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Employee and Industrial Relations information and advice

ACSA's Employee Relations team has provided clarification of recommendations regarding managing your employees in the context of COVID-19, which you can read here (updated 18 March 2020). Please note, ACSA will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation as it develops and will supply updated information for employers as appropriate.

 

An information sheet has been compiled by the Department of Health regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) information on work attendance and testing for health and residential aged care workers, which you can read here.

 

Unions making application to vary health sector awards - Paid Pandemic Leave

14 May: The Full Bench of the FWC handed down a decision on 8 April 2020 which provides for amendments to a range of awards to include unpaid pandemic leave and the ability for employees to take annual leave at half pay. Several unions expressed concern during the proceedings regarding those workers who are occupationally more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 in their day to day jobs. As a consequence, on 16 April 2020, the HSU, ACTU, ANMF and APESMA lodged applications in the Fair Work Commission seeking variations to a range of Health Sector Modern Awards. The applications propose two additional entitlements for the period of the COVID-19 pandemic. For ACSA purposes, these measures will affect members operating under the Modern Awards as they apply to workers in aged care and social and community services. These variations will not apply if you are utilising enterprise agreements in your workplaces. Read more

Changes to JobKeeper for charities

24 April: ACSA welcomes changes to the government's JobKeeper scheme, which we have advocated strongly for. The changes, announced on Friday 24 April, will open up the JobKeeper scheme to more charities. Changes will allow charities (other than schools and universities) to elect to exclude government revenue from the JobKeeper turnover test. This will allow employing charities receiving revenue from government to use either their total turnover, or their turnover excluding government revenue, for the purposes of assessing eligibility for the JobKeeper Payment. This will help to ensure that the eligibility of charities is not adversely affected where they are delivering significant services that are funded by government. Read more

Decision matrix for manaing employees in high-risk categories

23 April: Recent advice from Government, based on medical evidence, is that the following people are at higher risk and therefore they should self-isolate to the maximum extent practical: people over 70 years of age; over 65 years of age who have existing health conditions or comorbidities; and Indigenous Australians over the age of 50 who have existing health conditions or comorbidities. ACSA's Employee Relations team has compiled a decision matrix to assist providers in managing the risk of employees and volunteers who fit into these higher risk categories. We would like to thank Integrated Living for their input to this document. View the decision matrix

COVID-19 Staff Check-in Survey

21 April: To help during this time, Voice Project are offering a specially designed COVID-19 Staff Check-In Survey. This pulse survey takes around 5 minutes to complete and provides valuable feedback about how well your organisation is supporting staff safety and wellbeing, as well as providing the systems and processes needed for continuity of care. Once completed, the provider will receive a weather map plotting where staff sit across a range of indicators. Read more

No jab, no job - Managing influenza vaccination compliance for your employees

9 April: The States and Territories have now operationalised the mandatory influenza vaccination requirements for Residential Aged Care Facilities by way of Directions and Orders issued pursuant to public health legislation in each of their jurisdictions. Click here to read a summary from ACSA's Employee Relations Team to assist you in managing compliance for your employees. Read more

Modern Award Review

9 April: On Wednesday 8 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission varied 99 modern awards to insert a new Schedule titled ‘Additional measures during the COVID-19 pandemic’ The schedule provides an entitlement to unpaid ‘pandemic leave’ and the flexibility to take twice as much annual leave at half pay.  Read more

JobKeeper update - critical information and employer powers

8 April: Bills setting out details of the Commonwealth Government’s JobKeeper Payment scheme were introduced to the Commonwealth Parliament on Wednesday 8 April. ACSA Partner Hall & Wilcox Law have put together this great employer resource detailing what you need to know about the JobKeeper Payment scheme. Read more

JobKeeper payment fact sheets - updated

6 April: Treasury has updated the available Fact Sheets on the JobKeeper payment and Economic Response to the Coronavirus: access the fact sheets here.
- Supporting businesses to retain jobs, Last updated: Sunday 5 April 2020
- JobKeeper payment - Information for employers, Last updated: Sunday 5 April 2020
- JobKeeper payment - Information for employees. Last updated: Sunday 5 April 2020
- JobKeeper payment - Frequently asked questions, Last updated: Sunday 5 April 2020

Making it easier for charities to access JobKeeper

6 April: Charities that are registered with the national regulator will be eligible for the Morrison Government’s $130 billion JobKeeper Payment if they have suffered a 15 per cent decline in turnover as a result of the coronavirus. Legislation to be introduced into the Parliament this week will include a concessional test for ACNC registered charities given the benefit they provide to the Australian community. A reduced threshold at which a charity is considered to be substantially affected by the coronavirus, as compared to businesses and other not-for-profits, will support a sector which is expected to have a significant increase in demand for its services. Read the Treasurer's full media release.

Eligible businesses and charities can apply for the payment online and are able to register their interest via ato.gov.au.

