COVID-19 and employment law: factsheets for migrant workers

The Migrant Employment Legal Service (MELS), a free statewide legal service run by Redfern, Marrickville, Kingsford and Inner City Legal Centre, has published two new employment advice factsheets to support migrant workers during COVID-19.

Migrant workers and other temporary visa holders including international students are being disproportionately affected by job losses and stand-downs during the pandemic, and may be unfamiliar with Australian workplace laws or where to seek help.

The MELS employment law factsheets address common questions and concerns that migrant workers may have, which are relevant to all employees at this difficult time. 

COVID-19 & Employment Law Frequently Asked Questions

This factsheet covers a range of topics including working from home, workplace health and safety, privacy laws and what to do if you feel you’re being discriminated against. Questions include:

  1. Where can I get information on health and safety in the workplace?
  2. What happens if I am, or a family member is, sick with Coronavirus?
  3. What can I do if I have to look after my kids?
  4. What if I am stuck overseas or am required to be quarantined or to self-isolate?
  5. What if I want to stay home as a precaution?
  6. What if my employer wants me to stay home as a precaution?
  7. When can I work from home?
  8. What about casual employees and independent contractors?
  9. What if my employer needs to let me go or reduce my working hours?
  10. Can I be directed not to travel?
  11. Can I refuse to come to work under WHS laws?

The factsheet also includes links to further information including SafeWork Australia, ComCare, The Australian Government Department of Health

Read the full factsheet here 

What do I need to know about being stood down?

A worker who has been stood down is technically still employed, but is unable to work due to a temporary workplace shut down.

For a stand down to occur, employers need to be able to demonstrate a “stoppage of work” affecting all employees, the stoppage is one the employer cannot reasonably be responsible for, and there is no “useful work” for the employee to do.

Workers who are stood down are not required to work, but should not be asked to resign. Stood down employees generally will not get paid; however, they must still accrue leave entitlements for the stand-down period.

FAQs covered in the MELS ‘stand down’ factsheet include:

  1. What is standing down?
  2. What are my rights when I am stood down?
  3. What should I do if I disagree with my employer about being stood down?

The factsheet also contains information about the JobKeeper subsidy, a fortnightly payment available to Australian residents, and top tips for what to do if you think your employer hasn’t followed the rules.

Read the factsheet here 

For further information, or to seek free, confidential legal advice, contact the statewide Migrant Employment Legal Service on 02 8002 1203.