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COVID-19 Resources

Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccinations in the Workplace Q&As

The following questions & answers are for eligible employees. This information is accurate as at 4 October 2021. Updates will be provided as further information becomes available.

Disclaimer

This Q&A contains information of a general nature only and is not a substitute for professional legal advice. You should obtain legal advice from a lawyer about your particular situation before acting on any of the following information. This Q&A is designed for Victorian and national system employees in Tasmania and Queensland only. If you are not a Victorian employee or a Queensland or Tasmanian national system employee, you should obtain specialist legal advice about your case as soon as possible.

For information about other states and territories, please contact the relevant health department.

For more information on what is most appropriate in your situation, contact JobWatch’s Telephone Information Service on 1800 331 617 (Regional VIC, QLD, TAS) or 03 9662 1933 (Melbourne Metro).

Am I subject to public health directions requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

Each Australian state and territory has different health directions in force regarding mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.

To date in various states and territories, this has included residential aged care workers, health services and quarantine workers. In Victoria, this has included all authorised workers in a range of industries. This is a regularly changing situation with varying vaccine deadlines and industries, so we recommend you visit your state or territory’s health department website for up-to-date information.

These directions generally require employers not to allow workers to enter these facilities unless they are vaccinated, have a booking to be vaccinated by a certain date, or are exempt from the requirement for health reasons. There are also exemptions for emergency situations.

A ’worker‘ generally refers to all staff, including casual, permanent and agency staff, volunteers and contractors.

My industry or workplace is subject to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination due to public health directions.

a) What if I have a medical exemption and cannot receive the vaccine due to my health?

The current health directions in Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria each contain exemptions from the requirement to be vaccinated for workers who have been certified by a medical practitioner to be unable to receive a vaccination due to a limited range of specified medical contraindications. You must show your employer evidence of this to be allowed to work.

b) What happens if I do not have the vaccine because of my religious or other beliefs?

There is no exemption in any of the current health directions for people who are not vaccinated due to religious or other beliefs.

c) What happens if I am unable to book an appointment for the vaccine by the deadline, but I will get the vaccine in the future?

Under the current health directions, your employer cannot allow you to enter the workplace until your vaccination status is up-to-date at the relevant time.

d) I have previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have recovered. Do I still need to be vaccinated?

There is no exemption in any of the current health directions for people who have recovered from COVID-19.

My workplace is making vaccination compulsory, without a public health direction. Do I need to get vaccinated?

In general, employees must comply with a lawful and reasonable direction from their employer. Failure to do so may justify suspension, non-payment of wages or dismissal. On the other hand, if a direction is not lawful and reasonable in the circumstances, the employee is not obliged to comply.

Where there is no legal requirement for an employer to have vaccinated staff, whether it is a lawful and reasonable direction to require employees to be vaccinated will depend on the circumstances.

Under occupational health and safety law, employers have a duty to do whatever is reasonably practicable to ensure workplace safety. In some circumstances, this may justify an employer requiring staff to be vaccinated, even where this is not expressly required by legislation or a government order.

Employers also have obligations under discrimination law. This could require an employer to make adjustments for employees who cannot be vaccinated because of a disability, if it would be reasonable to do. It could also prevent an employer from imposing an unreasonable blanket requirement for vaccination which would be difficult to comply with for people who have disabilities, are pregnant, or hold certain religious beliefs.

The employer has defences if the necessary adjustments would impose an unjustifiable hardship, or if the requirement is reasonable.

It is important to note that discrimination law does not apply where a requirement to have vaccinated employees is mandated by law.

Should I be paid for my time in receiving the vaccine?

The Residential Aged Care COVID-19 Employee Vaccination Support Grant provides for casual residential aged care workers to be paid $80 per dose for going off-site for vaccination, and $185 ‘sick leave’ for one day if unwell after vaccination.

For other workers, in general employers are not obliged to meet the cost to employees of being able to perform the inherent requirements of their job, unless this is provided for in their contract of employment, modern award or enterprise agreement.

