It seems obvious to suggest that during the pandemic employees still have workplace rights protecting them and ensuring they are treated fairly.
However, there are already cases emerging where employers are trying to take advantage of their workers. It is important to know that there are remedies available to employees if an employer takes inappropriate or adverse action against an employee in the current environment of COVID-19.
On 14 April 2020, the JobKeeper scheme was introduced by the Commonwealth Parliament to temporarily amend Fair Work Act 2009. These amendments are contained within the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus (Measures No. 2) Act 2020 (Cth) Sch 1 (Coronavirus Amendment).*
There are already statements surfacing, like:
“Your boss is doing you a favour by keeping you employed”
“You are lucky your boss is giving you the JobKeeper payment”
This is not the case.
The purpose of the JobKeeper payment is to save, not cut, jobs AND ensure the economy keeps turning.
What has the affect of COVID-19 been on employment?
Many employees are unsure what to do when confronted with their employer cutting usual hours, transferring employees to part-time, or even standing employees down due to a decline in usual business activity because of COVID 19.
Frequently, our firm has been receiving calls for help from employees who have either been:
- Treated unlawfully;
- Denied their rights; and/or
- Not made aware of the JobKeeper laws and what it means for them.
Our office has witnessed some employers viewing this pandemic as an opportunity to cherry-pick those employees to remain employed and those who can go or have their hours increased to pay for the JobKeeper wage payment they get.
We have seen unlawful changes to terms of conditions of employment at the start of the coronavirus shutdown, hours unilaterally removed from employees and shifts cut or no hours given to a regular and systematic casual employee altogether.
But it is not just our firm noticing this trend. Disappointingly, these coronavirus-related workplace violations have been emerging in the media. Already, an employer has been ousted for horrendous behaviour telling their employee by text,
“…you work when I need you to…[don’t] forget I am doing you a favour”
Read the enraging story here: JobKeeper Australia : Shop owner’s blunt texts to employee over $1500 payment
So, what are your rights?
You have workplace rights and protections, originating under legislation and other regulatory instruments.
These protections include, but are not limited to:
- You remain protected against adverse action;
- You have a right to challenge your employer;
- You cannot suffer discrimination;
- You cannot be unlawfully or unfairly dismissed;
- You don’t have to agree to taking annual leave at half pay (but you also can’t unreasonably refuse);
- You cannot be terminated, or singled out, for no valid reason;
- JobKeeper payments are ‘one in, all in’ (meaning, if your employer chooses to claim one eligible employee, they must claim for all employees);
- If you have two part-time jobs, you can elect which employer you wish to nominate on the approved form as the nominated employer;
- You are still protected from misrepresentations – you can’t be misled about your employment;
- Your employer cannot be dishonest with you about your employment;
- You can be represented by your union, our firm, or other representative of your choice;
- You cannot be treated unfavourably and if you work less hours than the JobKeeper payment would cover, you cannot be forced to work more hours; and
- Your employer can ask you to work different hours or different days, only where it is reasonable.
What can you do?
Employees do not need to be grateful, compliant or humbled. The JobKeeper payment is not a prize – it is a workplace right under the Fair Work Act. It is the employee who nominates the employer, not the other way around.
We reiterate that this unprecedented time is not a free for all. Do not be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.
If you are in immediate need, contact Susan Moriarty & Associates for a short consult. Alternatively, contact our office to arrange a long consultation, where one of our expert staff will examine all of your material and advise on how to keep your employment or challenge your employer.
You don’t have to be compliant.
You still have workplace rights.
You do have protections.
What does your employer have to do? See:
How much will you get paid? See:
Unlawful behaviour? See:
* Note: the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus (Measures No. 2) Act 2020 (Cth) can be accessed here: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2020C00128
And the explanatory memorandum can be found here: https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/legislation/ems/r6535_ems_1daae531-9b3a-493f-8596-23432c143fb3/upload_pdf/735865.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf
Contact us on 07 3352 6782 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is legal information and should not be seen as legal advice. Please consult with a lawyer should your require advice.