Facebook Live Event 6: Government Subsidies, Coronavirus Stimulus And Ideas For Innovation

Published March 31, 2020 Views: 13


An in-depth explanation of the Business Activity System (BAS) PAYG credit that the government is offering small businesses. Ed also highlights several examples of small businesses (including one of our clients!) innovating their offering to maintain revenue flow during this time, and discusses ways to make redundancies a last resort.

To help your business navigate the COVID-19 crisis Employsure’s founder and Managing Director Ed Mallett is hosting live events on Facebook, to discuss the latest events, burning questions Employsure’s clients are asking and to offer business and management tips. At the end of every session, Ed will answer a few questions that come through the comment section.

Facebook Live Event 6: Government Subsidies, Coronavirus Stimulus And Ideas For Innovation

  • Transcript

    Ed: …for our standard midday live stream. Just having a chat to you about the workplace relations issues that you are facing as small business owners, managers, at the moment. What I’m going to do today, as is fairly standard, is have a bit of a sort of 5, 10, 15-minute session just talking to you about some of the challenges that I understand a number of you are facing. And for then, again, turning to answer some of your questions. I am going to talk specifically about four things here that I’ve got on my board behind me today.

    The first is a really good idea that I heard overnight talking to a small business owner about what they’re doing to keep their revenue flowing during this crisis. And the second is another great pivot that I’ve seen from a client of ours. I just want to give a shameless shout out to, I just think it’s fascinating and fantastic what they’re doing. Then I’m going to go to a bit of detail, just talking about the BAS subsidy, the PAYG subsidy that the government is doing. Just to give you a sense of how it works and what that looks like when you actually do the numbers on it, it’s somewhat disappointing, to be honest. I just want to go through that. Because I think as small business owners, we want to start making better noise about the fact that we need more help than we’re currently getting from the government.

    And then finally, one of the questions I’m seeing a lot and we’ve been banging the same drum a lot of the time each day on this, the difference between stand down and unpaid leave. And I’m also going to go into the process that you would go through in order to stand someone down and look at why that may well be better for you than redundancy in terms of process and cost.

    So first things first, I mentioned about the really ingenious idea that I had seen yesterday to try and keep revenue flowing in a business. This won’t work for everyone but I just thought it’s such a great idea and quite inspiring for us as business owners to hear about something like this. So this was a gym, I believe a jiu-jitsu gym, that during the shutdown they’re no longer allowed to operate their gym that’s indoors. And during the shutdown, they said to their members, “Look, rather than put your membership on hold as a lot of gyms have done and therefore completely cutting off their revenue stream, how would you feel if we went to 50% cost for however long this goes on for? And then when we’re back up and running, we’ll only charge you 50% once we’re up and running again.”

    So in effect, what they’re doing is giving themselves at least some cash flow. It’s unlikely to cover all of their costs unless they’re 50% margin business. But it will give them enough to do things like cover their rent, keep on core staff that they don’t want to lose and they want to make sure that they keep paying them some or all of their salary. Maybe they’re on reduced hours or stand down, so on. So it just struck me as really interesting because when they get up and running again, they’re still going to be impacted. They’re still only going to be getting 50% of their revenue, but they will be up and running and they’ve been able to pay their rent. And as I say, pay some of those staff costs and keep the business fundamentally going rather than just seeking to totally mothball it now and then finding that it’s harder to get up and running when the time comes.

    Remember we talked yesterday about needing as business owners, managers, to make sure that we can bounce back like a spring. We’re under all this pressure at the moment, we want to be able to bounce back. That’s a great example of how to bounce back as a business by asking your customers maybe to share some of the pain at the moment, but there will be an upside for them when you come out the other side. Again, won’t work for anyone but any gyms out there listening, really good idea, I thought, and something you might look at.