Where vaccination of employees is mandated by government direction, it is likely to be an inherent requirement of their job. Speak to your employer about whether they are willing to pay you for time spent getting vaccinated.

Where vaccination is not legally mandated but is required by the employer, the employer may be obliged to pay permanent employees their normal wages for time spent complying with the employer’s direction.

Employees who are ill after taking the vaccine can use paid personal leave if eligible.

Should I be paid my regular wages if I don’t receive the vaccine but am still ready, willing and able to work?

Where a permanent employee is ready, willing and able to work, they should be paid wages.

However, an employee may not be ready, willing and able to work if:

  • they are unable to meet the inherent requirements of their role; and/or
  • they are unable to attend their workplace.

This means employees in the industries subject to mandatory vaccination directions who have not received the vaccine may not be ready, willing and/or able to meet the requirements of their role, and therefore may not be allowed to attend the workplace nor be paid wages while the directions are in force.

What happens if I lose my job for not having the vaccine?

An employee who has been dismissed may make an unfair dismissal claim if eligible.

To be eligible to make an unfair dismissal claim, an employee must have:

  • completed the minimum employment period; and
  • earned less than the high-income threshold.

Unfair dismissal claims are made to the Fair Work Commission. The deadline for unfair dismissal claims is twenty-one (21) days from when the dismissal takes effect.

One key issue in unfair dismissal claims is whether the employer has a valid reason to dismiss the employee. The employer may argue that the employee’s failure to follow a lawful and reasonable direction constituted a valid reason for dismissal.

Employers do not have an automatic right to direct employees to be vaccinated. Rather, whether a direction to do so is lawful and reasonable will depend on the circumstances. A direction to be vaccinated may be lawful and reasonable where the direction is:

  • in accordance with government health directions; and/or
  • necessary for the employer to comply with its legal obligations in relation to the health and safety of its employees at the workplace.

Where mandatory vaccination directions apply, an employer may argue that they had a valid reason to dismiss the employee, because as a result of not taking the vaccine, the employee:

  • Was not ready, willing and able to perform their duties; and/or
  • Did not meet the inherent requirements of their role.

Where no mandatory vaccination directions apply, an employer still may still be able to argue that they had a valid reason to dismiss the employee on the basis that the direction to take the vaccine was lawful and reasonable in all the circumstances.

Conversely, the employee may argue that the direction to take the vaccine was not lawful and/or reasonable. For example, an employee may argue that they were unable to take the vaccine due to a medical condition. To succeed in making this argument, an employee is likely to need medical evidence.

What happens if I give incorrect information about my vaccination status to my employer?

Under the mandatory vaccination directions, a person who provides false information to state health authorities is liable to be penalised.

If an employee provides false information to their employer, and the employer in turn provides false information to health authorities, the employee may have exposed their employer to a risk of penalty.

The employer may argue that by providing false information, and exposing them to a risk of penalty, the employee committed serious misconduct, justifying disciplinary action or dismissal.

I don’t want to tell my employer my vaccination status, because it’s my private medical information. What can I do?

An employer does not have an automatic right to direct an employee to disclose their vaccination status. Rather, whether a direction to provide this information is a lawful and reasonable direction will depend on the individual circumstances. It may be lawful and reasonable where the direction is:

  • in accordance with the public health orders; and/or
  • necessary for the employer to comply with its legal obligations in relation to the health and safety of its employees at its workplace.

Where an employer in one of the industries affected by the health directions directs an employee to provide information in relation to their vaccination status, and complies with the Privacy Act 1988, this direction is likely to be a lawful and reasonable direction.

Where vaccination mandates do not apply, whether such a direction would be lawful and reasonable depends on the circumstances.

The Privacy Act 1988 provides that, in general, employers cannot collect ‘sensitive information’ about an employee without the employee’s consent. Sensitive information includes health information, which includes information about health service provided to an individual. However, there are exceptions to this rule.

