Your preferred office location:
  1. Home
  2. /
  3. HHG Articles
  4. /
  5. Employment & Industrial Relations
  6. /
  7. Employer Obligations in the time of Coronavirus (COVID-19)
19 Mar 2020

HHG Legal Group’s Director Murray Thornhill and Dispute Resolution and Employment Lawyer, Gemma Wheeler-Carver discuss employer obligations during this uncertain time. 

20200319 COVID Employee Inarticle

With the world’s human resources landscape exponentially changing over the last few weeks, it has become evident that the first responsibilities an employer should be considering is that they must, as far as practicable, provide and maintain a working environment in which their employees are not exposed to hazards.

These specific obligations are set out in the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (WA) and industry-specific obligations are set out in various Codes of Practice and Guidances notes. Further information on these requirements can be found here: https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/worksafe

What responsibilities does an employer have?

These obligations extend to a hazard such as the risk of infection of employees and others in the workplace. The consideration when assessing the steps that can be taken should always be “what is practicable to provide and maintain a hazard-free working environment?”

Steps that workplaces should consider include:

  • Providing ample soap and hand towels in all work areas.
  • Providing access to hand sanitiser in general work areas, particularly those accessed by external persons.
  • Providing tissues (and appropriate disposal containers) in wet and general work areas
  • Reminding staff and workplace visitors of appropriate hygiene.
  • Limiting visitors to the workplace and allowing staff to work from home where possible.
  • Requiring staff to work from home
  • Providing for staff to work from home when under government mandated self-isolation or quarantine.

As the government and medical information continue to be updated, the appropriate steps must be continually re-assessed.

What if my employees can’t work from home?

Working from home is not an option available to all businesses, or all employees of a business. For example, cafes, restaurants, retail, hotel, reception, construction, (other examples) may not have capacity for employees to work from home if under self-isolation, government mandated isolation/quarantine, or are caring for someone who is unwell (or a dependent who is in self-isolation).

The rights of an employer in that situation will be governed by the relevant legislation (State and/or Federal), the Award or Enterprise Agreement that applies to the employer and employee, the employment contract, and any policies and procedures of the employer.

What if my employees test positive for coronavirus, are otherwise unwell, or need to care for a loved one who is unwell?

Your employees continue to have the same rights to personal/carer’s leave as they do in relation to other illnesses. Employers should carefully consider each employee’s entitlements, and the circumstances of their requirement for leave. In addition, employers can agree with their employees to provide additional paid leave (for example in relation to casual employees who are otherwise only entitled to unpaid carer’s personal leave).

Employers are still entitled to receive notice of the leave that an employee is taking, even if the assumption during this time is that it is due to coronavirus. This notice must be given as soon as practicable and advise of the expected duration of the leave.

Full-time and part-time employees who must care for immediate family (including parents and grandparents) and those in their household are entitled to carer’s leave.

Additional notice requirements and leave entitlements may be contained in the Award(s)/Enterprise Agreement and their employment contract.

What if my employee is unable to work?

Employers should ensure their policies address their expectations in relation to overseas and interstate travel, including their annual leave and long service leave policies. These policies may need to be updated regularly as the government advice changes, in particular as travel bans (into and out of Australia) are imposed.

Generally, by agreement, employers and employees can agree for an employee to take additional annual leave or to take unpaid leave, or alternatively to reverse previously booked annual leave. Employees who are sick continue be entitled to their personal leave entitlements (including two days unpaid sick leave).

If employees must comply with government-imposed restrictions, an employer may be able to place an employee on unpaid leave however an employer should carefully consider the rights of the employee as set out in the legislation, Award or enterprise agreement and employment contract.

What if I no longer require certain employees or an employee is on extended unpaid sick leave?

Employers will need to carefully consider both their legal obligations and the business and reputational effect of making the decision to terminate the employment of an employee. Options such as redundancy are still available to employers who no longer require a specific role to be undertaken, and employers should be careful to follow the processes (if any) set out in the relevant Award and make any payments to which an employee is entitled (or seek an exemption from the Fair Work Commission or the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission). Individual employment contacts or Awards/Enterprise Agreements may also set out grounds for termination or stand-down from work entitlements and employers should seek legal advice on the options that may be available to them.

What next?

Employers should keep updated on the latest government and health advice, and keep their employees updated on the relevant policies.

For employers in the Federal system, the Fair Work Ombudsman is providing updated advice on a (near)-daily basis: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/news-and-media-releases/website-news/coronavirus-and-australian-workplace-laws

How HHG can help

If you need any assistance, our dispute resolution team are always available to help you with any questions that you may have. If you require any further advice or assistance regarding your obligations and rights, please contact Gemma Wheeler-Carver at 1800 609 945.

*This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. Please consult one of our experienced Legal Team for specific advice relevant to your situation.

Supporting Western Australians for more than 100 years

"Always fast and thorough service. Thank you"

Sitka Pil

"My circumstances at the time I made contact with HHG were dire following my argument being rejected by two no win no fee firms. Following my initial meeting with HHG's employment law team I was left feeling extremely positive by the response and concern shown by HHG in regards to their support of my argument along with their preparedness to pursue an outcome on my behalf.

I accept the fact that nobody really wins in these cases (mental health/ workplace) however the end result was what would be considered most favourable and far in excess of what would have been achieved had I not sought the advice from HHG.

I have no hesitation in recommending HHG to anyone caught up in the messy circumstances I found myself in at the time.

Great advice and five-star commitment to their client!!"

Nathan Lynch

"Thank you for such great assistance with the transaction of Flying Domestics on behalf of Lorna Good. It has been such a pleasure to work with the HHG Legal Group and I look forward to working with you in the future."

