
  • Explore leave options. Employees may agree to unpaid or long-service leave.
  • Get across your enterprise agreements or contractual terms. In limited circumstances, there may be room to stand down employees without pay. 
  • If you have exhausted all other options, know what you must do to meet your obligations in case of redundancies.
  • Temporary new flexibility has been added to some employee awards. Stay up to date on the changes.

Adapt your workforce

You may need to reconsider your existing workforce structure. Always seek legal advice before restructuring.

  • Ensure your employees' workspace complies with occupational health and safety standards and check your insurance.
  • You may need to provide staff with equipment and services — like internet access, software virus protections, laptops and phones.
  • Know what expenses your employees may be able to claim and stipulate working hours and entitlements beforehand.

Trial a work from home day

It’s important to have a ‘work from home’ or offsite plan in place and tested before it’s needed.

CCIWA Members with questions can contact our
Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08) 9365 7660.

  • Identify who is responsible for handling your business’s response to COVID-19 and who will communicate your response to staff and stakeholders. 
  • Keep staff and other stakeholders up to date with your COVID-19 response.
  • Staff are likely to be anxious about their jobs. Be considerate and make time to recognise wins.

Communicate with your staff

Business has a role to play in the community’s resilience — not just by helping keep staff safe at work, but by showing leadership through difficult times.

CCIWA Members with questions can contact the
Employee Relations Advice Centre on 9365 7660

Download our COVID-19 Key Issues Sheet - updated March 25, 2020

On Wednesday 18 March, the Australian Government raised the advice for all overseas travel to the highest level – Level 4 – Do Not TravelBookmark the DFAT and Smartraveller websites and stay up to date.

CCIWA Members with questions can contact the
Employee Relations Advice Centre on 9365 7660

Download hand hygiene postersDownload Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery WorkbookDownload Business Continuity Analysis Template
Download the Government's Stimulus Fact Sheet

Bookmark the business.gov.au website to stay up to date.

Call CCIWA Membership 1300 422 492

Bookmark the Health Department website to stay up to date.

Frequently asked questions

Updated March 26, 2020

Our Employee Relations Advice Centre offers advice and information targeted to our Members’ needs. The team has taken hundreds of calls on COVID-19 so far. Below you can find some general guidance to frequently asked questions.

Title

What do we do if an employee is returning from interstate travel now that the Australian Government has closed the WA State boarder? Do we have to pay them?

In line with the directions issued by the Department of Health, the employee must isolate themselves at for 14 days from the day they return from interstate travel. Employers should offer employees the ability to use any accrued leave, such as annual leave, long service leave or personal leave, depending on circumstance. Things to consider include whether or not the employee is ill, if they are fit to work from home, or if the employee would agree to take paid annual leave.

1a) Now that the government has directed my industry or business to shut down, does it trigger stand down?

Under the Fair Work Act, an employee can only be stood down if they cannot be usefully employed because of a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible. Whether the option of standing down employees is available due to coronavirus is circumstantial and fact dependent. To stand employees down, it is critical the business can demonstrate that:

  • there is a stoppage of work;
  • the employees to be stood down cannot be usefully employed (including at other locations or on other tasks which the employee does not usually perform, provided they have the skills and competence to undertake the alternate tasks); and
  • the cause of the stoppage must also be one that the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible for.

Otherwise non-payment could be a breach of the Fair Work Act and employers may risk being fined as well as needing to provide back-payment. An enforceable government direction requiring a business to close, causing there to be no work for staff to undertake, is one example of where employees may lawfully be stood down.

1b) What about payment of wages during stand down?

There may be the ability to stand the employees down without pay but employers should seek further advice on their individual circumstances before doing so. Every effort to find alternative work and mitigate the adverse effects of a stand down event, such as offering any accrued leave entitlements to the employee, should be employed first.

Additionally, where an enterprise agreement, award or contract applies and contains stand down provisions that require staff to continue to be paid during stand down periods, this will override the Fair Work Acts unpaid provision.

2a) We are looking at strategies to mitigate redundancies. What are our options?

If a business experiences a downturn to the degree that they no longer require a job(s) to be done by anyone, then redundancy may need to be considered. Alternatives before reaching that decision, might include temporary alternative working arrangements, annual leave, long service leave, accrued time off in lieu of overtime or leave without pay for employees that are agreeable.

Further strategies to mitigate redundancy might include a temporary move to reduced hours (which could be coupled with a top up with accrued annual leave) but would also need to be mutually agreed. Taking of annual leave at half pay is another option.

Any redundancy process should be accompanied by appropriate consultation.

2b) Can we reduce the rate of pay for staff as a redundancy mitigation strategy?