For example, an employer may be able to collect sensitive information were the collection authorised under Australian law. As noted, state health authorities have issued directions requiring the collection of information in certain industries. An employer may also be able to collect sensitive information where a ‘permitted health situation’ exists. It is likely to be unlawful for the employer to use the information for any other purpose than that for which it was authorised to be collected.

In practical terms, an employee who has been directed by their employer to provide information regarding whether they have been vaccinated may request assurances that information provided by them will:

  • be anonymised; and/or
  • only be used for the stated purpose.

It is unlawful under discrimination law to request information that could be used to discriminate. This could include information about a person’s health. However, it is not unlawful to request this information for a lawful purpose. Lawful purposes include complying with government directions or obligations under occupational health and safety law.

In these circumstances, the employer may argue that they had a valid reason to dismiss an employee for refusing to provide information about their vaccination status, on the basis that they failed to follow a lawful and reasonable direction.

For more information on what is most appropriate in your situation, contact JobWatch’s Telephone Information Service on 1800 331 617 (Regional VIC, QLD, TAS) or 03 9662 1933 (Melbourne Metro).

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COVID-19 Lockdowns and Employment Rights Q&As

The following Q&A is for employees whose employment is affected by lockdowns due to public health orders to control the spread of COVID-19. This information is accurate as at 1 October 2021. Updates will be provided as further information becomes available.

Disclaimer

This Q&A contains information of a general nature only and is not a substitute for professional legal advice. You should obtain legal advice from a lawyer about your particular situation before acting on any of the following information. This Q&A is designed for Victorian and national system employees in Tasmania and Queensland only. If you are not a Victorian employee or a Queensland or Tasmanian national system employee, you should obtain specialist legal advice about your case as soon as possible.

For more information on what is most appropriate in your situation, contact JobWatch’s Telephone Information Service on 1800 331 617 (Regional VIC, QLD, TAS) or 03 9662 1933 (Melbourne Metro).

What if my employer is forced to close?

Under the different levels of lockdown mandated by public health orders to control the spread of COVID-19, only specified business activities are permitted. This list changes frequently, so you should check your state or territory’s Department of Health website for more information.

If your employer is forced to cease operating due to circumstances out of their control, such as a government directive, and they can no longer usefully employ you, they may have grounds to stand you down. This normally means they are not obliged to pay you.

Importantly, a significant downturn in business, does not generally mean that your employer can stand you down with no pay.

If you have been stood down but you believe your employer does not have to stand you down because of an enforceable government direction, you can lodge a dispute with the Fair Work Commission. Call JobWatch for more information.

Can I still get paid if I must isolate or quarantine?

Some people may be directed by health authorities to self-isolate or quarantine due to diagnosis of or potential exposure to COVID-19.

If you cannot work from home and you are not sick while you are in isolation or in quarantine, you should check if you are covered by a modern award, enterprise agreement or a contract that says you will still get paid during this period. If you cannot find something in writing about this, your employer may not have a legal obligation to pay you, but you may come to an agreement with them about this.

Currently there are different government support payments available if you can’t earn any income whilst self-isolating, depending on your circumstances. Check your state or territory’s Department of Health website for more information, or contact Services Australia.

Can I use my sick leave if I am unable to work?

If you are sick and you are a permanent employee, you can use your paid personal leave (sick leave). You may need to give your employer a medical certificate or statutory declaration as evidence that you are entitled to take sick leave.

All permanent employees receive a minimum of 10 days of paid personal leave for each year they work. Personal leave can be used as sick leave or carer’s leave. Any part of your personal leave that you do not use rolls over each year.

You may get more than 10 days of personal leave per year if provided for in your modern award, enterprise agreement or contract.

What if I need to care for someone else who must isolate?

You can take time off work to care for someone in your immediate family or household if they are sick from COVID-19.

If you are a permanent employee, you can use paid carer’s leave. There may be other options for you to be paid if you do not have carer’s leave, such as using other paid leave or special leave.

Employees without paid carer’s leave, or employees who have exhausted their paid leave entitlements, are entitled to two days of unpaid carer’s leave for each occasion when a family or household member needs care or support because of an illness or unexpected emergency.

