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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 

COVID-19 has wiped billions from our WA economy. CCIWA is helping thousands of businesses navigate issues like reduced local and global consumer demand, supply chain disruptions and restrictions on staff movements.
 
We have now launched our detailed reform agenda for WA, a plan for how to return our economy and businesses to strength. You can find CCIWA’s Recovery Reform Roadmap 
here.

We’ll continue updating this website with practical resources and guidance as the situation evolves.

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 June 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

Once the JobKeeper payments cease in September, can I make an employee’s position redundant? Or are the protected from redundancy?

An employee can be made redundant if the employer no longer requires the employee’s job to be performed by anybody, because of changes in operational requirements in the business. This could occur at any time during the employee’s employment. When looking at making an employee’s position redundant, employer’s need to make sure they comply with consultation requirements if the employee is covered by an Enterprise Agreement or an Award to mitigate the risks of an unfair dismissal claim.

The WA Government announced ‘Phase 4 easing of restrictions’. What does this include?

On the 27th June eased restrictions will include:

  • All existing gathering limits and the 100/300 rule will be removed. Gathering limits will only be determined by WA’s reduced 2sqm capacity rule;
  • The 2sqm rule will include staff only at venues that hold more than 500 patrons;
  • Removal of seated service requirements at food businesses and licensed premises;
  • No requirement to maintain patron register at food businesses and licensed premises;
  • All events will be permitted except for large scale, multi-stage music festivals;
  • Unseated performances will be permitted at venues such as concert halls, live music venues, bars and pubs;
  • Gyms can operate unstaffed, but regular cleaning must be maintained; and
  • The casino gaming floor reopening under agreed temporary restrictions.

Do social distancing restrictions still apply?

Yes, you still need to practice social distancing when you go out or in the workplace. This means keeping a 1.5m distance from others. Good hygiene should also be observed.

What is a COVID Safety Plan and do I need one?

Some businesses across WA will need to prepare a COVID Safety Plan before they re-open, to protect their staff and customers. These business include:

  • Food businesses (cafés and restaurants);
  • community and cultural venues;
  • sport and recreation facilities

Businesses will need to ensure their COVID Safety Plan is available for inspection by authorised officers. Businesses must display a poster signifying that they have prepared a plan in a prominent area so the public know they are taking the necessary steps to help stop the spread of COVID-19. All businesses will be encouraged to review their plan regularly and update or amend it as required.

Have the travel restrictions eased?

International and interstate travel is still restricted. Restrictions on intrastate travel were relaxed in phase 3 and this remains the status quo. Travel to remote Aboriginal communities is still prohibited.

Do we know when the WA’s hard border will be removed?

The WA Government announced, as part of the phase 4 announcement, that the removal of WA’s hard border will be considered in phase 6. No date has been provided for when phase 6 will commence.

When will stage 5 commence?

Phase 5 is due to be introduced on July 18 2020.

When does stage 6 commence?

No date has been provided for when phase 6 will commence. The rapidly evolving situation in Victoria is considered the main setback to phase 6. The WA hard border will only be removed when the WA Chief Health Officer is confident the spread of infection is controlled in the eastern states.

What does this mean for my COVID Safety Plan?

Businesses that are reopening in phase 4 will need to submit a COVID Safety Plan. Businesses that opened in phase 2 or 3 are required to update their current COVID Safety Plan accordingly.

Do I still need to maintain social distancing measures in the workplace?

Social distancing measures are still in place. 2sqm rule should be maintained to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19. These measures should be in line with health advice.

How do I know if I am able to utilise the JobKeeper Fair Work Act amendments?

The amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009, yet to come into operation, only apply when both the employers and employee are eligible for the JobKeeper Scheme. If an employer is eligible for JobKeeper but an employee is not, then the employer will not be able to utilise the amendments for that employee.

What is the process for directing staff to work fewer hours under the JobKeeper Fair Work Act amendments?