    Talking of good ideas, a shout out. They haven’t asked me to do this, so I apologize. I don’t know if they’re even watching or have heard about this live stream. But a client of ours here in New South Wales, in Gymea, called Stage Kings. They work in the events industry doing events production. So being completely shattered in terms of their revenue from the crisis. Now, instead of going into catastrophe, worrying, not thinking and so on, their version of teacup thinking clearly under pressure has been to pivot their business and to change their why, change their purpose.

    And what they’re doing is producing desks for people to work at home, selling them on their website. Very reasonably priced ones, I should add. I had a look at them today. They look great and they’re well-priced. Have a look, guys. Even if you’re not buying desks, just go and look at how inspiring this business is, stagekings.com.au. Just brilliant what they’re doing. And a real inspiration for us as small businesses as to how you can be thinking when you get to the opportunity stage of that thinking cycle.

    Remember the four-stage cycle we talked about. Stage zero, you’re in denial. You don’t think this is happening. I really hope no one’s still in that stage. I think there might be some that think it’s not happening for as long as it probably is going to end up being. Stage one, you’re in crisis management. Stage two, you’re planning. And stage three, you’re starting to consider opportunities. Now, this business, stagekings.com.au, has rushed forward and managed to get to opportunity. We’ll start talking about that as the days go on.

    So those are the first couple of things I wanted to go through. Now, I’m just going to have a quick look at the BAS issue. Shout out, guys, if the sound is not good enough. I’m going to just look at this, the sums of money that as a business you can get through this BAS submission for your PAYG. You might not be able to see the numbers on here and I apologize for my handwriting. But I’m just going to go through some of the rules on it. So you’ve got to have turnover under $50 million. That’s a pretty bloody big business.

    You’ve got $50 million turnover and that’s significantly higher than most small business turnovers. But you can be up to $50 million turnover. I’ll come back to why that might be important in a minute, just to show you what the kind of issues that you’re going to see through this are. Now, what the government is saying is that in your BAS submission, in which you set out what your payroll for the quarter is, they are going to allow you or they will return to you essentially a credit on your PAYG of 50K per quarter, 100K in total, 50K for this current quarter, another 50K in the next quarter.

    Now, the obvious thing in that, or I hope obvious, is that you’re only going to get that if you’re still employing people, you’re still paying wages. You’re not going to get this unless you’re paying wages to your staff during the next two quarters. Fifty K per quarter, 100K overall. That’s the sum total of that incentive initiative, if you like, from the government at the moment. Now, to get 50K a quarter, what that basically means is that you are paying a payroll of 150K a quarter.

    Roughly speaking, your PAYG will be about 30%. Don’t quote me on this, go to your accountant for the exact percentage. But about 30% of your submission. So to get 50K back, you’re paying 150K of payroll per quarter. Now, if you’re paying 150K of payroll per quarter, you’ve got an annual payroll of about 600K. Six hundred K per year is very roughly eight full-time equivalent employees. So you can be a decent sized business with eight full-time employees. That is not a micro-business. That’s a solid small business. It could be a hair and beauty business. It could be a restaurant cafe. Those are the kinds of businesses you’re seeing with eight full-time equivalents.

    Now, what the government is essentially going to give you back in giving you 100K over the next 2 quarters is the equivalent of paying about 1 and a half people for the year. Depends, obviously, on your salaries individually and your businesses and so forth, but I’m talking on averages here. So the government is going to give you the pay for about one and a half people over the course of the next quarter, and you will be left paying for the other six and a half people. That overall equates to 16% of payroll.

    Now, 16% of payroll, it’s better than a kick in the face. We know we’re going to take what we can get at the moment, but I’ve put it in red there throbbing what the UK is providing to businesses. In the UK they are providing to businesses, big and small, 80% of payroll. So in Australia, 16%, UK 80%. And I stress that because I just think at the moment we’re being really underserved by this incentive from the government, and we ought to be standing up and saying, “Guys, help us out more than this. There’s not much incentive. It’s not no incentive but there’s not much incentive there to keep my guys on the payroll. Remembering I’ve got to keep paying these guys in order to get this money.”