In some cases, it may be possible to limit the amount of overtime staff work as means to reducing wages cost. Employers should exercise caution where overtime is worked regularly and seek advice before taking action. Award-covered employees must at least receive the amount of pay their binding award prescribes. Employers who reduce pay below award rates risk fines for breach of award and underpayment claims. Staff who are employed on above-award rate or who are award free and being paid in excess of the national or state minimum wage would need to mutually agree to any reduction in pay.

Will my staff being on stand down prevent them from accessing the Centrelink Job Seeker Allowance?

Staff may still be eligible to receive the JobSeeker payment through Centrelink, even when they are still employed. Staff may be considered “unemployed” for the purposes of the payment where their hours have been reduced. This can include part time or casual work. Additionally, where an employee is still employed but is not receiving wages due to stand down or has agreed to unpaid leave to mitigate redundancy, they may also be entitled to receive unemployment benefits.

For more information see the Australian Government’s Services Australia site here.

Can we force employees to take annual leave?

An award or enterprise agreement may include terms requiring an employee to take annual leave where the requirement is reasonable. Similarly, an award/agreement free employee may be required to take paid annual leave where the request is reasonable. Importantly, an employer cannot force or direct an employee to take annual leave if the business is encountering financial difficulties and/or does not have enough work except where the relevant industrial instrument provides the employer with the ability to direct. However, a period of annual leave may be mutually agreed in such circumstances.

Can we force employees to take annual leave?

An award or enterprise agreement may include terms requiring an employee to take annual leave where the requirement is reasonable. Similarly, an award/agreement free employee may be required to take paid annual leave where the request is reasonable. Importantly, an employer cannot force or direct an employee to take annual leave if the business is encountering financial difficulties and/or does not have enough work except where the relevant industrial instrument provides the employer with the ability to direct. However, a period of annual leave may be mutually agreed in such circumstances.

How do we reduce our staffing levels?

By definition ‘redundancy’ is where an employer has made a definite decision that they no longer wish the job to be done by anyone. Employers who faces changed operational requirements (e.g. a downturn in work, cutbacks, loss of funding etc.) may find themselves in a position where such redundancies are necessary.

When redundancies are unavoidable, the employer must advise affected staff of the decision to implement significant change as soon as practical after the decision has been made and discuss ways to minimise its impact. This notification should also be issued to affected employees in writing. Employers should consult the affected employees and, where required by the Fair Work Act or an applicable industrial instrument (i.e. award or enterprise agreement), any relevant unions before actioning any termination decisions. As part of consultation, employers must consider alternatives to redundancy. This could include:

  • • casual or part time work;
  • transfer to another position;
  • job sharing;
  • voluntary retirement; or
  • offering employees to take accrued annual leave or extended unpaid leave.

If selecting between staff for redundancy, this must be based on objective selection criteria that is not discriminatory. The aim should be maximising productivity of remaining employees. Selection criteria should generally be made available to employees and, where relevant, the union.

Generally, full and part-time employees should be retained over casual and temporary employees. Once an employee has been selected for termination, they must be informed of the decision. This should be in the form of a letter of termination outlining the reason for the decision and the termination date and giving appropriate notice or compensation in lieu. Employers should seek further advice for information on redundancy payments.

Do we need to make an employee redundant where we have no work?

If a business experiences a downturn to the degree that they no longer require a job to be done by anyone, then redundancy may need to be considered. We recommend considering alternatives before reaching that decision, such as offering temporary alternative working arrangements, annual leave, accrued time off in lieu of overtime or leave without pay to employees that are agreeable. Any redundancy process should be accompanied by appropriate consultation where required.

Do we have to shut down the business if an employee tests positive for COVID-19?

Whole businesses do not need to be shut down because one employee tests positive for COVID-19. We recommend following the Department of Health's guidelines which include self-isolation in the event of coming into close contact with a person that is a confirmed case of COVID-19. In a circumstance where employees can be isolated and still perform work, employees may be able to work from home.

If an employee presents to work with flu- like symptoms, what should we do?

Employees should be encouraged to stay away from the workplace in the event that they are ill in any case. If an employee appears unwell, presents for work and resists a suggestion to seek medical advice and go home to rest, given the circumstances, the employer may be able to direct the employee to attend a medical appointment, at the cost of the employer, to ensure the employee is fit to perform work. If the employee is certified as being unfit for work, the employee should be placed on personal leave.

Can we require employees to provide medical clearance before returning to work after a period of leave?

Employers may be able to make such a direction if they have a policy in place that directs employees to provide fit for work clearances when travelling to countries their policy outlines as being high risk. This is on the basis that the policy is reasonable and based on a reliable source such as the Australian Government’s Smartraveller website.

Are staff entitled to workers compensation if they contract COVID-19 at work?