If you are caring for a child who must isolate, but cannot get paid leave from work, you may be eligible for other government support payments. Check your state or territory’s Department of Health website for more information, or contact Services Australia.

What if I have to care for my children?

Many workers will need to care for children at home while schools and childcare centres are closed. If you have paid personal/carer’s leave you may use this to care for a family member who needs care because of an unexpected emergency.

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, parents and carers have the right to request flexible working arrangements, such as changing the times they work. Employers also have obligations under anti-discrimination law to accommodate family or carer responsibilities.

What are my rights as a casual worker?

If you are a casual employee, you are not entitled to paid personal leave or annual leave.

If you need to care for someone who is sick, you are entitled to take up to two days of unpaid carer’s leave for each occasion. You will still have to comply with your employer’s notice and evidence requirements for taking that leave.

There are different government support payments available if you are unable to earn any income due to self-isolating, depending on your circumstances. Check your state or territory’s Department of Health website for more information, or contact Services Australia.

Can I work from home if I am required to isolate?

Under certain lockdown restrictions, anyone who can work from home must do this. During these lockdowns, employers must allow employees to work from home where this is possible. Whether you can work from home or not will depend on the type of work you do and your circumstances.

Do I have to go to work?

You can refuse to do unsafe work. Whether this means you can work from home or not will depend on the type of work you do and your circumstances. Under current lockdown restrictions, anyone who can work from home must do so.

If it is not possible to do your job from home, your employer may direct you to attend work. You must follow your employer’s directions if they are lawful and reasonable. What is lawful and reasonable in a workplace depends on a range of different factors, including the nature of the workplace.

For a direction to attend work to be lawful and reasonable, among other things, it must be safe. For example, if you are required by a government direction to isolate or quarantine, your employer cannot ask you to ignore that direction and attend the workplace.

If you think your employer’s direction to attend a workplace may not be lawful or reasonable or may be making your workplace unsafe for any reason, contact JobWatch or WorkSafe in your state or territory.

Do I have to work from home?

Your employer must comply with workplace health and safety laws, as well as the rules about COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

You must comply with lawful and reasonable directions from your employer. If you don’t think your employer’s direction to work from home is both lawful and reasonable during the current lockdown restrictions, contact JobWatch.

What if I can’t work from home and can’t go to work?

If your employer tells you to stay at home but you cannot work from home, in some circumstances you might be entitled to be paid your ordinary pay. Your employer should keep paying your ordinary pay if you are ready, willing and able to work and it is not reasonable to ask you to use your leave entitlements, such as annual leave.

However, your employer may not be required to pay you if you are lawfully stood down, that is, where the employer cannot usefully employ you because work has stopped for a cause beyond the employer’s control, for example, if the business is required by law to close. The Fair Work Commission can hear disputes about stand downs.

If your employer refuses to pay you when they should, you can get help from the Fair Work Ombudsman. Call JobWatch for more information.

Do I have to wear a mask at work?

Under certain lockdown restrictions, you must wear a fitted face covering when you leave home, including when you are at work, unless you have a lawful excuse not to wear one.

For more information about these rules, visit your state or territory’s Department of Health website.

Does my employer have to provide protective equipment in my workplace?

Employers and employees must take all reasonable steps to make sure that the workplace is safe for everyone. This includes working from home. Employers must ensure that employees are able to comply with all lockdown rules including face-covering, social distancing and hand hygiene.

Depending on the workplace, reasonable steps to ensure workplaces are safe may also include the provision of hand sanitiser, screens and other equipment.

If you think your workplace may be unsafe, contact JobWatch or WorkSafe in your state or territory.

Is temperature-testing at work allowed (e.g. with a thermal scanner)?

If your employer directs you to have a heat (temperature) test at work, this should be obeyed as, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely to be a lawful and reasonable direction. If you fail the heat test and you are directed to stay at home, consider whether you are eligible for paid personal leave or whether your employer will allow you to work from home. For more information contact JobWatch or the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Can my employer ask for a medical clearance before I return to work?