    And we’re not talking about paying them for the next two weeks, by the way. You’re not going to get that 50K until deep into October of 2020, the second 50K that is when you get your BAS return for that quarter. So the UK is doing a heck of a lot more at the moment for employers to keep people on their payroll. I think personally that’s why you’re seeing massive queues at Centrelink because people are rushing to standing people down if they can, giving them unpaid leave, even going to redundancies at this stage or stopping giving casual shifts and so on.

    So we should be doing more to say to the government, “Please, guys, give us more. Look at what the UK is doing.” Our stress… That is when the incentive is paid to a business that is operating with a 600K payroll. I just want to quickly look at the top level of business in terms of revenue and what that would mean for them. Fifty million dollar turnover. So quite why the government’s put this limit on it, I don’t know. Fifty million dollar turnover, you’ve probably got $10 million, $20 million payroll if you’re that big a business. If you had a $20 million payroll, that’s $5 million a quarter, the government is giving you 0.001% incentive to carry on employing staff.

    I mean, it couldn’t be more close to zero if it tried. So the government is doing nothing for a business, even at the $50 million payroll, to incentivize them to keep on their staff. In the UK they’re getting 80%. So guys, let’s do something about this. Let’s speak to those that we can, start tweeting, get on social media to explain to the government we need more help if we’re going to carry on employing people through this crisis. Get off my soapbox for a minute. That’s just something that has been frustrating me because the government’s suggesting that it’s some form of good incentive for us. It’s not really, we need more.

    Last thing and probably back to my core thing, I’m not a politician. I hope my core thing is giving you advice on workplace relations. And what I’ve seen is a few questions coming through about stand down versus redundancy. I’m going to go through them again, go through stand down, what it is and what it isn’t. Then I’m going to talk to you a bit about the process of standing someone down if…

    Hi, guys. Sorry about that. There was some technical interruption. I was perhaps just getting some message from somewhere saying, “Get off your soapbox and stop talking about policy and get back to workplace relations.” So what I was going to do next is talk about the concept of stand down, what it is, what it isn’t. The process that you need to follow if you’re going to go through a stand down, getting quite a few questions about that and why that may be better for you than redundancy. Just checking we’re okay to carry on. I always do.

    Stu: I’m seeing nothing coming through.

    Woman: Can we just get…there it is. Yeah, you’re fine.

    Ed: Good. So stand down. One of the drums that I’ve been banging is to be very, very careful about what stand down is and what it isn’t. Stand down is not an option available to all employers at the moment. Stand down is a circumstance in which you can unilaterally, you don’t need the agreement with the employee, stand them down without pay. You don’t have to pay for their holiday pay, you don’t have to pay out any other entitlements. They do accrue entitlements during the period of stand down. There’s a very narrow circumstance in which is allowed and that’s in Australia under a thing called the Fair Work Act, where you’re allowed to stand down people if there has been a stoppage of work. Which is quite different to there being a downturn in work, and that stoppage has to be outside the control of the employer.

    Now, what we’re saying is this is, is that a stand down, until anyone clarifies otherwise, a stand down is and has typically been interpreted where there is this external factor like an emergency shutdown, as is going on at the moment, or some other disaster which stops you from operating. There is a proper stoppage of operating. So those businesses that have been caught by the shutdown and they’re no longer operating, we are saying you’ve come into a position where you can stand down. Those businesses have simply had a slowdown in business.

    So, for example, Stage Kings, who were having challenges because the events industry, but not them per se had a complete stoppage. That doesn’t necessarily qualify you for a stand down. Why is that important? Because if you unilaterally say to an employee, “You cannot work during this period. I’m going to put you essentially on leave without pay but I’m going to do that unilaterally.” Then the issue is this, if you weren’t allowed to do that, then when everything gets back up and running, that employee would have a claim against you to say, “You should’ve paid me for that period. There wasn’t a proper stand down.”

