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Your Coronavirus Workplace Rights Questions Answered

Your coronavirus workplace rights questions answered

Workers have many questions about their coronavirus workplace rights, so we have compiled a list of the most commonly asked.

If you believe you have experienced discrimination, or been treated unfairly, please get in contact with our employment law experts today.


Fair Work Claims – 1300 324 748


WHAT HAPPENS IF I, OR A FAMILY MEMBER, IS SICK WITH CORONAVIRUS??

Both employees and employers have a legal obligation under workplace health and safety laws to keep the workplace safe.

So that means if you’re sick with coronavirus, you can’t attend the workplace until you are cleared by a health professional.

Employers can also direct employees who have coronavirus not to come to work.

If you’re full-time or part-time – you can take paid sick leave during this time.

If you have to look after a family member or member of your household with coronavirus – you are entitled to take paid carer’s leave.

WHAT IF I’M A CASUAL WORKER – DO I HAVE ACCESS TO PAID SICK LEAVE?

No.  Casual workers don’t have access to paid sick leave, however during this current coronavirus pandemic, a number of companies have said they will pay casual workers impacted by COVID-19.

They include:

  • Telstra,  
  • Woolworths, 
  • K-mart,
  • Westpac, 
  • the Commonwealth Bank, and
  • the ANZ Bank.

The government says casual workers who are sick with coronavirus must apply for the newly-named JobSeeker payments.

WHAT IF I AM ORDERED INTO 14 DAYS OF FORCED ISOLATION BECAUSE I HAVE RETURNED FROM OVERSEAS?

If you are directed into forced isolation, there are no set rules, so it’s probably a good idea to talk to your employer.

You might be able to make arrangements to work from home, and if you do, you should be paid as normal for this time.

If you can’t work from home, you can ask your employer if you can use your paid annual leave, or any other forms of leave, including long service leave.

If you have no accrued leave, then your employer is under no obligation to pay you.

WHAT IF I WANT TO STAY HOME AS A PRECAUTION?

If you want to stay home as a precaution, you can only do this if you can come to an agreement with your employer.

It might involve you working from home, or taking some of your annual leave or long service leave.

You can even even possibly take unpaid leave if your boss agrees.

WHAT IF MY BOSS WANTS ME TO STAY HOME AS A PRECAUTION?

Employers must ensure they provide you with a safe workplace.

So if you are at risk of infection of coronavirus because you, or a colleague, has recently returned from overseas, or come into contact with someone with the virus, your boss should tell you to work from home – or not work until you are cleared.

Where an employer directs a full-time or part-time employee not to work due to health and safety risks – but the employee is ready, willing and able to work, the employee should be paid during this time.

CAN I BE STOOD DOWN WITHOUT PAY?

Under the Fair Work Act, workers can be stood down without pay if they cannot be usefully employed because of something the employer cannot be held responsible for.

For example, Qantas recently stood down 20 thousand of its staff because of coronavirus.

Many of those workers will be claiming their annual leave and long service leave, while others will have to apply for JobSeeker payments.

But remember, you cannot be stood down without pay as a result of contracting coronavirus.

CAN I BE SACKED IF I GET SICK WITH CORONAVIRUS?

The law is very clear, you cannot be sacked for getting sick – and that includes contracting coronavirus.

If you have been sacked for getting sick with coronavirus, get in touch with us immediately.

WHEN CAN I WORK FROM HOME?

You can work from home anytime when it is agreed between you and your boss.

Employers have a responsibility to make sure that the conditions are safe for you while you are working from home.

WHAT IF I CAN’T GO TO WORK BECAUSE MY CHILD’S SCHOOL HAS CLOSED BECAUSE OF CORONAVIRUS?

If you can’t go to work because you need to look after your child, you will ordinarily need to use your annual paid leave during your absence.

Although, if your child’s school closed suddenly because of coronavirus outbreak, that would be considered an “unexpected emergency”.

That means you might be entitled to claim your sick or carer’s leave to look after your kids. 

Full and part-time workers are entitled to 10 days paid sick and carers leave each year, but can take more days unpaid if required.

Casual workers are entitled to 2 days unpaid sick or carer’s leave each year.

If you do find yourself having to stay home to look after your kids, you might also see if you can negotiate working from home or taking long service leave.

CAN AN EMPLOYER CHANGE MY REGULAR HOURS OF WORK?

Employers need to consult with employees before changing their regular roster.

They must:

  • provide you with information about the change, 
  • ask what you think about them, 
  • and consider how it might impact your day to day life, for example your family responsibilities.

If you are a permanent employee, your boss can only reduce your hours with your agreement.

WHAT IF MY EMPLOYER NEEDS TO LET ME GO?

The impact of the coronavirus will no doubt mean that many businesses will have to make positions redundant.  

If your position is made redundant, you will almost certainly be eligible for a redundancy payout.

If you are being let go, remember there are strict rules around dismissal.

It can’t be harsh, unjust or unreasonable.

And you can’t be sacked based on discrimination, or exercising a workplace right, like taking a temporary absence from work because you’re sick.

CAN I BE DIRECTED NOT TO TRAVEL?

Employers can direct workers not to undertake work-related travel, but they can’t tell you not to undertake private travel.

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