Your employer can ask you to provide a medical clearance if that is lawful and reasonable in your situation. For example, if a medical clearance is needed to protect you or your co-workers’ health and safety, then it is likely to be reasonable.

It might not be reasonable for your employer to ask you to provide a medical clearance if this is not necessary to comply with health and safety obligations, for example, you are not required to self-isolate, or you are healthy and able to work.

For more information contact JobWatch or the Fair Work Ombudsman.

I think I’ve been discriminated against because I have had COVID-19. What can I do about it?

It is unlawful for an employer (or a principal) to discriminate against an employee (or an independent contractor) because of a physical disability. Both state and federal laws protect workers against this kind of discrimination.

A physical disability includes a temporary or permanent disability, disease, illness or medical condition. The discrimination may occur on the basis of a disability which you have now, you have had in the past, you are believed to have had or you may have in the future.

Under anti-discrimination laws, employers have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate an employee’s disability. However, if the employee still cannot perform the inherent requirements of the job, even with reasonable adjustments, then it is not unlawful for the employer to discriminate against the employee on the basis of physical disability.

There are also other circumstances when it will not be unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of a disability. For example, if there is a risk to your (or other people’s) health or safety and the discriminatory measures are needed to protect you or the other people in your workplace.

People with a personal connection with someone with a physical disability (e.g. family members, friends or co-workers) may also be protected from being discriminated against because of that relationship or connection.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against, you may be eligible to make a claim in more than one jurisdiction. However, usually you are only entitled to make one claim, so you need to decide which jurisdiction is best for you.

To help you decide which claim is best for your particular circumstances, you may contact the following agencies or consult their websites to understand more about their processes and the laws that govern their particular jurisdiction

  • Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Your state or territory anti-discrimination agency (e.g. the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Equal Opportunity Tasmania or the Queensland Human Rights Commission)
  • The Fair Work Commission, in relation to a possible unfair dismissal claim or a general protections dispute (which may or may not involve a dismissal).

I got a new job but the start date has been delayed because of a lockdown. Can my new employer do that?

If you have a written or verbal contract of employment as a permanent employee (full-time or part-time) with an agreed start date and your employer asks you to agree to a delayed start date, these are your options:

  • You agree to the delay, which means you agree to a variation of your contract; or
  • You don’t agree. If you don’t agree, your employer should still pay you from the commencement date even though you haven’t started working.

If your employer doesn’t pay you, you may write to the employer and complain about not being paid. If your employer withdraws the offer of employment because of your complaint, consider lodging a General Protections Dispute application with the Fair Work Commission. Ultimately you have 6 years within which to file an underpayment of wages claim. However, you should also consider the possibility that the employer may choose to terminate your employment before the start date if you don’t agree to a delayed start date. Provided they pay you in lieu of your minimum notice period, they will probably not be in breach of the employment contract.

If you have an agreement to start as a casual employee, your prospective employer can legally delay your start date due to a lack of work.

For more information on what is most appropriate in your situation, contact JobWatch’s Telephone Information Service on 1800 331 617 (Regional VIC, QLD, TAS) or 03 9662 1933 (Melbourne Metro).

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Returning to Work After COVID-19 Lockdown Q&As

The following Q&A is for employees returning to on-site work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. This information is accurate as at 1 October 2021. Updates will be provided as further information becomes available.

Disclaimer

This Q&A contains information of a general nature only and is not a substitute for professional legal advice. You should obtain legal advice from a lawyer about your particular situation before acting on any of the following information. This Q&A is designed for Victorian and national system employees in Tasmania and Queensland only. If you are not a Victorian employee or a Queensland or Tasmanian national system employee, you should obtain specialist legal advice about your case as soon as possible.

For more information on what is most appropriate in your situation, contact JobWatch’s Telephone Information Service on 1800 331 617 (Regional VIC, QLD, TAS) or 03 9662 1933 (Melbourne Metro).

My employer wants all the employees to resume working from our usual workplace location but I would prefer to keep working from home while there is still a risk of contracting COVID-19. Can I be forced to stop working from home and return to my usual workplace?