    And the last thing that we want through all of this is over a period of two, four weeks, two, four months, who knows, is the ability for any of your employees to come back and sue you because you stood them down incorrectly. So don’t rush to stand down, guys. Take proper advice if you think you’re in a stand-down situation, get professional help with that. If you are in a stand-down situation, then I just want to give you a bit of a sense as to what that process looks like.

    So first of all, I would recommend having a form of group meeting with your employees. Have, you know, an all-hands meeting essentially where you would say to them, “Guys, as you know, this is what’s going on in the outside world, it has caused us to have to stop work that satisfies the stoppage requirements of the Fair Work Act. What I’m going to do is have an individual meeting with each of you and we’re going to discuss what our alternatives are at the moment. One of the things that we are considering is standing you all down from work, which would mean that you need to go home without pay until we’re up and running again.”

    Then you’d have individual meetings with each of them. And in those meetings, you would be saying to them, “Can you see any way for us to avoid this stand down? Is there any alternative to it?” In that stage, they could be producing ideas for you. Like, “How about we all go to a four-day week and we share the pain? How about we take a pay reduction? These are the alternatives that we would prefer to going to zero pay.” It may be that some employees would rather have stand down so they can go and get a new start and so forth. But you need to have that meeting and consider those alternatives. You can’t just jump to stand down.

    Again, you don’t want to be found not to have done stand down properly and find yourself subject to a claim down the road. The thing that’s really going to inhibit bouncing back from this, guys, is if you’re going to end up getting sued after this. And I really don’t want that to happen to you, so be careful with stand down. If you are going to move ahead to a stand down, make sure you document it. You explained to the employee that they are being stood down. What I would recommend saying at this stage is, “Even though we haven’t been given an end date, I would put an end date in any stand down letter.” Say, for example, the end of April unless otherwise notified.

    And you might then have to notify again as the end of April approaches. And the reason you do that is stand down should typically have an end date. It shouldn’t be open-ended, which is what we’re experiencing with this crisis at the moment. So, those are some tips as to how to do stand down. You need to have group meetings, individual meetings and then send a letter. Make sure just from a human resource’s perspective that you’re communicating well with your staff whilst they are stood down. If that’s what you’re doing, don’t go blank on them. Let them know what’s going on, what you’re hearing, what you’re not, and speaking to them about that.

    Those are some tips on stand down. And just to finish on my part of this and then to open up some questions. I just wanted to point to the question of stand down versus redundancy. Now, I think either by stand down in its true sense, its illegal sense, or by asking and getting agreement from staff to go on unpaid leave or reduced hours and so forth, most people will be using that as their tool to deal with the current crisis because the hope is that things will come back sooner rather than later. Redundancy isn’t a great tool in this regard because what you’re needing to do there is for permanent staff. You’re needing to go through a redundancy process after which you will be having to pay out employee’s notice, any entitlements plus any redundancy pay due to them, and that can be significant.

    We’re talking potentially having to pay them out months of money, which the crisis could be over by the equivalent of the amount of money that you’re spending on those issues. To give you a case study example of that, if you paid out an employee, say they had a month’s notice, you paid them out that. They had some annual leave accrued a couple of weeks on that, then you might have to pay them depending on their length of service and what their award says versus the Fair Work Act and so on.

    Let’s say you paid them 10 weeks of redundancy and suddenly what you’ve paid them out is 16 weeks of pay. So three and a half months, you’d have to be in a pretty negative frame of mind to say that in three and a half months we won’t be back operating in some form or other. So redundancy is unlikely to be a great option here, guys. We talked a bit about redundancy but I really wanted to underline that that’s probably not the best option for you at this stage. You want to be looking at can you stand down in the legal sense, take a lot of care on that. If not, what are my alternatives to that?

    So on that note, apologies again for the interruption with the technical glitch. Let’s see, I think we’ve probably got a couple of streams going on with different questions. So let’s take a few of those.

    Stu: In relation to the stand down, and you might’ve covered this, tell me if you have, “At what point during the stand down can an employee actually demand to be made redundant?”

