Scott Morrison Supports Forced Annual Leave for Workers During Coronavirus Shutdown
The deadly outbreak of coronavirus, which has infected approximately 100 people within Australia, has initiated some questions around leave entitlements for employees who may be required to stay in quarantine for an extended period.
As a means of stopping the spread of COVID-19, PM Scott Morrison has suggested that there is an expectation for employers to have their staff use annual leave during these shutdowns.
Alongside this, the Prime Minister has also said that employers could use this time in quarantine to organise training courses that can be accessed and completed remotely.
“This has a fixed life. This virus, it will run its course.
“And it’s important we do things while we address it that do not impede a longer-term position. In fact, use the time for training, skills development, investment.”
As fears grow, many businesses have begun exercising emergency plans to help support the continuation of work throughout the outbreak, including the ability to work from home.
However, encouraging remote work is completely different from forcing annual leave on workers – employers do not have the rights to force their employees into taking annual leave if they are in coronavirus isolation.
According to employment lawyer Giri Sivaraman in his interview with the Daily Mail, leave entitlement is subject to whether the worker is actually sick or requires testing for the virus.
If a worker has been told to remain at home and isolate themselves as a result of fears of exposure, they must be paid as usual, Sivaraman says.
This even extends to precautionary measures – being told to isolate as a result of the outbreak for a period of time to be ‘on the safer side’, this technically counts as a suspension from work and means that the worker should continue to get paid normally, without the need for any leave.
“If I’m sick and I’ve got accrued paid sick leave, I’m completely entitled to take that. There’s no way an employer can tell me don’t take your paid sick leave.”
However, if a worker cannot work due to illness and do not have any more paid sick leave left to use, they could be required to take vacation or unpaid leave.
As there are no specific laws in place to deal with the current situation, there are many misunderstandings around next steps for both employers and employees.
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