Employees must obey the lawful and reasonable directions of their employers. Failing to comply with a lawful and reasonable direction may justify dismissal. In each situation, you will need to consider whether your employer’s particular direction is both lawful and reasonable in the circumstances.

If the government restrictions in your state or territory have been eased, allowing for your return to your usual workplace, and your employer is asking you to return to your usual work location according to your existing employment contract (written or verbal) then you should obey the direction, unless you wish to raise one or more of the following:

  • You have concerns based on health and safety (contact your state or federal health and safety regulator for more information)
  • You need reasonable adjustments (working from home) because of a permanent or temporary disability/impairment (contact your state or federal anti-discrimination agency for more information)
  • You need to work from home because you are a parent or carer (contact your state or federal anti-discrimination agency for more information)
  • You fall into one of the categories of employees entitled to request flexible working arrangements (including working from home) under the Fair Work Act 2009, namely:
    • you are the parent, or you have responsibility for the care, of a child who is of school age or younger;
    • you are a carer (within the meaning of the Carer Recognition Act 2010);
    • you have a disability;
    • you are 55 or older;
    • you are experiencing violence from a member of your family;
    • you provide care or support to a member of your immediate family, or a member of your household, who requires care or support because the member is experiencing violence from the member’s family.

To be eligible to make a request for flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act, you must have completed at least 12 months of continuous service with your employer. If you are a casual employee, you must have worked on a regular and systematic basis and you must have a reasonable expectation of ongoing employment. Your employer may only refuse the request on reasonable business grounds.

Under the Fair Work Act, the employer must respond in writing to a request for flexible working arrangements within 21 days. If the employer refuses the request, the employer must include reasons for the refusal. The employer cannot refuse unless there are reasonable business grounds. If there is a dispute about whether there are reasonable business grounds for the refusal, that can be lodged with the Fair Work Commission. Employees can also report alleged breaches of these provisions to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

What if I or a member of my household is immuno-compromised?

If you would prefer to avoid your usual workplace because you have reduced immunity or want to protect someone in your household, try to negotiate with your employer to come to an agreement about where you should work. If you think that you can do your job from home, consider the following:

  • Making a request for reasonable adjustments for your disability (contact your state or federal anti-discrimination agency for more information)
  • Making a request for flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act 2009. Note that the definition of carer in this context is a person who provides personal care, support and assistance to another individual who needs it because that other individual:
    • has a disability; or
    • has a medical condition (including a terminal or chronic illness); or
    • has a mental illness; or
    • is frail and aged.

A person is not a carer merely because he or she is the relative or guardian of an individual or lives with an individual who requires care.

What if I am a working parent with school-aged or young children and I need to keep working from home while schools and/or childcares are closed?

If you think that you can do your job from home until your children return to school and/or childcare, consider the following:

  • Making a request to work from home in accordance with anti-discrimination laws (contact your state or federal anti-discrimination agency for more information)
  • Making a request for flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act 2009.

If I agree to resume work from my usual workplace, what duties or obligations does my employer have to keep me safe from COVID-19?

Employers have a duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees. This includes preventing risks to health, including psychological health, and safety associated with potential exposure to COVID-19.

Where a risk to health is identified at a workplace, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate or reduce the risk.

Employers also have a duty to consult with employees and health and safety representatives, so far as is reasonably practicable, on matters related to health or safety that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect them. This includes consulting with you on decisions about how to control risks associated with COVID-19 in the workplace. The type of control measures required will depend on the level of risk as well as the availability and suitability of controls for each workplace.

For more information contact your state or federal work health and safety regulator.

I rely on public transport to get to/from my usual workplace, but with the current pandemic I am concerned about using public transport.

Public transport operators across Australia are expected to work closely with the relevant government agencies to ensure that all necessary precautions are taken in relation to public transport. For more information contact the relevant Public Transport Authority for your state.

If you remain concerned about getting to/from work by public transport, try discussing your concerns with your employer. Contact JobWatch’s Telephone Information Service for more information.