    Ed: It’s a question from one of our clients, I believe, asking, “At what stage during a stand down can an employee demand to be made redundant?” The answer is that they can’t during the stand down. They have been stood down under the Fair Work Act. And again, this is why it’s important that it’s done under the Fair Work Act, not under an agreement between you and the employee. Because the agreement between you and the employee, if it’s not a stand down and what it is, is unpaid leave, that will be for a period.

    And after that period, let’s say you did it till the end of April, they might say, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to agree to unpaid leave anymore. I need money.” And then you enter into a redundancy situation potentially, which could be costly for the business. If someone’s truly stood down, then they’re stood down for as long as that stoppage lasts. And the employee doesn’t actually have the right to turn around and say, “I now want to be made redundant.”

    Stu: Direct question. “If the government shuts down businesses, are employees required to use leave entitlements before they go to Centrelink or can they just go to Centrelink for support?”

    Ed: My understanding is they can go straight to Centrelink for support and that employers are not required to pay out leave. Indeed they’re not allowed in a number of circumstances. You’ve only got limited ways in which an employer can pay out annual leave. For example, have employees cash out annual leave in that way. So my understanding is that they can go straight to Centrelink and the employer is not being burdened with the requirement to pay out those entitlements.

    Stu: “Can an employee who has been stood down actually seek other employment during that period?”

    Ed: They’re technically still employed by their employer. I think that what you’ll find is people are taking a practical approach to that. The risk is this, is if you’re an employee and you start work for someone else, your employer might say, “Well, good, I’ve kinda got you off my books. I still don’t know whether I’m actually ever going to take you back. And if I do, I may have to make you redundant, which is a cost to me. You’ve gone off and got other employment. You’re suddenly their problem, not mine.”

    That will start to happen quite a bit. So people will be very cagey about talking about taking on other employment and so forth. But what I’d urge people to do is take a collaborative approach from employees. We’re all in this together. If someone could get a few hours here or there, let’s not necessarily look at that, meaning they’d compromise their employment with you. Although technically there’s an argument to say that if they go and get employed somewhere else, then they may finish their employment with you.

    Stu: Related question, “Can the employer instruct employees to take one to two days a week of annual leave in order to reduce their weekly collars?”

    Ed: Annual leave if it’s paid, I’m not sure that that helps in the sense that if I said you must take one or two days leave and it’s accrued annual leave, then I’m still going to pay you for those one or two days. You’re just not going to be providing labor for them. If you’re asking if you can instruct them to take unpaid leave for one or two days, the answer is no, you can’t instruct them. You can ask them and see if they will agree to that as part of a cost reduction measure for everyone’s long-term benefit.

    Stu: “How do you enforce the 1.5-meter social distancing rule in a functioning workplace?”

    Ed: With great difficulty. It’s really very hard to do. The view that we take here and advise our clients is that this is something that you’ve got to do all that you can reasonably to enforce. All that is reasonably practicable. We were getting asked a lot of questions about people sharing vehicles, for example. If that needs to be done for the job and there’s no reasonable alternative, then the answer is yes, you can share a vehicle, but try and take precautions in that vehicle. Maybe keeping windows open, making sure people aren’t coughing without covering their mouths and so on.

    Those sorts of things come into play, but you can’t strictly enforce the 1.5-meter rule in a practical sense. When I walk along the pavement outside the workplace, people are walking past me within one and a half meters. So, the reality is that that’s happening all day around the place.

    Stu: “What are the implications of public holidays falling during stand-down periods such as Easter?”

    Ed: Really good question. This is quite a difficult one to answer because it depends on industry and award and so forth. So you might typically get paid for that public holiday. As a permanent employee, you’re being stood down because of a stoppage of work and you’re already stood down by the time that public holiday occurs. So unless awards or otherwise say so, and there’s no obligation to then pay, although that may well accrue as leave when you return.

    Stu: This is a combination of a question and a statement. “What impact does the retraction of the 30-minute hairdressing rule have?” Question, “How can we plan properly if I have no or little confidence that the government’s messaging will stay consistent?”

