Information for Victorian workplaces
Published 3 August 2020 | Updated 16 September 2020
Extension of JobKeeper provisions in the Fair Work Act
On 1 September 2020, the JobKeeper provisions in the Fair Work Act were extended with some changes.
We’ve added new information about:
We've also created a 10% decline in turnover template certificate for legacy employers, with other template documents being published soon. We encourage you to check back regularly for updates.
You can also subscribe to email updates and we’ll let you know when we’ve updated all of our information.
We have information and advice about your workplace entitlements and obligations if you’ve been affected by restrictions announced for Victoria.
Find out the latest information on the roadmap out of current workplace restrictions at:
On this page:
Restrictions in Victoria
A number of significant restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus apply in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. Enforceable government directions have impacted many services and industries, including:
- Manufacturing (such as meat processing)
- Professional and administrative services.
The directions require some workplaces to close and others to run with reduced operations, including reductions in staffing levels. For information about the restrictions, go to Victorian Department of Health and Human Services – Coronavirus .
The Victorian Government has released its roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions, including information about the easing of restrictions for some workplaces. Learn more:
We encourage employers and employees to work together to find solutions that work in their circumstances. If your work or workplace is affected, please reach out to your employer or staff to talk through your options.
Available options include:
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Taking care of a child
If an employee can’t work because they need to care for a child whose school or childcare centre has closed, they should try and come to an arrangement with their employer. This could include taking some form of leave, such as annual leave or long service leave, or requesting to work from home or another flexible arrangement.
Employees may be able to take paid or unpaid carer’s leave for an unexpected emergency. For example, a school or childcare centre closing on short notice and for a short period due to coronavirus concerns because someone tested positive is an unexpected emergency.
More information on leave options and alternative work arrangements:
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Alternative work arrangements
Some workplaces will now need to consider alternative work arrangements if their sector has been closed or work is impacted by the new restrictions. Employers and employees can consider:
- working remotely, such as working from home
- changes to hours of work, such as staggered start and finish times
- changes to work duties, such as doing different duties at work.
Get more information on alternative work arrangements:
Participating in JobKeeper? We have information about alternative work arrangements under JobKeeper. This can include changing employee duties and location or giving JobKeeper enabling stand down directions to employees. Learn more at JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.
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Some employees may need to take some form of leave if their workplace has temporarily closed. This could be paid leave, such as annual leave or long service leave, or unpaid leave.
Employers can also request or direct employees to take annual leave (or other leave) in some circumstances. Find out the rules that apply on our Directions to take annual leave page.
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Stand downs at work
Because of these restrictions, some employers may need to stand down staff. Learn about stand downs and the rules about them at work at Stand downs during coronavirus.
If you’re an employer, before you stand any employees down, use our Stand down – employer checklist to make sure you follow the right process and meet your employer obligations.
Participating in the JobKeeper scheme? We have information about stand downs under the JobKeeper scheme on our Stand downs & the JobKeeper scheme page.
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Workplaces still open for on-site work
Workplace health and safety
Some workplaces in Victoria can stay open during the increased restrictions. However, there are criteria and rules for staying open, including reduced operations in some industries, a requirement for personal protective equipment (PPE) and the creation of a COVID Safe Plan. For more information about these rules and obligations, go to Victorian Department of Health and Human Services – Coronavirus website .
Face coverings are required for people in Victoria when they leave the house (except in limited circumstances). This includes workplaces. WorkSafe Victoria has information and guidance on face coverings in the workplace. Get more information at Managing coronavirus (COVID-19) risks: Face coverings in workplaces .
Victorian workplaces that are allowed to stay open need to make sure that all employees who are required to work on-site are given a valid work permit by their employer. It is an employer’s responsibility to give and authorise a work permit to employees, and there are penalties for issuing them incorrectly. Employees who don’t carry their permit when travelling to and from work could also be penalised.