For more information on what is most appropriate in your situation, contact JobWatch’s Telephone Information Service on 1800 331 617 (Regional VIC, QLD, TAS) or 03 9662 1933 (Melbourne Metro).

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End of JobKeeper Q&As

The following questions & answers are for eligible employees. This information is accurate as at 1 October 2021. Updates will be provided if further information becomes available.

Disclaimer

This Q&A contains information of a general nature only and is not a substitute for professional legal advice. You should obtain legal advice from a lawyer or your union about your particular situation before acting on any of the following information.

This Q&A is designed for Victorian and national system employees in Tasmania and Queensland only. If you are not a Victorian employee or a Queensland or Tasmanian national system employee, you should obtain specialist legal advice about your case as soon as possible.

Please note applicable time limits for certain claims, e.g. 21 days to lodge an Unfair Dismissal claim.

For more information on what is most appropriate in your situation, contact JobWatch’s Telephone Information Service on 1800 331 617 (Regional VIC, QLD, TAS) or 03 9662 1933 (Melbourne Metro).

What does the end of JobKeeper mean for me?

The JobKeeper Payment program ended on 28 March 2021.

This means that JobKeeper enabling directions ended on 29 March 2021. From this date, you are entitled to return to your normal terms of employment.

If you are a full-time or part-time employee, you have an automatic right to return to the hours you were working prior to when any JobKeeper enabling directions were given.

Your employer cannot require you to continue to work reduced hours after 29 March 2021 without your consent.

If you are a casual employee, you have no guaranteed hours of work and accordingly your employer may vary your work hours as needed.

Can my employer direct me to take paid annual leave after JobKeeper ends?

Your employer can only direct you to take annual leave in certain situations. For example, when the business is closed during the Christmas and New Year period or if you have accumulated excess annual leave. In these situations, your employer can only direct you to take annual leave in accordance with the modern award or enterprise agreement that covers you.

My employer says that they need to change conditions in my contract (hours/days of work, rate of pay, duties, location) after JobKeeper ends. What are my options?

Any proposed change or variation to your contract needs to be legally consented to by both parties. Just because an employer wants to change the contract does not mean you have to accept the change – you can say no.

Unilateral changes to your employment contract may be considered fundamental and you may disagree with them – e.g. they change your employment status from permanent to casual, they change your classification or they significantly reduce your work hours.

If you disagree with a proposed change, it is a good idea to confirm this in writing to your employer, keeping copies of these letters or emails for your own records. You also need to understand that if you don’t accept the change, it may mean that your employment will be terminated because of redundancy. You should read our Redundancy factsheet if you are affected by a redundancy.

My employer says that I need to keep performing alternative duties, or duties at a different location, that are not within my current contract of employment after JobKeeper ends. What are my options?

With the end of JobKeeper, any changes to your employment contract that were made pursuant to a JobKeeper enabling direction such as duties and location of work will no longer apply from 29 March 2021. Accordingly, if you worked reduced hours under a JobKeeper enabling direction while you have received JobKeeper payments, you should now return to your previous contracted work arrangements unless:

  • You agree to change your employment contract with your employer; or
  • Your employment is terminated by your employer.

However, if you are covered by a modern award or an enterprise agreement that continues to allow for some flexibility during Coronavirus (e.g. the Restaurant Industry Award or the General Retail Award) you will need to check which flexibility clauses continue to apply beyond 28 March 2021. You can check which award or enterprise agreement covers you by calling the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94.

My employer says that they need to make my job redundant / terminate my employment after JobKeeper ends. What are my options?

A genuine redundancy occurs when:

  • your employer no longer requires your job to be done by anyone because of changes in the operational requirements of its business; and
  • your employer has complied with any obligation to consult about redundancy that may be contained in a modern award or enterprise agreement that applies to your employment; or
  • when your employer becomes insolvent or bankrupt.

Your job is made up of many things including for example, your job title, your duties, your pay, your hours and your job location. Consider all these factors together when you ask yourself whether your job has truly ceased to exist. It is the job that becomes redundant, not you.