    Ed: So a couple of questions there. I think the first one was a 30-minute hairdressing rule. Can you just remind me of that, Stu? What was it?

    Stu: “What impact does the retraction of the 30-minute rule have on hairdressing industry?”

    Ed: As in if you take it away and…?

    Stu: We’ve heard that it has actually…

    Ed: Okay. So I’ll need to get up to speed on that one, to be honest, Stu. I’m not sure on that. But the second one was, “How can we plan if things are changing?”

    Stu: Over time.

    Ed: Not very easily is the answer. The difficulty is, and a lot of people are taking the position that they just need to not keep adjusting and pivoting. They just need to close down. So, for example, I was speaking to another gym client. I’ve spoken to this one that’s doing this fascinating thing with a 50% cost measurement. But another one was telling me that they were just closing and what they have done is said, “Look, we could in principle try and do some outdoor exercise, don’t know if it’s going to change and so forth. But what we need to do in order to give some stability and understanding to communicate to our clients properly is just say, ‘Look, we’re closing. What we will do if you are willing to carry on paying us some form of membership over that time, you can borrow some equipment from us.’”

    So people are starting to get quite ingenious about those sorts of things but the principle there is that they’ve said, “Look, we just need to plan better than we’re being enabled to do so by the communication and the government.”

    Stu: “With regards businesses pivoting their skills and their base, do the awards change under a pivoted business?”

    Ed: Depends on what you’re pivoting to. If you stopped doing work that is outside your reward, generally, the more tricky one, and certainly the banana skins I’d be very aware of is if you’re asking people to be adaptable and change work that they’re doing, their particular classification under an award might change. Their pay rate might, therefore, change. It might go up, it might go down, and you need to make sure that you’re considering those things, that you’re not underpaying staff or potentially overpaying staff for what you’re asking them to do in tight times.

    Stu: “How do we as an employer monitor work hours while our staff are working at home?”

    Ed: There’s technology out there that you could use but assuming you don’t want to go and spend money on technology at the moment, it should be fairly reasonable. Then what you’re asking people to do is provide you with some level of communication about what they’re doing, maybe emailing you with their hours. Bear in mind that there was this recent change in Australia which requires you to keep a log of those hours for permanent employees under certain awards. So you’ve just had this positive obligation come in, which is already a mess for employers. And then you’ve got to deal with the fact that you now got people working from home.

    My hope is in the sense I get is that the government are going to take a reasonably practical view on that, and not be critical of businesses that have struggled to keep up with that change given the current circumstances.

    Stu: “I’ve received a medical certificate from an employee who says they can’t come in due to high risk of catching the virus. They’re not sick and no other employee has fallen ill. What do I do? Can I force that employee to come into work?”

    Ed: Yes. Interesting question. So the question is, someone doesn’t want to come into work basically even though government advice is currently that they can work. And they’ve said they’re uncomfortable working basically in slightly less polite terms maybe, but that’s what it comes down to. Strict rule is this, it’s a reasonable management instruction for you to ask them to come into work and do their job. If they’re saying no to that, there’s arguably a disciplinary issue that you may want to conduct.

    There is a different approach to that depending on your view as an employer, which might be, “Look, I understand that people are in hypersensitive modes here. I don’t want to start entering disciplinary processes in the shadow of this. I’m therefore going to accept set that but I’m going to explain to them that it’s unpaid leave. I’m not going to pay you for leave if you don’t want to work when you can.” Alternatively, see what they might be able to do from home if you are feeling particularly collaborative and carry on paying them and just acknowledge their sensitivity.

    Stu: “What are the actual risks of hiring now?”

    Ed: They’re high and they’re not. I mean, I’m going to sound pretty brutal with this, but if the downturn goes to depths that I suppose what we’re all worried about, in reality, in terms of then moving to situations like redundancy situations becoming an inevitability, the people that have been recruited most recently will, in terms of a cost, be the easiest ones for you to make redundant at that period. That’s the brutal reality of it. They won’t have accrued the same rights. They won’t have accrued the same entitlements as longer-term employees. Which is why you often see in redundancy this thing called the last in, first out rule, the LIFO rule. And that often occurs in workplaces.