Workers compensation is only applicable where an employee has become ill or injured in the course of their employment and their employment must have been a significant contributing factor to illness or injury. Given COVID-19 can be spread from person-to-person at any point in time, including in a public setting such as public transport, it may be hard to pin point the exact time and place of contracting the virus. This may make it difficult to determine whether employment was a significant contributing factor. The individual circumstances and evidence of each claim would need to be considered. Employers should contact their insurers regarding any workers compensation claims they receive from their staff.

I’d prefer to not make my apprentice redundant, what are my other options?

Employers have a wide range of options available to retain apprentices through downturn in trade. We encourage employers to contact a mentor at Apprenticeship Support Australia, and discuss potential options which include, variation to the contracted hours (i.e. change to part-time hours); temporary suspension of the contract; redeployment within the business or redeployment to a Group Training Organisation.

In addition, employers should investigate their eligibility for the COVID19 apprentice wage support subsidy.

If I suspend my apprentice/trainee’s training contract, what is maximum suspension period?

Training contracts can be suspended by Mutual Agreement between the employer and the apprentice, for up to twelve (12) months. The suspension can be extended beyond the twelve (12) month limit with prior approval from the Apprenticeship Office. Suspension does not automatically extend the end date of the training contract and must be specified at the same time as notification of the suspension.

If I have to make my apprentice/trainee redundant, what support is available to my apprentice and my business?

Apprenticeship Support Australia has a dedicated mentoring service to assist employers and apprentices through this change. Our mentoring service will assist with practical advice, refer people to government support agencies for financial assistance, and connect them with mental health services where needed. In addition, our mentors will connect apprentices with our Job Seeker Service, connecting them to advertised and non-advertised vacancies.

CCIWA Members with questions or concerns can contact our Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08) 9365 7660.

Economic Pulse

It's important to understand how COVID-19 will impact your business depending on your sector, financial health and ongoing stimulus measures. CCIWA has been working with both the Federal and State Governments in framing their responses. Global, federal and state stimulus are being deployed to help counter:

  • sweeping quarantines and restrictions on movement;  
  • market volatility and disruptions in global supply chains; and 
  • a chill in consumer confidence.

Stay up-to-date with weekly updates from our Chief Economist Aaron Morey, and take our survey to have your voice heard.

Download our OHS Working From Home ChecklistCoronavirus Self-Screening Forms for Staff/External PartiesDownload our OHS Working From Home PacketDownload the COVID-19 Employer Guide

We need to ensure we protect our economy and our workforce. Businesses have an important role to play to reassure workforces and communities, to know that we will get through this together.

Roger Cook MLA
Minister for Health

Download our Updated Staff CommunicationDownload our Sample Staff Email

A message from WA’s Health Minister

Download the Government's Stimulus Fact Sheet

Updated: 3rd April, 2020 - 4pm AWST 

How to Work Well From Home - ManagersHow to Work Well From Home - StaffDownload the Workforce Options GuideDownload our Work-from-Home Packet
CLOSE

Our Employee Relations Advice Centre is experiencing a high volume of calls & email enquiries at this time. We appreciate your patience and will endeavour to address your query as soon as possible.

Take our Business Impact Survey

Adapt your business

Efforts to secure your supply chain and digitally transform your business now can also help build its resilience into the future.

  • Get across opportunities for new tenders and diversify your supply chain.
  • Explore ecommerce options, and look to secure your logistics.
  • Make sure you also have a plan for the longer term. COVID-19 is likely to continue to affect our economy and consumer behaviour after the current crisis.
  • Assist workers to travel between regions while travel bans are in place.
Visit ICN Portal

Managing apprentices & trainees

Employers of apprentices and trainees must consider both their training and employment contracts when looking to restructure.

  • Get across your contractual obligations. 
  • Investigate alternatives to cancelling— you may be able to suspend or vary the training contract.  
  • Look at accessing Federal Government stimulus for employers of apprentices/trainees. 
  • If you have to make your apprentice/trainee redundant, you must meet the requirements of the State Training Authority.
Download the Training Contract ObligationsDownload the Apprentice and Trainee Workforce Options GuideDownload the Standing Down Staff Guide
Download the Apprentice and Trainee Workforce Options GuideDownload the Workforce Options GuideDownload the Government's Stimulus Fact SheetDownload Hazard Identification & Incident Reporting ProcedureDownload Working from Home ProcedureAwards flexed for downturnJobKeeper Payment - Quick Employer GuideTravel letter for staffTravel letter for staffLightbox Button
CCIWA supporting our regional chamber members
Download the Proposed award variationsSample letter to landlordsJobKeeper Payment - Quick Employer GuideRegister for Economic Pulse webinar