The JobKeeper legislation and changes to the Fair Work Act have passed and are in effect.

This is part 1 of a series for businesses that qualify for the JobKeeper allowance, explaining the changes to the Fair Work Act and how to implement them in your business.

Objectives

The objectives of the changes to the Fair Work Act are to:

  • Make temporary changes to assist the Australian people to keep their jobs, and maintain their connection to their employers, during the COVID 19 economic downturn; and
  • Help sustain the viability of Australian businesses, including by preparing the Australian economy to recover with speed and strength after a period of hibernation.

To whom do the Changes Apply?

 
Only to those employers and their employees who qualify for the JobKeeper scheme and where the employees are receiving the JobKeeper payment.

Overview of the Fair Work Act Changes

 
While the JobKeeper scheme applies qualifying employers are given enhanced rights to vary employment arrangements to enable them to more effectively implement the JobKeeper scheme, including:
  1. Give directions to work different days or hours of work.
  2. Give a stand down direction to:
    • not work on a day or days they would usually work;
    • work for a lesser period than they would ordinarily work on a particular day; or
    • work a reduced number of hours (including reduced to nil).
  3. Give directions to do any duties if they are within the employee’s skill and competency, safe and reasonably within the scope of the employer’s business operations.
  4. Give directions to perform duties at a place that is different from the employee’s normal place of work, including the employee’s home.
  5. To request that an employee change their working days or usual times of work and, once requested, the employee must consider the request and not unreasonably refuse the request.
  6. To request an employee to take annual leave if complying with the request will not result in the employee having a balance of paid annual leave of fewer than two weeks, and the employee must consider the request and not unreasonably refuse the request.
  7. An employer and employee may also agree for the employee to take twice as much paid annual leave, at half the employee’s rate of pay.
 
The rights are heavily qualified and some are subject to consultation requirements.

The Fair Work Commission can deal with disputes about JobKeeper enabling directions and has the power to make orders giving effect to, setting aside or substituting JobKeeper enabling directions.

Employers that misuse JobKeeper enabling directions are subject to heavy civil penalties.

What Employers should do

 
Over the coming days we will release further newsletters with details about the technical requirements of the Act. Employers that qualify for the JobKeeper scheme must be careful to comply with the requirements and for further advice may contact our experienced lawyers.