    So be careful from your business planning perspective. And look critically at how you do that. We, for example, are taking on a big group of casual employees tomorrow to help us answer phones more quickly than we’re managing to achieve at the moment. But we’re conscious that they’re casual employees and it’s very clear to them that they are being asked to work for as long as we’re seeing very high volume in demand. If that slows down, then we won’t be providing them with any more shifts. That’s the harsh reality of the situation.

    Stu: “How do businesses make redundancies the last resort and not their first option?”

    Ed: So either if they’ve been shut down, start to consider stand down. Again, you’re going to get bored of hearing this from me, guys. Don’t do stand down unless you’re technically able to. Don’t rush to stand down and use it as a cloak of label. The alternatives to stand down, if you can’t stand down, are to have a consultation with your staff and look at things like unpaid leave, reduced hours, reduced pay, sharing hours and so forth. Those are your alternatives really. And they should be in terms of sequencing. I’d look at all of those things before I went near redundancy at the moment.

    Certainly, as a business here, we won’t be looking at redundancy until we’ve considered all of those things because we are preparing for the worst but we are hoping for the best. And hoping for the best is a strong belief that we’re all going to come back from this and we want to be ready for when that happens. And if we’ve just gone and burdened our business with a huge amount of cost in making redundancies for people that we then need to rehire, it seems somewhat pointless.

    Stu: We may have covered this already but, “Redundancy rules, are they general or specific when it comes to states?”

    Ed: So with the exception of WA and also speaking separately about New Zealand, which has its own rules as well, they are national. So with the exception of WA only for certain employers. So if you’re in WA, you need to understand if you’re covered by the state system or you’re covered by the national system. Most employers are national and some are state over there just to keep things interesting. For those that are under the national system, it’s largely governed by the Fair Work Act, but you will always need to look to see whether there are any different obligations or responsibilities under your award or enterprise agreement.

    So do not do redundancies alone, guys. What we’re trying to make sure for all our clients here is that when we bounce back, when they bounce back at the end of this, that they’re not getting hampered and not getting heard by claims from employees by getting this stuff wrong now. Rushing to redundancy, paying the wrong amount, not going through a fair procedure is exactly the sort of claim that you’ll face in due course. When someone’s desperate, they need to try and recover some money, they’ll look to sue employers that didn’t do the right thing at this time. So be really careful on redundancy.

    Stu: This is an encapsulation of a few questions. “What are the ramifications if a teacher becomes sick after being told they are required at work?”

    Ed: If a teacher becomes sick after being told they are required at work, as in they become sick with COVID-19, I presume the presumption is that. So the potential ramifications are these, I’m not saying these are the ramifications, but like in any workplace, as we talked about in a few of these sessions, your fundamental obligation is to keep your employees safe. And the question will be is, did you have a safe system of working which minimize, reduce the risk of people getting infection? And the narrative that’s been bubbling in schools is, “Hang on, why are all these businesses being shut down, which have multiple people in workplaces and so forth, and we’re still being asked to go to work? What if we catch it? Have you really put a safe system in place?”

    So if you’re running an educational facility of some sorts, including childcare, you need to be thinking about, “What does your safe system of work mean for teachers?” I would go to the government baseline on that as your starting point, which is what the government is saying about social distancing ultimately. I think it’s going to be pretty difficult to criticize businesses that are operating within government guidelines and saying they didn’t do enough to keep their staff safe. So if notwithstanding that someone got sick with COVID-19 in an educational facility and that educational facility had been reminding people about social distancing measures and so forth, I think it’s unlikely the business would have any responsibility for that.

    Stu: From a client of Employsure. “How do we apply for the three-month payment?”

    Ed: So contact our client experience team, and I’m assuming it’s an Australian client here, with this telephone number, it’s 1300-651-415. Speak to our client experience team and have a chat to them about your potential options.