Under the temporary amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009, Part 6-4C allow an employer to give what is called a JobKeeper-enabling stand down direction to an employee to work a reduced number of hours (compared with the employee’s ordinary hours of work), and not be paid for the period that work is not performed. An employer can give this direction so long as:

  • The employee cannot be “usefully employed” for the employee’s normal days or hours for the duration of the stand down because of changes to business attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic or Government initiatives to slow the transmission of COVID-19;
  • the implementation of the stand down direction is safe and specifically safe having regard to the nature and spread of COVID-19;
  • the “wage condition” is satisfied. This just requires all employees to be paid a minimum of $1,500 per fortnight before tax;
  • the minimum payment guarantee is met; and
  • the hourly rate of pay guarantee is met.

There are some technical requirements that need to be satisfied before you can lawfully issue a JobKeeper Enabling Stand Down Direction, so you should seek further advice before doing so.

How much notice do I have to give staff if I want to direct them to do something under the JobKeeper Fair Work Act amendments?

An employer must give an employee at least three days written notice before they give a JobKeeper-enabling stand down direction (or a lesser period if agreed with the employee). Employers must also consult with the employee (or their representative) about the JobKeeper direction, and keep a written record of the consultation.

How long can I keep JobKeeper-enabling stand down directions in place under the JobKeeper Fair Work Act amendments?

A JobKeeper-enabling stand down direction given by an employer operates and has effect until one of the following occurs:

  • It is withdrawn or revoked by the employer.
  • It is replaced by a new employer direction.
  • An order of the Fair Work Commission requires it.
  • There are no further JobKeeper Payments.

What happens if a staff member doesn’t agree to, or comply with a direction given under the JobKeeper Fair Work Act amendments?

Employees must comply with a JobKeeper employer direction unless the direction is unreasonable in all the circumstances (this could, for example, depend on its impact on an employee’s caring responsibilities). You should seek advice before making any JobKeeper stand down directions, to ensure they are reasonable in the circumstances.

Can I pay staff at a lower rate if they are directed to do lower level duties under the JobKeeper Fair Work Act amendments?

For an employee performing new duties their hourly base rate is either:

  • the employee’s new hourly rate for the new duties being performed if they attract a higher rate of pay; or
  • the employee’s existing hourly rate if the new hourly rate for the new duties is lower than the old rate (prior to the direction to change duties).

What happens with leave accruals and service during JobKeeper-enabling stand down where staff are directed to work part hours/stood down completely with no work?

A period of stand down, including a JobKeeper-enabling stand down, counts towards the employee’s continuity of service. Also, the employee accrues leave entitlements as if the direction to stand down had not been given.

Am I breaching more beneficial conditions in my employees’ employment contracts if I give directions under JobKeeper-enabling stand down provisions?

While the JobKeeper-enabling stand down provisions are intended to be utilised in extraordinary circumstances, you should seek further advice before giving any directions to your employees.

Can I direct employee to get a flu shot before attending work?

Employers are able to direct employees where the direction is reasonable and lawful. Some people are more at risk of contracting the flu and therefore it may be reasonable to direct employees working in close contact with these people to get a flu shot, however, some employees may have genuine reasons to refuse a flu shot and you should seek further advice if this is the case. The employer would be required to pay for the flu shot and the time the employee spent getting the flu shot. Employers working with vulnerable people should consider developing a robust policy on infectious diseases.

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.

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;
  • temporary reduction in hours;
  • 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.

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.

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.

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: June 26, 2020 - 12pm 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.

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Adapt your business

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

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 GuideDownload 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 the next weekly Economic Pulse webinarThermal checking guideIf a worker has COVID-19Awards variations for COVID-19Taking care of staff mental healthWA travel app launchedWA travel app launchedCOVID-19 Government Assistance GuideRecovery Reform RoadmapWA to relax COVID-19 restrictionsWA stage 2 restrictions