Resolving workplace issues during coronavirus

Published 20 May 2020 | Updated 6 May 2021

During the coronavirus pandemic, workplaces have had many challenges and may continue to in the future. We help employers and employees understand and follow Australian workplace laws during this difficult time by:

  • providing information, advice and education
  • providing tools, templates and guides
  • helping you resolve workplace problems.

What you can do to resolve workplace problems

We encourage employers and employees to work together to find practical solutions that suit their individual workplaces and staff.

Fixing workplace problems during coronavirus

Problems happen in every workplace from time to time. If they’re not dealt with, they can strain working relationships and make workplaces unproductive.

Some problems are easy to fix with just a simple conversation. Other workplace problems may take more time and effort. Either way, it’s best to identify and act on problems early before they disrupt work relationships and business productivity.

Common workplace problems during coronavirus could relate to:

For guidance on resolving issues during coronavirus, we encourage you to use our information and step-by-step guides available at Fixing a workplace problem.

Tools and resources to help

We have a range of tools and resources to help with workplace problems during coronavirus.

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:

We also have other templates, fact sheets, online courses and apps. For:

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 Coronavirus hotline 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 Coronavirus hotline 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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COVID-19 vaccinations and workplace problems

Find answers to common questions about different workplace issues and COVID-19 vaccinations at COVID-19 vaccinations and the workplace: workplace rights and obligations.

For information about resolving workplace problems, see COVID-19 vaccinations and the workplace: resolving workplace issues.

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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 below:

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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How to ask for our help

To ask for our help, please contact us.

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 your workplace issue relates to minimum pay and conditions, including pay while under the former JobKeeper scheme, we’ll ask you questions so we can:

  • understand and assess your situation
  • give you accurate advice
  • determine the best way to help you resolve the issue.

In our experience, discussing issues directly in the workplace is the most effective way to promote harmonious workplaces.

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

Referrals to other government agencies or departments

If it’s more appropriate for another government agency or department to help you with an issue, we’ll give you information about how 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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