    Stu: Again, this is to do with the…we might have touched on this but, “How do you maintain the 1.5-meter social distancing rules when it comes to manual handling of goods such as unloading goods into a supermarket?”

    Ed: Again, not very easily, do what’s reasonably practical. You know, if you need two people to manually handle certain goods and that means that they’re close to them, 1.5 meters, if there’s no way those goods are going to get from A to B, otherwise, then that’s what you need to do. But you might take extra social distancing measures both to support the government position. Say, for example, wearing masks, you may be encouraging those employees to be washing their hands more frequently and so forth. Maybe wearing gloves. Those are the kinds of things that you should be looking at if you’re unable to follow social distancing to the letter, do what you can that’s reasonably practical.

    Stu: “I have stood down some of my staff but now I require some to do social media work. Can I re-employ them?”

    Ed: If they’re properly stood down, again, bored hearing me on this, if we’re using that in the legal sense rather than in the colloquial sense, if they’ve been properly stood down, they’re still employed by you. And you can contact them and say, “What I thought was the stoppage of work, actually I need you to complete some duties for me.” They’ll obviously need to be paid for that work. You can’t ask people to come in and do work of a stand down and not pay them.

    Stu: Interesting question. “What makes a hairdresser an essential service?”

    Ed: Well, unless I’ve missed this as well, we’re all essential services in Australia. And a hairdresser is not an essential service in New Zealand. So the answer to why are the hairdressers considered maybe more essential than, say, a beauty salon, bear in mind a lot of our clients do hair and beauty. So they’ve got this awkward situation where they’re entitled to do one but not the other. I haven’t caught up on what happened with the 30-minute rule. So what’s the latest on that?

    Stu: They revoked it.

    Ed: So you can now have a longer or you’re not allowed? Okay, good. So, sorry, I was just catching up. I missed the 30-minute revocation on the hairdressing. Frankly, that must’ve been just because it was a silly rule that made no sense. So why is a hairdresser more important than beauty services, for example? I don’t know is the answer. Someone somewhere, you know, I’m sure if we were sitting in those COAG meetings, it’d be someone saying that, “That’s more important because it’s important that we have the ability to go and get that done during this period.” I don’t know why that trumps other beauty services. Maybe it’s a belief that there are more hairdressers than there are beauty salons. I’m not sure.

    Look, I really feel for the businesses that are on the wrong side of those coin flips. I’d be tearing my hair out if I was sitting there saying, “Hang on, the guy next door to me is allowed to run. Good on him. But I’ve been stopped because I do this, not that.” That doesn’t make much sense. Look at retail at the moment. Yeah, I’d be very frustrated if I was a restaurant or cafe on a shopping street. And the other shops on that street are allowed to be open and all I’m allowed to do is take away. But those are the rules and that’s what’s been established.

    So, guys, good questions coming thick and fast, even though we’re challenging you with some technical issues today. I’m very grateful for those as ever. We’ll continue answering those during the day. Any last one for me, Stu, that I can answer, perhaps?

    Stu: “Has there been any implications for the building industry in Australia like there has been in New Zealand that we know of yet?”

    Ed: No, not that I’m aware of yet. There was a COAG meeting last night. Not that I’m aware of being anything that says that there’s any impact on the construction industry subject to them working within the concept of social distancing. There are various exclusions in New Zealand which permits certain construction businesses to go on as essential services depending on the nature of the projects they’re working on. So have a look critically at that if you are a New Zealand construction business. But in Australia right now construction is permitted to carry on.

    Thank you very much, guys. A couple of reminders as ever. I’ve been ticked off here for not giving the New Zealand coronavirus Centrelink, which is employsure.co.nz/coronavirus. In Australia, it’s employsure.com.au/coronavirus. We’re getting about 20,000 businesses a day looking at that. So please do go on there. Some great free resources to help you. If you need more support on it, give us a shout on this channel. Give us a call. We’re here to help. We really want to help you guys. Cheers. Bye-bye.

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