Resolving workplace issues during coronavirus

Published 20 May 2020 | Updated 2 March 2022

COVID-19 vaccinations – when you contact us

What we can help with

We can give you general information about coronavirus and Australian workplace laws under the Fair Work Act. This includes guidance about COVID-19 vaccinations and the workplace.

Please read our COVID-19 vaccination information first before calling us. This is also the information that our staff use and will refer to when answering your question.

What we can't help with

There are some issues we can’t help with. This includes giving you a definite answer about:

  • whether you are an essential or authorised worker (this is set by your state or territory – visit your state or territory government website)
  • whether your direction or your employer's direction to get vaccinated is lawful and reasonable
  • whether you have been unfairly dismissed or adversely affected because of your vaccination status (the Fair Work Commission external-icon.png can advise on the process for lodging an unfair dismissal or general protections application)
  • the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccinations or other health information about vaccines
  • hypothetical situations.

If we can’t answer your question, we will do what we can to give you general guidance and information that’s relevant to you. This could include a referral to another government body or letting you know the options available to you if you’re experiencing an issue at work.

When you contact us

We’re currently experiencing a high volume of enquiries due to COVID 19. Our staff work hard to resolve your enquiries. When you contact us, we expect that you are cooperative, courteous and respectful. Please note our staff may terminate a call that becomes unreasonable, abusive, or aggressive. Read more about what you can expect from us and what we expect from you in Our commitment to you.

We encourage employers and employees to work together to find solutions that suit their individual workplaces and needs. Find out how to resolve a workplace issue and ask for our help if you need it.

What you can do

From time to time, issues and disagreements can arise at work. Resolving workplace issues on your own can be quick and easy with the right information and tools. In our experience, most workplace issues can be resolved by employers and employees together at the workplace.

Common issues

Some common workplace issues during coronavirus include:

Make sure you read our information first to understand what rules and responsibilities apply to your situation.

Steps to take

There are some simple steps you can take to help you resolve any issues quickly and effectively. These include:

  1. Make sure you understand what rules apply to your situation – go to our COVID-19 homepage and read about your workplace topic.
  2. Make a time to talk to your employer or employee – read more at Communication in the workplace.
  3. Prepare for the conversation – take our quick course on having difficult conversations at work in our Online learning centre.

Learn more on what you can do to prepare yourself at Checklist for resolving issues in the workplace.

Use our tools and resources

Our main website has more information and guidance about resolving workplace issues. Visit Workplace problems.

Our guides to difficult conversations will help you have an effective conversation in the workplace to address workplace concerns. Even if an employment relationship has ended, we encourage you to try to work out issues between yourselves before making a formal request to us for help.

Download our guides:

Independent legal help

Our Workplace Legal Advice Program provides eligible employers and employees with independent legal help to deal with workplace issues arising from the coronavirus outbreak.

Employers and employees who contact our Infoline or make an online enquiry through My account may be referred to the Workplace Legal Advice Program if they meet certain criteria. Enquiries that can be resolved by our Infoline advisers or are answered on our website are generally not suitable for referral. Read more about our Workplace Legal Advice Program.

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Ask for our help

To ask for our help with resolving a workplace issue, please contact us. You can call us or lodge an online enquiry.

We’ll ask you for information about the workplace issues you’re trying to resolve. We may refer you to another government agency or department where appropriate.

If you meet the eligibility criteria, we may refer you for independent legal help through our Workplace Legal Advice Program.

COVID-19 vaccinations

If your workplace issue related to COVID-19 vaccinations, please read our COVID-19 vaccination information first before calling us. We also have specific information about resolving COVID-19 vaccinations issues at work. Learn more at COVID-19 vaccinations: resolving workplace issues.

Former JobKeeper scheme

If your workplace issue relates to minimum pay and conditions under the former JobKeeper scheme, find out more below at JobKeeper and workplace problems.

Referrals to other government agencies or departments

If it’s more appropriate for another government agency or department to help you with resolving a workplace issue, we’ll give you information about who to contact to get the right help. For example, this may include a referral to the ATO or the Commission.

For a list of assistance on a range of topics, see Other government information and assistance.

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JobKeeper and workplace problems

Most of the Fair Work Act JobKeeper provisions ended from 29 March 2021. Access some of our most popular historical JobKeeper pages:

While the JobKeeper scheme has ended, you may still have workplace issues about JobKeeper that you need help to resolve. Depending on the nature of the problem, you can ask for help from:

  • us (the Fair Work Ombudsman)
  • the Australian Tax Office (ATO)
  • the Fair Work Commission (the Commission).

The ATO administered the JobKeeper scheme and can take action to ensure the integrity of the program. Visit the ATO website for information about:

On or after 29 March 2021, the Fair Work Commission still has limited power to deal with JobKeeper disputes and make orders about the JobKeeper provisions under the Fair Work Act.

For more information, and to find out how to make a dispute application, see Fair Work Commission – JobKeeper disputes external-icon.png.

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Enforcement of the JobKeeper scheme: what we can help with

We can give you general information about:

  • the former JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme
  • how the scheme interacted with your workplace obligations and entitlements under the Fair Work Act, a relevant award or an agreement. 

We also have an enforcement role under the former JobKeeper scheme. Things we can help with include:

  • making sure minimum wages and conditions under the Fair Work Act were met
  • misuse of former JobKeeper enabling directions under the Fair Work Act JobKeeper provisions by employers.

We can also enforce general protections relating to the provisions, such as the right to refuse or exercise a workplace right. For more information about workplace rights, including how to get help, go to Protections at work.

Civil penalties can apply to employers that didn’t follow the rules that applied for the use of JobKeeper provisions.

Examples of when we can help include if you believe an employer has:

  • failed to pay an amount that was at least equal to the applicable JobKeeper payment to an eligible employee (if the employer is a qualifying employer)
  • failed to pay an eligible employee for work they performed or leave they have taken
  • asked an eligible employee to give all or part of a payment made to them under the JobKeeper scheme back to their employer
  • failed to follow the rules that applied to a JobKeeper direction to perform duties at different days or times
  • contravened an order made by the Commission (for example, an order made in response to a dispute about JobKeeper directions).

Example: Dispute about JobKeeper pay after JobKeeper finished

Glenn was getting JobKeeper payments from his employer for over 6 months until he was made redundant. Looking back at his pay slips from that time, he noticed several fortnights where he’d worked weekends but hadn’t been paid penalty rates. Glenn was covered by the Restaurant Award.

If the penalty rates had been paid as the Restaurant Award requires, this would have taken Glenn’s fortnightly pay higher than the applicable JobKeeper amount. Instead his employer only paid him an amount equal to the JobKeeper payment for those fortnights, not the higher amount.

Glenn thought he couldn’t do anything as he’d left the job and the JobKeeper scheme had finished. A friend suggested it might not be too late and that he should get in touch with his former employer to try to sort it out. Glenn contacted his former employer. The employer refused to fix it, saying Glenn should have mentioned this issue earlier.

Glenn contacted us and we worked with him to resolve the pay issue. The former employer agreed to pay the amount he owed to Glenn.

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