Despite some initial delay, Australia reacted relatively quickly to the COVID-19 crisis with both the industrial tribunals and the government introducing changes to allow business to change and cope with increasing restrictions and the need to make changes to allow businesses to cope with a significant downturn in the economy. The public health restrictions included limits on non-essential travel (for most businesses, this included the inability to travel to work) and this meant a major shift for many employers to a majority of employees working from home, bringing issues of supervision, technological control, privacy issues and safety obligations in ways not previously experienced. The economic impact has been significant and is likely to be felt for a number of years. For many businesses, there has been reduced income (sometimes no income) and continuing expenses such as rent and outgoings, meaning that wages have been impacted, job losses increased, and an increased reliance on government support. The material below outlines the position but as public health measures have so far proved successful, the legal position is rapidly changing as governments ease restrictions in an effort to return the economy to previous levels.
For further background of Australia’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, we refer to our previous L&E article: Australia: Variations to Modern Awards and Introduction of the JobKeeper Scheme in Response to Serious Industry Concerns During the COVID-19 Crisis