To learn more about work permits and how to issue them, go to Permitted worker scheme – Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety .
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Reducing staffing levels and complying with awards and enterprise agreements
Awards and enterprise agreements include terms about paying full-time and part-time employees for fixed or agreed hours of work and have requirements to consult employees about major workplace change and changes to rosters or hours.
When an employer is required by an enforceable government direction to temporarily reduce staffing levels, they should consider their obligations under an award or enterprise agreement and consider the available options, including:
Employers in the JobKeeper scheme who need to reduce staffing levels in order to comply with an enforceable government direction can give their employees:
Employers in the JobKeeper scheme can also make agreements with employees to change their days and times of work and take leave in certain circumstances. JobKeeper enabling directions and agreements made under the Fair Work Act JobKeeper provisions apply even if they're inconsistent with terms of an award, enterprise agreement or employment contract.
Employers not in the JobKeeper scheme
Employers who aren't in the JobKeeper scheme may also need to reduce staffing levels in order to comply with an enforceable government direction.
The Fair Work Act provides that awards and enterprise agreements are subject to enforceable government directions under state and territory laws that restrict the performance of work in emergency situations. This means that an enforceable government direction requiring a reduction in staffing levels may override some of an employer's obligations under an award or enterprise agreement. Where this occurs, an employer may be able to reduce employees' hours below those set under an award or enterprise agreement, and not pay employees for the hours they don't work. Other relevant terms of an award or enterprise agreement, such as terms requiring consultation with employees, may also in some circumstances be overridden by the enforceable government direction.
The availability of this option for employers affected by an enforceable government direction has not been tested in the courts and may be subject to competing views. It is only likely to be available to the extent that an enforceable government direction requiring reduced staffing levels makes it reasonably necessary to reduce employees’ hours below those ordinarily set under an award or enterprise agreement. This will depend on the circumstances and how the particular award or enterprise agreement interacts with the enforceable government direction. You should consider seeking independent legal advice if you’re considering this option.
Employers can’t use this option if they are only indirectly affected by an enforceable government direction. For example, if an employer experiences a disruption to its supply from another business that has been required by an enforceable government direction to close, the employer can’t rely on this option to reduce their employees’ hours of work.
Employers have some discretion about how they choose to implement reductions in staffing across their workforce. However, under the general protections in the Fair Work Act, employers cannot take adverse action against employees for a prohibited reason, such as the person’s race, sex, marital status, pregnancy or union or non-union membership. See Protections at work.
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Government support and assistance
Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment
The Australian Government has introduced a Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment for some workers during coronavirus. The payment is available to eligible workers who don’t have paid sick leave and who live in:
- New South Wales and work in Victoria (available from 28 August 2020)
- South Australia and work in Victoria (available from 28 August 2020)
- Tasmania (available from 22 August 2020)
- Victoria (available from 5 August 2020).
For more information about the payment and how to claim it, visit Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment on Services Australia's website.
Victorian Coronavirus Test Isolation Payments
Some Victorian workers who aren’t eligible for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment may be eligible for a Victorian coronavirus worker payment from the Victorian Government. Learn more at Victoria – Coronavirus (COVID-19) test isolation payments .
If your workplace is affected by the new restrictions, you might be able to apply for financial and other support from the Australian or Victorian Government.
Victorian Government business support
The Victorian Government has announced financial support for Victorian businesses affected by coronavirus. This includes cash grants, deferral of some payroll taxes and waivers for some business fees. Find out more at Victorian Government – Business Victoria .
To learn more about the JobKeeper payment and check eligibility for the scheme, go Australian Taxation Office – JobKeeper payment .
If you want to check the workplace rules and entitlements that apply under JobKeeper, go to our JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme section.
For information and services to help you if you’re affected by coronavirus, including payments like JobSeeker, go to Services Australia .
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If you have an urgent enquiry about your workplace obligations or entitlements, go to our Contact us page.
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