Coronavirus and Temporary Visa holders

4 April: The Hon Alan Tudge MP Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs has announced a number of changes to temporary visa holder arrangements for those working in key industries including health, aged and disability care, agriculture and food processing. 

In line with changes being made for Australian citizens and permanent residents, most temporary visa holders with work rights will now be able to access their Australian superannuation to help support themselves during this crisis.

International students are able to work up to 40 hours per fortnight. International students working in aged care and as nurses have had these hours extended to support these critical sectors.

Students are encouraged to rely on family support, part-time work where available and their own savings to sustain themselves in Australia. As part of their visa application, international students have had to demonstrate that they can support themselves completely in their first year. Students who have been here longer than 12 months who find themselves in financial hardship will be able to access their Australian superannuation. Read more

Retention bonus for residential aged care and home care workers - further information

1 April: Further to the Department of Health’s 31 March 2020 daily COVID-19 update, ACSA sought clarification from the Department areound the retention bonus and has received a response. Read more

Modern Award Variations: Unpaid pandemic leave and ability to take additional accrued annual leave at half pay by agreement

1 April: Please see attached a statement made by the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission today - ACSA's Employee Relations team are currently working through the detail. The statement covers a swathe of awards and includes Aged Care, SCHDS, Nurses and HPSS. It is proposed the FWC will insert a schedule (Schedule X) to the awards which will temporarily:

1. Provide all employees (including full-time, part-time and casual employees) with a new entitlement of up to 2 weeks’ unpaid pandemic leave; and

2. Provide for employees by agreement with their employer to take twice the amount of their accrued annual leave at half pay.

Please refer to Variation of awards on the initiative of the Commission for more information and background. The Commission is seeking submissions supporting or opposing the provisional view by 4:00pm, Monday 6 April.

We will keep you informed regarding any Aged Care/Home Care specific issues which might be dealt with through an application to vary an award.

JobKeeper payment - information for employers and employees

31 March: The JobKeeper Payment is a temporary scheme open to businesses impacted by the Coronavirus. The JobKeeper Payment will also be available to the self-employed. The Government will provide $1,500 per fortnight per employee for up to 6 months. 
 
Employers (including non-for-profits) will be eligible for the subsidy if:

  • Their business has a turnover of less than $1 billion and their turnover will be reduced by more than 30 per cent relative to a comparable period a year ago (of at least a month); or
  • Their business has a turnover of $1 billion or more and their turnover will be reduced by more than 50 per cent relative to a comparable period a year ago (of at least a month); and
  • The business is not subject to the Major Bank Levy.

 
Employers must elect to participate in the scheme. They will need to make an application to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and provide supporting information demonstrating a downturn in their business. In addition, employers must report the number of eligible employees employed by the business on a monthly basis.
 
The subsidy will start on 30 March 2020, with the first payments to be received by employers in the first week of May. Businesses will be able to register their interest in participating in the Payment from 30 March 2020 on the ATO website.

Click here to download the JobKeeper fact sheets or visit the Treasury website for more information.

Evidence of Employment within an essential service

26 March: ACSA would like to thank Wintringham for sharing their letter to be used as proforma for other members and employers of aged care employees. Please download the proforma letter for you to use to issue to your employees to keep with them should they need it to confirm their role and employment in the aged care sector. Download proforma

16 April: We have also created a template Identification Card that you can edit to create a simple ID confirmation for your employees. Download ID card template

Relaxation of student visa work

On 18 March 2020, the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, and the Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Alan Tudge MP, jointly announced that providers of Commonwealth funded aged care services will temporarily be able to offer more hours to international students to ensure the care of senior and vulnerable Australians, as part of the campaign to combat the impact of coronavirus (COVID‑19).  Please review this ‘Letter of Comfort’ from the Department of Home Affairs which outlines this arrangement.

For further information about this temporary measure and what you need to do, please contact the Department of Home Affairs on 131 881 or email SVCR@homeaffairs.gov.au.

 

Other resources

You can access information from Fair Work Australia specifically relating to workplacefairwork-1024x412.jpg entitlements and obligations if you're affected by an outbreak of COVID-19 on the Fair Work website.

 

Safe Work Australia has provided a list of useful resources including general information andsafe-work-australia.jpg checklists to ensure you remain informed on work health and safety, workers' compensation and COVID-19. You can access the Safe Work Australia aged care website here.

 

Business Australia (formerly New South Wales Business Chamber) has developed a NSWBC_APMO_Australia_Black_RGB.pngfantastic COVID-19 resource and employer toolkit which has been made available to the public. You can access it here

Business Australia is on hand with a range of resources to help employers, sole traders and non-employing businesses with practical free advice and information to help them navigate the COVID-19 crisis.

 

 

 

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For more information, you can:

  • Call the National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Visit the Department of Health website.
  • Contact ACSA's Member Support Line on 1300 877 855 or email memberadvice@acsa.asn.au.

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