Advice for employers in a tough time


There is no doubt about it, this has been a tough week for employers of our region. The nature of the crisis has meant that decisions are changing daily, even hourly, and legislation that was written for short term stand downs like cyclones has been enacted on a national scale for the foreseeable future.

Tourism attractions, cafes and restaurants, the lifeblood of our town, have been shut down in the new Government measures. The words ‘social distancing’ have suddenly entered our vocabulary on a daily basis. Everyone is worried about everything from job losses to whether they are disinfecting the groceries enough.

There is one thing for sure, we will weather this storm and there are blue skies at the other side. We will get through as a region. It’s times like this where community shows, and Port Douglas has plenty of that. Now is not a time to make knee jerk decisions, and I implore all employers to slow down. From Sunday nights Cabinet meeting to now, changes have happened, and the sands will continue to shift. 

The stand down provisions of the Fair Work Act have never been intended for long term shutdowns of this nature. No one has expected a pandemic and a lot of what we are seeing has been largely untested in the Courts.

We are in a cycle of grief, at the moment employees are trying to come to terms with what has happened and are mourning the loss of their income, jobs and lives. There will be a time when this is tested (when the anger cycle kicks in) and how you act as an employer now will be key. Standing down is not an option for all employers, whether the Council have, or Qantas has is irrelevant to your business.

Likewise, just implementing mass redundancies is not an option either. Employers are still bound by the normal consultation provisions and just telling Joe that he is no longer required and not to bother coming back does not meet those provisions, regardless of the times we are in. 

Have you thought about the blue skies at the end of this crisis? You will need staff! Hold on where you can whether you offer unpaid leave, let people access their leave entitlements (Qantas has offered staggered entitlements like half leave to get people through) and just generally keep in touch.

In addition, employers are still bound by their WH&S duty of care, they need to ensure that they are doing everything they can to protect their employees from the spread of coronavirus. This means enforcing social distancing, allocating PPE to each employee, extra cleaning of high traffic areas.

It’s overwhelming, but all we are asking you to do is slow down.

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