COVID-19 and Employment Law

Mark Allen, Director at Aperion law, presented a webinar on identifying and managing legal issues arising from the COVID19 pandemic. Aperion Law, a long-time supporter and member of Fishburners, delivered this presentation as part of its commitment to fellow members and the wider Fishburners community.

The webinar covered critical legal issues by way of an initial presentation from Mark, followed by a detailed Q&A session. This article features one of the many topics that were covered, specifically issues with employment contracts that will arise during COVID-19 such as laying off staff, forced leave and
working from home.

Can I force my employee to take leave without pay?

Whether you have the ability to require your employee to take leave is going to be a matter for the individual employee contract says.

If you lay off staff, then in terms of unfair dismissal you need to see whether you’re covered by the “Fair Work Act” or you can take advantage of the small business exemption where essentially you can’t be held accountable for someone who is terminated in the first year of their employment. You should also have a look at the ability which you do have under the “Fair Work Act”, to stand down employees without pay. This is what Virgin, Qantas and some other companies have done. It basically states that if there is no work to be done by someone, then they have to stand you down. Additionally, if you are standing someone down for the company, rather than terminating, then you do not have to pay out entitlements.

As an employer, what am I liable for in the work from home scenario?

If an employee is being required to work from home, even if they are being required by a government directive, you as the employer are still liable for an injury that would happen at home. In the earlier days of working from home, larger companies would actually send someone around to measure up the desk in the employee’s house, see where it was located and make sure there were no known hazards present. You can find some checklists on Google for working from home, which we advise you ask each of your staff members to self-assess whether their working environment is safe. Another important consideration is the mental health of people working at home, particularly if they have no one else at home. This is something that as an employer you do have a duty towards, and you should think about how you can best manage this, knowing the personality of the employee and the type of work that they do.

To find out more about the specific topics that were addressed in the webinar, click on the links below- 

COVID-19: Contractual term you should be aware of

Insolvency Issues: Dealing with Liabilities during COVID-19

COVID-19 and Issues with the Code of Conduct

Aperion is offering a free 30-minute consultation for those who might want to know - or get a second opinion - about their particular situation in the current environment and want to discuss options available.

If you want to take advantage of this invitation, please contact:

Mark Allen on 0417 251 354 or

Peter Lightbody on 0419 166 828 or

Ashley Cheng on 0408 176 489 or