If your job is made redundant, your employment is not necessarily terminated. Your employer could offer you a different job (known as redeployment) and if you accept this redeployment, your employment will not be terminated.

If, on the other hand, your employment is terminated because of redundancy (sometimes referred to as retrenchment), you should ask yourself have you been given all your correct entitlements, including notice or pay in lieu of notice, wages for all hours worked, any outstanding paid leave and redundancy pay? Read our Redundancy factsheet for more information about your redundancy entitlements.

If you were dismissed and you don’t believe it was a genuine redundancy, read our Unfair Dismissal factsheet and General Protections Dispute – Termination factsheet for more information about making an application to the Fair Work Commission. You must act quickly as you only have 21 days from when the dismissal takes effect to lodge an application, provided you are eligible to do so.

My employer says they need to continue standing me down after JobKeeper ends. What are my options?

Under s524 of the Fair Work Act 2009, an employer may stand down an employee during a period in which the employee cannot usefully be employed in certain circumstances, including because of a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible. An employer does not have to make payments to the employee for the period of the stand down.

In general, an employer cannot stand down an employee under s524 simply because of a deterioration in business conditions.

By contrast, where work has stopped because of an enforceable government direction, such as a lockdown under public health orders, a stand-down under s524 may be applicable.

If your employer tells you that you are to be stood down and you don’t agree that it is because of a stoppage of work for which they cannot reasonably be held responsible, you can make an application to the Fair Work Commission to challenge the validity of the stand-down.

My employer says that all employees need to reapply for available jobs after JobKeeper ends, and that not everyone will be successful. What are my options?

If you do not want to apply for the new positions, then you can let your employer know in writing that you are not resigning. If there are suitable redeployment options available, your employer must offer these to you without requiring you to apply for them. If they make your role redundant and do not offer an opportunity for redeployment you can pursue an Unfair Dismissal claim or a General Protections Dispute – Termination claim with the Fair Work Commission within 21 days of the redundancy taking effect.

If you decide to reapply for the job and are unsuccessful, you should still receive a redundancy payment (provided your employer has 15 or more employees) as your original role is no longer available. If you receive a redundancy payment, you can still make an Unfair Dismissal claim or a General Protections Dispute – Termination claim with the Fair Work Commission within 21 days of the termination or redundancy taking effect.

If you decide to reapply for the job and are successful in receiving a job offer, you may not be eligible for redundancy pay as this may mean you have been ‘redeployed’ into acceptable alternative employment.

I was eligible for JobKeeper, and my employer was underpaying me during the JobKeeper period.

If you and your employer were eligible for JobKeeper throughout the scheme, you should have received at least the following payments per fortnight, before tax:

  • From 30 March 2020 to 27 September 2020: $1500 per fortnight (before tax)
  • From 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021: Tier 1 $1200 per fortnight (before tax) or Tier 2 $750 per fortnight (before tax)
  • From 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021: Tier 1 $1000 per fortnight (before tax) or Tier 2 $650 per fortnight (before tax)

You should have received more if the wages you earned exceeded the JobKeeper rate.

Minimum superannuation contributions should have been calculated on your pay for ordinary hours worked, whether that is higher or lower than the JobKeeper rate. Superannuation was not payable if you were stood down, or on leave without pay during this period while receiving JobKeeper.

If you have been underpaid your JobKeeper or wages, you can take steps to recover the money that is owed to you. This includes writing a letter of demand, lodging a Request for Assistance with the Fair Work Ombudsman, or pursuing a claim through a small claims process in court. Unpaid superannuation can be claimed the same way if you are entitled to it under an award, enterprise agreement or contract, otherwise, you can report the underpayment to the ATO.

Please note that you have 6 years from the date of the first underpayment to file a claim in an eligible Court.

For more information on what is most appropriate in your situation, contact JobWatch’s Telephone Information Service on 1800 331 617 (Regional VIC, QLD, TAS) or 03 9662 1933 (Melbourne Metro).

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