NBIA Industrial Relations - Employer Obligations

COVID19 – Coronavirus By Any Other Name…

Now that we all have enough toilet paper to last us through to the Rapture, hopefully we can all sit and relax and get some serious planning done for the worst possible case scenario.  What is the “Worst Case Scenario”?

The Biosecurity Act 2015 grants the Federal Health Minister virtually unlimited power to take any action necessary where he/she determines a risk to human health exists and they declare an area to be a “biosecurity hazard response zone”.  Within this “zone” the Minister can order all business cease operating, citizens can be ordered not to leave their homes, police can arrest and detain anyone they deem to be breaching an order of the Minister, and the Minister can make any other direction or order they deem necessary.  Practically speaking, this means that the Minister can close down shopping centres, or entire suburbs and cities if necessary.

During such an order no employee can attend for work.  The question then begs, “What do they get paid”?  The answer is, if they are full time, or part time and if they are not ill, or injured, they are not entitled to any Personal (sick) Leave.  

If they are casual, then they are not entitled to any pay even if they are ill or injured.

Whilst a full time or part time employee may request payment of annual leave during such a period, there is no obligation on an employer to grant such a request.  Just consider, if you have 20 staff and all of them want to take annual leave for the entire period of a lockdown (which could extend for some weeks), do you have the financial resources to pay?  If you do have such a capacity, then we would encourage to you offer the annual leave pay.  If you do not, you are under no legal obligation to grant the leave.

The Federal Government is currently considering their options in how to react to such a situation, but much of the current publicity is surrounding the payment to casual employees.  This is of course a serious issue, because the majority of staff in the retail baking industry are casuals, however little attention is being paid to the likelihood of full time and part time staff not being paid for the duration and the consequences on such employees of this outcome.

We therefore hope that the Government pays serious attention to this issue to ensure our staff are not unduly financially impacted by the introduction of any lockdown.  

We all know our staff are our greatest asset, and we don’t want to cause staff who may already be struggling financially any further hardship.  By the same token, we can’t pay out money that a business just doesn’t have, and can’t replace.

If you have any queries regarding your rights, responsibilities and obligations in these circumstances, please contact our IR Hotline.


The NBIA will be hosting a webinar on Monday, 1st April at 2 pm. Where Craig Pollard our IR expert, will discuss your obligations as an employer further. He will also be avaliable to answer your questions.

Please contact Jacob Porter on 07 3899 6100 or email membership@nbia.org.au if you want to register.

This webinar is free to all members of the NBIA, non-members $55.