COVID-19 and losing work

COVID-19 and losing work

If your hours have changed, or you have lost your job because of COVID-19 coronavirus, there are five things you need to know:

  • your employer might be able to ask you to work different or fewer hours
  • your employer might stand you down if they do not have work for you to do
  • your employer might make your job redundant if it no longer needs to be done by anyone
  • your situation will depend on what it says in your employment contract, enterprise agreement or modern award
  • if you are not sure about your rights, you can get legal advice. See Get help with COVID-19.
 

What if I am asked to change my hours?

Your employer may ask you to work your hours at different times. Whether they can legally do this depends on what it says in your employment contract, enterprise agreement or modern award. Sometimes employers can change your hours, but they must give you notice first. Giving you notice means letting you know about the change ahead of time.

If your employer asks to cut your hours of work, you can:

  • agree to work fewer hours. Your employer should give you notice of the change and pay your normal wages during that notice period. If your employer wants to cut your hours immediately, they must pay you for the notice they should have given you. The amount of notice depends on your employment contract, enterprise agreement or modern award.
  • refuse to work fewer hours. Your employer might accept your decision, or they might make your job redundant. See I have lost my job.

You can visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website to check what your enterprise agreement or modern award says about changing your hours.

It is not legal for your employer to cut your hours or treat you badly because:

  • you took personal (sick) leave because of the COVID-19 coronavirus
  • you stood up for your rights, like asking for a safe workplace or asking to be paid.

If your employer cuts your hours unfairly, you can apply to the Fair Work Commission for a ‘general protections dispute’. You should get legal advice. See Get help with COVID-19.

What if I am asked to take leave without pay?

Being stood down means that your employer cannot give you useful work to do so they are asking you to take leave without pay. Being stood down is temporary. Your employer is not terminating (ending) your job. They are asking you to stop working until they have work for you again.

It is legal for an employer to stand you down if all the following apply:

  • you are not on paid leave approved by your employer, such as personal (sick) leave or annual leave
  • it is not the employer’s fault that they cannot give you work. For example, if the business must close because of the COVID-19 coronavirus
  • they follow any rules in your employment contract, enterprise agreement or modern award. For example, there might be rules about giving you notice or consulting with you first.

If your employer wants to stand you down and the stand down is lawful, you can agree or decide to resign. If you resign, your employer must pay you any entitlements you have, like annual leave or long service leave.

For more information, contact JobWatch or the Fair Work Ombudsman.

What if I lose my job?

You might lose your job if it no longer needs to be done by anyone. This is called a redundancy. Your job might become redundant if your employer closes or loses a lot of business because of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

If your job becomes redundant, your employer might:

  • offer you a different job. If you accept the new job, your entitlements (such as leave) will continue
  • terminate (end) your job.

If your job is terminated, your employer must pay you:

  • a notice period
  • redundancy pay
  • any entitlements you have, such as annual leave or long service leave.

The amount of notice and redundancy pay will depend on your situation. This includes your age, how long you worked there and what it says in your employment contract, enterprise agreement or award.

If you have lost your job and you are worried about not being paid all your redundancy entitlements, contact JobWatch or the Fair Work Ombudsman.

If your job is not genuinely redundant, but your employer terminates your employment, you may be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal. An unfair dismissal claim must be filed at the Fair Work Commission within 21 days of the date the dismissal takes effect. If your claim is successful, you could get your job back or be paid money as compensation. You should get legal advice. See Get help with COVID-19.

What if I am employed as a casual?

Different laws apply to casual jobs. If you work as a casual, you are usually paid a higher hourly rate, but do not get the same rights and entitlements as full-time and part-time employees.

An employer can ask a casual employee to:

  • work different hours or fewer hours
  • stand down or work no hours
  • end their employment.

If you are a casual employee, you are only entitled to payment for the hours you work. Your employer does not have to pay you for any notice period or give you redundancy pay if your position ends.

You may still be able to make an unfair dismissal or general protections dispute claim at the Fair Work Commission. See Get help with COVID-19.

I need help with money

If you lose some or all of your income because of the COVID-19 coronavirus, you may be able to get help from Services Australia (Centrelink).

The government is reviewing and changing programs to provide financial support to people who have lost work. The JobKeeper program will help many employers to keep paying their employees. For up-to-date information, see JobKeeper payments.

More information

Learn where to Get help with COVID-19 coronavirus.

Visit our ‘Find legal answers’ page on Employment and your rights

Fair Work Ombudsman Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws

Acknowledgement

We acknowledge and thank JobWatch for allowing us to use their COVID-19: Employment rights Q&A to prepare this information.

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