There is widespread concern about the potential impacts of coronavirus for employment. Here are some basic points about the employment legal framework to keep in mind:
For employees:
a. If you’re not feeling well, you can take accrued paid personal leave and, if required, obtain a medical certificate from a doctor or provide a statutory declaration as evidence of illness. This also applies if you have to take carers leave to look after a sick immediate family or household member.
b. If required by authorities to self quarantine but you are not feeling ill, or if you have used up all your paid personal leave, you can ask your employer to agree to annual leave to cover the absence. Many industrial awards now allow for written agreement to be made providing for payment of annual leave in advance (although any overpayment may be able to be deducted on termination).
c. If a quarantine absence could be lengthy or you are stuck overseas, you can ask your employer to agree to the taking of long service leave if you have the required period of service.
d. Casual employees are entitled to up to 2 days unpaid personal leave per occasion, as are permanent employees with no paid leave accrual.
e. If you have no leave owing, then you can ask the employer to continue to pay you but there is currently no obligation on the employer to do so.
For employers:
a. You should allow employees to use their paid personal leave/annual leave/ long service leave as necessary and consider payment in advance for annual leave on a case by case basis.
b. If an employer has concerns that an employee is ill, the employee can be directed to obtain a medical clearance before returning to work but the employee should pay the employee for their time away. Employers should only act on the basis of reasonable concerns and enquiries, eg employers are entitled to enquire whether any employees have recently been to any government travel advice areas.
c. Employers do not have a general power to direct employees to take leave of any sort and reference should be made to the industrial award/enterprise agreement/contract governing each employment relationship. Non award or EA employees can ultimately be directed to take annual leave and long service leave according to operational requirements.
d. An award or enterprise agreement (EA) may allow an employer to require an employee to take annual leave as part of a close down of operations, usually by at least 4 weeks notice.
e. As a last resort, the Fair Work Act (section 524) may allow for the stand down of employees if they cannot usefully be employed because of a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible. This sometimes occurs in the event of a factory destroyed by fire or rendered unusable due to flood and only covers the situation where a workplace (or a part of it) is forced to close because of external factors.
f. Other alternatives such as a temporary reduction in working hours or work from home arrangements should also be considered and redundancy may occur as a last resort.

The situation is obviously dynamic and employees and employers should act cautiously and compassionately. Please contact us if you would like any further information or help. This information is general in nature and should not be relied on as a substitute for legal advice on a particular situation.