Australia - COVID-19 – This Week In Employment (9 April 2020).

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

9 April, 2020


This week has been characterised by a number of significant and unprecedented changes in the employment landscape.


Over the next couple of weeks, the main one that we expect many businesses will be grappling with is the JobKeeper legislation that passed through Parliament last night and received royal assent today.


Although the rules supporting the scheme are yet to be finalised, this new JobKeeper scheme means that certain employers will be eligible to receive a fortnightly wage subsidy of $1,500 per eligible employee. The Federal Government hopes this will assist businesses with the retention of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.


A draft pack which provides a guide to the key considerations related to the JobKeeper scheme is available here.

Some other key developments in the employment space this week are outlined below.


We will likely see many more changes in the employment landscape over the next few months while employers, employees and governments all try to adjust to the rapid and ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic.


At any time you can also access our most up-to-date legal insights from across our global network via our COVID-19 hub.


Unpaid “pandemic leave” inserted into Modern Awards


On 8 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission made the decision to vary 99 modern awards as a response to COVID-19.


The variation allows the workers to access two weeks unpaid ‘pandemic leave’ and enable them to take annual leave at half pay.


Please note that construction awards, maritime sector awards, and mining and resource sector awards are excluded from the decision.


Click here to access the decision.


FWC hands down first pandemic-related decision over mass lay-offs occurring due to COVID-19


The Fair Work Commission has handed down its first significant pandemic-related decision regarding the mass lay-offs occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic.


In ordering Auscript, a transcription service provider, to suspend plans to make 58 employees redundant and resume consultation with employees and the ASU in line with the provisions in its agreement, Commissioner Leyla Yilmaz expressed dismay at the company’s apparent disregard for assurances given to both her and the union.


The Commissioner described the consultation promises as “hollow” and reminded organisations to treat workers “with dignity in this time of crisis”.


Click here to access the decision.


COVID-19 Webinar series: Impact of Regulatory Behaviour (Australia)


Hosted by Merryn Quayle (Partner in our Disputes team), this week’s session focused on the behaviour of regulators and how it is impacting the following areas:


  • Transactions – by Adam Charles (Partner in our Corporate team);
  • Investigations, enforcement and the courts – by Hugh Paynter (Partner in our Disputes team); and
  • Important JobKeeper scheme and Fair Work Act update – Shivchand Jhinku (Executive Counsel in our Employment, Industrial Relations and Safety team).


Click here to access the webinar.


herbert smith Freehills


For further information, please contact:

Anna Creegan, Partner, Herbert Smith Freehills