Coronavirus travel bans pose staffing concerns

Businesses are facing staff travel restrictions as a result of the coronavirus outbreak in China’s Hubei province.

Australia has closed its borders to travellers from China. Meanwhile, Australian citizens and permanent residents returning from China will be quarantined offshore for 14 days.

CCIWA’s Employee Relations Advice Centre team offers the most current advice on how to manage the situation.

Key employment issues

Some issues that may arise due to coronavirus quarantining include:

  • long-term absences for employees who have contracted the coronavirus;
  • rights and obligations in trade or stoppages of work as a result of downturn; and
  • managing health and safety where there is a risk of staff coming into contact with people potentially affected by the virus.

Leave and other entitlements

The immediate impact employers are experiencing is managing leave and other entitlements for staff who are unable to return to work. Inbound flights from China have been cancelled — as a result, employees returning to Australia who are not citizens or permanent residents may experience a long period of absence from work.

Australian Citizens and permanent residents will be required to be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days if they:

  • have travelled to the Hubei Province in China in the past 14 days;
  • have travelled through mainland China on or after 1 February 2020; or
  • have been in close contact with someone who has been confirmed to have the virus.

Further information on quarantine periods is available on the Department of Health website.

Downturn and stoppages of work

Some businesses may face a reduction in work or a complete stoppage as a result of government-imposed restrictions. Employers may have to consider a temporary shutdown of the business, or even significant changes to their workforce, to stay operational.

Managing health and safety

Employers have a duty of care, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace. According to government regulations, employers must not allow staff who fit into the above categories to return to work before serving the required quarantine period. For some positions, alternative working arrangements such as working from home may be possible.

If you are a CCIWA member with questions or concerns about managing your workforce as a result of the coronavirus we encourage you to contact our Employee Relations Advice Centre team on 9365 7660 or email [email protected].

CCIWA’s Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Workbook can also be used to help with planning for disruptive events, such as human epidemics.

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