Australia: Covid-19 – This Week In Employment (29 May 2020).

Legal News & Analysis - Asia Pacific - Australia - Labour & Employment

1 June 2020


This week, the Australian Government unveiled the new ‘JobMaker’ scheme – designed to boost employment and the economy following the COVID-19 pandemic.


Additionally, the Fair Work Commission continued to hand down a range of decisions relating to the JobKeeper payments, and has now released its “JobKeeper bench book” online.


More information on the various developments in the employment space this week are outlined below.


A reminder that at any time you can visit our Wellbeing and Culture page, view our webinar series, listen to our podcast channel or read the most relevant COVID-19 legal insights from across our global network.


Employer’s s 524 stand down upheld


The Fair Work Commission has upheld an employer’s stand down under section 524 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) in the COVID-19 era, in circumstances where there was still a limited amount of work to be performed by the workforce. Although each case needs to be considered on its own merits, this case is encouraging for employers who suffered stoppages in work and were concerned about whether employees could ‘usefully’ be employed – in particular, it was supportive of the proportion that, where employees are engaged to perform the available useful work, it can be said with respect to the others that they cannot be usefully employed.


You can read the full decision here.


JobMaker package unveiled


On Tuesday, the Federal Government committed to introducing a new ‘JobMaker’ package to help boost employment following the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this package, the Government will introduce five working groups for discussion, negotiation and, hopefully, agreement to produce that JobMaker package in the following areas:


  • Award simplification

  • Enterprise agreement making

  • Casuals and fixed term employees

  • Compliance and enforcement

  • Greenfields agreements for new enterprises


You can find a link to the Prime Minister’s address here. More information on the JobMaker package is set to be released in the coming weeks and months.


Online JobKeeper disputes bench book


The Fair Work Commission has released its online JobKeeper disputes bench book. This bench book is design to help parties who are lodging or responding to a JobKeeper dispute.


You can find this bench book on the Fair Work Commission website, or by following the link here.


COVID-19 Recovery Employer Toolkit


iCare NSW has released the COVID-19 Recovery Employer Toolkit to assist employers with preparing the safe return of employees to the workplace. You can find a copy of this toolkit here.


NSW public sector wage freeze


The NSW Government recently announced that it will freeze all wages for its 408,000 strong public sector workforce. This follows similar pay freezes introduced by the Federal and Queensland governments.


For more information on this wage freeze, please follow the link here.


FWC rules on approach to JobKeeper payments


The Fair Work Commission has provided guidance on its view as to how the fortnightly JobKeeper payment should be applied when an employee is paid monthly (half in arrears, half in advance). While the FWC found that Qantas was entitled to allocate the value of the employees earnings across the monthly pay cycle and use a portion of the JobKeeper payment as a “top-up”, the FWC recommended the allocation be reversed.


You can find a link to this decision here.


COVID-19 Insights


Update for employers: protecting health and safety and preparing for the return to work (Global)


This is the second in our global employment briefing series focusing on the challenges employers face as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and providing a practical resource for dealing with the key issues employers will encounter. To read more, click here.


Weekly webinar


This week, Mark Rigotti (our past Global CEO for 6 years, having stepped down on 1 May 2020) shares his predictions for the new normal, focusing on two key business impacts resulting from the pandemic – the future of work and the reform opportunity – as well as the critical role of an engaged and motivated workforce in achieving a fast and positive recovery. Mark, now a partner and senior adviser with Herbert Smith Freehills, will be interviewed by Nicholas Carney (Partner) who will draw on Mark’s global experience and deep knowledge of the Australian market.


You can view the webinar or access the podcast here.


Mining-related legislation and instruments (Australia)


The emergency measures taken by all levels of governments in Australia in response to the pandemic have had a pronounced impact on the mining industry. The mining industry has sought to respond quickly to protect the health of its employees and local communities. These steps are in response to (and often ahead of) emergency measures and lockdowns implemented by governments.


Please join Partners Graeme JohnsonAnna Creegan and Jacqui Wootton along with Senior Associate Mark Smyth as they discuss key issues and practical tips to keep front of mind when navigating the constantly evolving legislative environment of the Mining industry.


You can view the webinar or access the podcast here.


Pressure Points: The global impact on the mining industry


We have updated our guide which tracks and compares government responses to the pandemic including legislation, government guidance and regulator statements or resolutions to reflect recent developments in Australia and Peru and to include the US (Federal and the States of New York, California and Texas). Key areas of focus include restrictions currently in place, exceptions for mining operations, insights on any future policy decisions and impact on associated activities.


You can read more here.


herbert smith Freehills


For further information, please contact:

Anna Creegan, Partner, Herbert Smith Freehills