CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) – STAGE 2 DIRECTIONS – MORE BUSINESSES IMPACTED
Stage 2 Shutdown – Places of Social Gatherings
The Stage 1 restrictions on social gatherings imposed at midday, 23 March 2020 will remain in place. The Stage 2 restrictions on social gatherings will now be imposed from 11.59pm today, Wednesday, 25 March 2020. Stage 2 will include:
Cafes – limited to takeaway and home delivery services, as well as canteens in hospitals, care homes, schools, prisons, military, homeless and workplaces;
Auction houses, real estate auctions and open house inspections – except for private appointments for inspection;
Outdoor and indoor markets – as determined by each State and Territory, food markets will continue to operate in all States and Territories;
Beauty and personal care services – hairdressers and barber shops (up to 30 minute appointments only, with the 1 person per 4 square metre rule), beauty therapy, tanning, waxing, nail salons, tattoo parlours, spas and massage parlours;
Entertainment venues – including cinemas, nightclubs, casinos, gaming and gambling, strip clubs, brothels, concert venues, theatre, arenas, auditoriums, stadiums (except for live streaming of a performance by a small group with social distancing observed), amusement park and arcades, as well as indoor and outdoor play centres;
Leisure and recreation centres - health and fitness clubs, yoga, barre, spin facilities, saunas, bathhouses and wellness centres;
Boot camps, personal training operating inside and outside (except for outside events limited to no more than 10 people and social distancing observed);
Social sporting based activities and swimming pools;
Hotels, hostels, bed and breakfast, campsites, caravan parks, boarding houses – as determined by each State and Territory (excluding permanent residents and workers);
Outdoor recreation –caravan and camping parks – as determined by each State and Territory;
Non-residential institutions –galleries, museums, national institutions and historic sites, libraries, community and youth centres, local government non-essential facilities and services such as a libraries and pools, community facilities such as community halls, clubs, RSLs and PCYCs; and
Places of worship – weddings (no more than 5 people, where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies) and funerals – (no more than 10 people, where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule also applies).
Government says ‘stay home’
The Government is encouraging people to stay home and go out only as necessary.
However, the Prime Minister acknowledged that all jobs are essential and workplaces (other than those listed in Stages 1 and 2) may still open and operate at this stage with the appropriate COVID-19 safety measures in place. Businesses should however, be implementing, if they have not already, working from home arrangements and other measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 impacting your employees.
Given the uncertainty and likelihood of the Stage 2 being expanded as the virus spreads, and even a Stage 3 - consider what further steps your business needs to take in its crisis management and continuity planning and be ready to enact those steps.
Ensure your employees impacted are aware of the support they may receive through Services Australia and any Employee Assistance Service your business may have in place.
Schools (other than Victoria where school holidays have commenced early) remain open until the scheduled Easter break.
There will also be a ban on Australians travelling overseas. There will be some limited exemptions including for those citizens who ordinarily reside overseas, where travel is essential or necessary, where travel is in Australia’s national interest and on compassionate and humanitarian grounds.
These restrictions will be reviewed on a monthly basis and other facilities not already impacted will be considered under the Stage 2 restrictions, if necessary.
Government is expecting these measures to be in place for at least 6 months.
What does this mean for Stage 1 and Stage 2 affected businesses and their employees?
Businesses directly impacted by these Enforceable Government Directions which prevent your business from opening or operating, and your employees from being usefully employed, are expected to trigger the stand down provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act), or a relevant Enterprise Agreement or Employment Contract.
To be a lawful stand down under the FW Act, there has to be:
a stoppage of work;
the stoppage must be for cause which the Employer cannot reasonably be held responsible for; and
the Employer cannot usefully employ its employees because of that stoppage.
We strongly recommend you obtain advice on whether the stand down provisions can be used by your business if you are impacted, as they are not automatic and if they are used incorrectly, they can result in orders for repayment of wages.
Whilst the stand down provisions when used, mean that the Employer is not required to pay its impacted employees, it is important to remember that employees can still use their paid leave entitlements and it does not ‘stop the clock’ - employee service related entitlements will still continue to accrue.
Stand down provisions are therefore just one of the options available to Employers impacted by COVID-19. We recommend you obtain legal advice on the most cost effective and suitable options for your business, short and more longer term, given the ongoing costs associated with stand downs to your business if they are needed for a longer period of time.
Available Advice and Assistance
Employers must ensure that before they act in response to COVID-19 in their workplace, that they check the relevant industrial instrument (Modern Award /Enterprise Agreement), Employment Contracts and policies that are in place and ensure compliance. There may be several options Employers can utilise as their businesses are impacted by COVID-19 and we can work with you to determine the options that will best work for your business and cash flow at this time.
If you need urgent advice or assistance in managing the impact of COVID-19 in your workplace, please contact IR Legal Solutions to discuss.
These steps should not be a substitute for legal advice and are for information only. Employers should obtain advice that is specific to their circumstances and business operations, and not rely on this publication as legal advice.