Guiding employer responses to coronavirus

With coronavirus (COVID-19) declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the spread of the virus is very much a concern for road transport businesses.

As well as supporting the federal Government’s well-timed economic stimulus measures, the National Road Transport Association CEO Warren Clark says there are a number of issues that should guide employer conduct.

“It is important that employers and employees follow medical advice from health professionals and follow relevant Government directives so that we can help slow down the spread of the virus,” he said. 

“If your employees are exhibiting symptoms and there is a reasonable risk of infection or exposure to the virus you should direct them to seek medical advice and get tested for the virus.”

Below are some potential scenarios that employers may encounter during this time:

Scenario 1.
An employee wants to stay at home as a precaution against being exposed to coronavirus.


If an employee wants to stay at home as a precaution against being exposed to coronavirus, they will need to make a request to work from home (if possible) or to take some form of paid or unpaid leave, such as annual leave or long service leave. These requests are subject to the normal leave application process in the workplace.

Employees are encouraged to discuss their level of risk of contracting coronavirus with their doctor, workplace health and safety representative or the appropriate State or Territory workplace health and safety body.

Scenario 2.
A worker is returning from an affected area and has been given a ‘low’ level risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  

As an employer you have a right to assess this situation and if you deem the ‘low risk’ as unacceptable, and direct the employee not to work, then you as the employer will need to pay for their time off. Noting this pay does NOT come out of any leave balance. If the worker has a role that can be performed remotely, at least in part, this should also be considered.

Scenario 3.
An employee has been exposed to the virus and has been advised by a health care professional to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms.

If the employee has been considered unfit for work because they present as a high risk of developing and or transmitting the virus, the worker can access relevant sick leave, annual leave or leave without pay until such time that they are cleared to return to work.

Scenario 4.
An employee has been exposed to the virus, and a health care professional has confirmed they are positive for COVID-19.

If the employee has been considered unfit for work because they are infected, the worker can access relevant sick leave, annual leave or leave without pay until such time that they cleared for a return to work.

Scenario 5.
An employee has a family member or member of the household sick with coronavirus.

Full and part-time employees who can’t come to work because they are sick can take paid sick leave. If an employee needs to look after a family member or member of the employee’s household who is sick with coronavirus, or suffering an unexpected emergency, they are entitled to take paid carer’s leave.

Casual employees are entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion. Full and part-time employees can take unpaid carer’s leave if they have no paid sick or carer’s leave left.

An employee must give their employer evidence of the illness or unexpected emergency if their employer asks for it.

Scenario 6.
A school has closed and the employee has parental/carer responsibility.

In the event a school is closed due to COVID-19, employees will be able to access the carers’ leave component of their personal leave to look after children.  In the event this leave is fully utilised then annual leave and RDOs and leave without pay can be used for the balance of the 14 days.  By default, this employee will self-isolate with the dependants and as such there should be no further infection transmission. Working from home options may be explored where appropriate.

Scenario 7.
A whole worksite, town or area has been declared a ‘no go zone’ by government.

While a seemingly extreme response it is still possible and has already occurred in some places around the world. This would be a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible and fits the criteria for workers to be stood down under section 524 of the Fair Work Act. Workers would not be required to be paid in this case but could access their annual leave or accumulated RDOs in this time.

“NatRoad advisers can help members with workplace issues associated with the coronavirus or help clarify aspects of the Government’s assistance package,” Mr Clark concluded.

If you have any workplace relation questions, please call 02 6295 3000.

Please note: If you are concerned that you or someone in your family may have coronavirus symptoms and should get tested, then it's best to call coronavirus health information hotline on 1800 020 080 for advice.

This hotline has been expanded to a 24/7 operation that will triage people to a fever clinic or suggest they phone their local GP for follow up.

For up to date information please visit:

Resources: 

Fact sheet - Cashflow assistance for businesses 
Fact sheet - Fact sheet Cornonavirus - Assistance for severely affected regions
Fact sheet - Economic Response to the Coronavirus 
Fact sheet - Delivering support for business investment