Jim Goodwin

"Simon Creek and his team were at all times empathic, professional and confident.  My matter needed to be addressed within a pressing time frame, and their availability at short notice and contact after hours was much appreciated.  It caused me considerable stress, but having such a thoroughly reliable and competent team to call on helped me to feel in control. Although I hope not to need their services again in future, I would be confident in doing so!"

Dr Lana Bell

"A good outcome is what we can expect.  A great outcome is a sign of a company which does the very best for their clients. A very big thank you to Daniel Morris for showing empathy towards my small and much needed legal action.

To HHG Legal Group, thank you for a great outcome.  I would recommend your company to anyone seeking legal services."

Jan Atkinson

"Your support this morning was amazingly kind, not to mention your totally reassuring competence, knowledge and wisdom that you used on my behalf.  It was extremely reassuring to have your knowledgeable support, and I particularly appreciated your real and obvious kindness to me. It means so much at a very difficult time. I'm so grateful to you."

Family Law Client

"Janene was very professional and we established a good rapport quickly. The subject of death and wills can be quite confronting to deal with, however, Janene's approach was soft and accommodating."

Lynette Livesey

"A big thank you to HHG for their professional service, continued support, and wide range of legal knowledge. Our clients have given us nothing but kind words regarding HHG Legal Group and so we have no hesitation in referring and recommending Simon Creek and HHG Legal Group for their outstanding services and legal expertise."

Nigel Plowman, Director at Mckinley Plowman & Associates

"Simon is a friendly and practical legal advisor. I have received great feedback from the clients I have referred to him and his team at HHG Legal Group."

Richard Beal, Director at BDO

"Over the last few years, I have been impressed by Simon’s legal ability, management skills, entrepreneurial spirit, personal integrity and people skills. He appears to be that rare breed of lawyer – both knowledgeable and commercial."

Michael Malone, Founder of iiNet

"Our family has been a client of HHG Legal Group over many years.  Business has included drawing up of wills for three generations and preparing of probate for my father in law. I would have no hesitation in recommending HHG Legal Group to anyone requiring such services."

Bernice Climie

"You should be congratulated for the manner in which your staff address clients and we found our dealings with your company, once again a very pleasant experience and we would like to truly thank you for your efforts."

Steve Harvey and Jane Powell

"HHG Legal were absolutely fantastic. Extremely responsive and brought calm to our chaotic family situation through their knowledge and caring attitude. Extremely professional from our very first contact with them and they expertly guided our family though the required legal process over almost a 12 month period."

Amanda Williamson

"Fantastic team! They really care about their client. Tim Colcutt is a 'go that extra mile' guy who gives his client his all. I can't recommend HHG and Tim enough."

Kerry Samson

"I had a fantastic lawyer in Matthew Lilly. He helped me out a great deal with good, sound advice in a friendly, professional manner. First class, thanks Matthew"

Graeme Hammond

"Marine Plant Systems has been working with HHG Legal Group for a few years now and they continually provide first-class service. Their professional advice has been invaluable to our company."

Carolin Grimm - Marine Plant Systems

"We were kept up to date at all times. Pricing was always updated over the time period so we remained "in budget". Personal access to someone whenever I had questions. All in all a great experience without too much fuss."

Rosslyn Tasker - COO Altusq Pty Ltd

"Good service you can count on."

Miles Lee

"HHG Legal Group has provided outstanding support as I have taken the journey of buying a business, their professionalism is beyond reproach. Their assistance throughout the Due Diligence process has been invaluable, I would fully recommend them."

Mark Armitage

"Very friendly and efficient service - what a pleasure working with Matthew."

Jacques Taylor

"I highly recommend Daniel from HHG Lawyer in Mandurah. When dealing with a complicated legal property matter recently I was extremely impressed by Daniel's honesty and integrity and the legal advice I received. I am very happy with the service from HHG Legal."

Tony Walker

"Lisa, thank you so much for representing me in court, honestly, I would not have had the outcome I got without you. Once again, Thank you so much."


"Matthew Lilly was excellent in processing our project. He achieved the excellent result that we required on our project.

We would give Matthew a 5 star rating.

We will definitely commission Matthew for any further projects if we have the need."


"I have had the pleasure of being represented by Ms Lisa Riley. Lisa helped me in December 2020 when I was charged. Lisa was extremely supportive, reassuring, and preserved with her investigation of the laws and was able to save me from a terrible outcome. Another incident occurred in August 2021 in which I sought Lisa’s help. Lisa preserved and was very patient with me. This only got resolved this year. When she advised me that she was leaving her old firm, I insisted that she remain my lawyer, as I had the utmost faith in her. Hence I moved over to HHG. Lisa took no shortcuts in my defence and continued to preserve for the toxicology report that ultimately saved me. She kept me up-to-date with the progress and provided support. Having someone as understanding as Lisa was a huge gift, to me and my family. You have gained a huge asset in Lisa joining your firm.

Thank you, Lisa, forever grateful for your work, and if ever needed, I will be sure to refer to you"


"We can highly recommend HHG Legal Group and particularly Mr Blair Campbell (Special Counsel / Dispute Resolution)

Blair worked with us as we navigated a very difficult third party dispute.

Blair’s expertise, wisdom, and the way he guided us in a very measured and calm manner gave us great encouragement and comfort. Blair helped us to focus on what we needed to and to trust the process.

Blair was always responsive to us, he always got back to us very promptly to answer our questions and to help us to step through some really hard days.

We are very grateful for Blair’s expertise and wisdom along with his empathy and care, this truly made the difference for us."

Wayne and Janice Belcher

Preferred office location:

Please select your nearest office location so we can show you the most relevant information.